Coun. Brian McHattie has a green reputation at council. He’s a steadfast promoter of transit and bike lanes. He wants the city to establish bylaws limiting industrial emissions.

But the Ward 1 councillor says he’s not a one-trick pony. He supports small business, he says. He’s worked on economic development strategies. And he’s as interested as anyone else in keeping taxes low.

McHattie is the first candidate to announce his intention to run for mayor on Jan. 1. He talked to CBC Hamilton about his green focus, the hope that challenger Fred Eisenberger won’t run, and why he declared so early.

“There’s been a loss of respect for the mayor’s office over the last couple of years,” he said. “I think people are interested in seeing that reestablished.”

Highlights:

What problems do you think the city has that we can solve? (0:10 seconds)

We’ve never reached our provincial growth targets that the province of Ontario provides us by population. They’re asking us to grow to 690,000 by the year 2031. We’re not on track for that right now. We need to find a better way to attract people to come to Hamilton so we can grow the revenue side of the equation. Part of that as well, of course, is our economic immigrant entrepreneur strategy, which we passed a little while ago…That’s really how we’re going to grow. The local population is not having a lot of babies. The way demographics work, it’s going to be newcomers to Hamilton that will allow us to grow.

How do you respond to the criticism that you’re all about the environment? (2:20)

The economic side of things is where people would say, “Look, McHattie hasn’t had a lot of interest in it, perhaps, or a lot of time on it.” That’s not true. I’ve worked on planning issues to grow as a city through intensification and more housing. I worked on the economic development strategy with (economic development director) Neil Everson and our staff. But it’s an area where I definitely need to articulate more.”

Why did you declare your intention to run so early? (9:00)

It’s really just to send people a message — everyone — that I’m very serious about the run for mayor. By declaring now and saying I’m doing it now, I’m very much getting organized for a very aggressive and active campaign for mayor. Putting together the election team now one year in advance, starting to think about the platform, touching base with people right across the city, and when Jan. 1 rolls around to officially declare as mayor or councillors, doing so and beginning to actively present the platform. It’s really just an indication to citizens, to our folks right across the city, as well as some of the other folks that may be considering running for mayor, that Brian McHattie is serious.

Local political watchers might say that you declared early to be ahead of Fred Eisenberger. (10:15)

He’s one of those individuals that have expressed interest in possibly running for mayor. Those are certainly people I’m talking to when I declared…my commitment to run for mayor in Hamilton. I think that’s a fair assessment.

You and Eisenberger have had similar ideas in the past. You appeal to some of the same people. How much of a problem is that? (10:50)

To be fair, it could be a challenge…On any level, whether it’s a ward race or mayor race, you’re always concerned as a candidate about splitting the vote. I think that’s a concern here. I have had tremendous feedback over the last couple of days, since my announcement on Monday evening. A lot of folks say, “Look, I supported Fred last time," as I did as the Ward 1 city councillor. But this time around, he hasn’t been involved for the last four years. They’ll be supporting me and asking Fred, because we supported him last time, not to run.”

How much are you expecting it will cost to run for mayor? (11:50)

I’m told the mayor race these days is in range of $150,000 to $200,000. The range is there, I guess, depending on how you do it. I’m used to a very on-the-ground, in-the-neighbourhood campaign, banging on doors and saying hello to folks and getting the message across one on one. That’s obviously a little bit different from a mayor perspective because you have to cover a lot of territory.