Nova Scotia

Halifax mayoralty candidates' debate covers transit, environment, arts

The two candidates running for mayor in Halifax — Mike Savage and Lil MacPherson —went head to head in a debate that one audience member criticized for being less a debate and more of a conversation.

Not enough sparring in debate between Mike Savage and Lil MacPherson, say audience members

Mike Savage and Lil MacPherson have agreed not to use lawn signs during their campaigns to be Halifax's next mayor. (CBC)

A sparsely attended debate for the two mayoralty candidates in Halifax has been criticized for being more like a conversation than a debate, and at least one audience member says he's not any closer to making a decision than he was before Tuesday night's event.

Lil MacPherson and Mike Savage discussed transit, the environment and urban planning during the 90-minute session hosted by nine groups of businesses and non-profits in the city. 

"They spent all night agreeing with each other so that was not very compelling," said Fred Connors, a former mayoralty candidate who was part of the audience on Tuesday.

"I wanted to walk away feeling more certain and I feel that I don't know."

MacPherson wants transit improvements 

Fewer than a hundred people watched as the candidates answered questions while sitting in lounge chairs at the front of the Westin Hotel's Commonwealth ballroom. 

MacPherson, who worked on Savage's campaign in 2012, told the crowd she was inspired to throw her name in the ring after attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference earlier this year.

She criticized the municipality's current approach to the environment and said it should do more, including improving public transit. 

"The system our buses have now isn't working," said MacPherson.

"We're spending all this money on a bus system that's getting less ridership. So we can't keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

Savage defends record

Savage, who is the incumbent, pointed to his track record on arts and culture, defending the city's intent to restore the Kyhber building, the naming of two poet laureates during his tenure and installing more bikes lanes.  

"When we put a bike lane in, I get a ton of letters from people that don't like it," said Savage.

"It takes political courage to say, 'This is not just about who's in a bike lane now, but who's going to be in a bike lane in five years.'"

The two talked about the Blue Mountain Birch Cove project, with MacPherson challenging the long process to approval. 

The two also differed on how to spend the influx of $20 million from Ottawa for taxes owed for the Citadel Hill grounds.

Let public ask questions, says audience member

Gerry Donovan watched the debate and said the public should have been able to ask questions. 

"I'm sure the mayor and council are doing their best, but it's nice to see new blood," said Donovan. "I like the competition."

Election day is Oct. 15. 

You can watch the debate on CBC Nova Scotia's Facebook page.

About the Author

Stephanie vanKampen

Videojournalist

Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News Arts & Entertainment Unit in Toronto. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen @cbc.ca