Nova Scotia

Mike Savage announces mayoral run

Former Nova Scotia MP Mike Savage has thrown his hat into the ring for the mayoralty of Halifax.
Mike Savage announces his candidacy for the job of mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Former Nova Scotia MP Mike Savage has thrown his hat into the ring for the mayoralty of Halifax.

Savage announced his run in front of 300 supporters at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth on Monday, ending months of speculation.

Savage took aim at Mayor Peter Kelly, suggesting that he would try to clarify communication with businesses, and make municipal government more open to citizens.

"We must do better than a mayor who governs in private and communicates in talking points. We need a mayor of clarity and conviction," he told the crowd.

His message - it is time for a change after 12 years with Kelly at the helm.

Savage had support from many quarters, including former NDP leader Alexa McDonough and former Tory cabinet minister,  Tim Olive.

"There are no party lines here. This is about what's best for Dartmouth, which is great for us from Dartmouth, but it's what's best for the municipality," Olive said.

Developer Jim Spatz donated $2,000 to Peter Kelly last election, but now he's supporting Savage.

"There's too much potential in this city that hasn't been realized," Spatz said. 

Savage told reporters he would run a more open city hall.

"I believe city council has been too closed. I don't blame the councillors, I think it's the administration. There's a lot of information that HRM gathers that citizens aren't going to have access to. Some of that may be very sensitive. If it's to do with salaries, if it's to do with contracts, I understand that," he said.

"But there's lots of other stuff that could benefit the people of HRM as they want to get engaged in their city. I'd like to see that opened up."

Savage stayed away from specifics, refusing to state a position on the transit strike.

But he said he does not want to split the muncipality, which was forceably amalgamated by his father, John,  when he was premier.

Savage, 51, said he will take a leave of absence from his job likely in July to focus on full-time campaigning.

"Until then, I'll be travelling around HRM, understanding the issues and seeing what's on people's minds. So, it starts right away," he said.

Members of the business community, including Paul Pettipas, chief executive officer, of the Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association, also came out in support of Savage.

Paul Pettipas, of the Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association, said HRM needs a decisive mayor.

"We've seen no leadership at city hall. We've seen a mayor who's indecisive, who really passes along anything that goes along, We need someone accountable," Pettipas said.

"What I like about Mike is he laid out the future for us. We can either make a decision yes or no. That's all people want."

Sheila Fougere, who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in the 2008 election, said she's supporting Savage in his campaign.

"I think he needs to give people something to cheer about, to get other people out, to get the crowd out to vote. You're talking almost 70 per cent of the population who does not take the time to vote in municipal elections," Fougere said.

"And I think he has the ability to inspire those people to vote maybe for the first time or maybe again."

Mayor Peter Kelly  has not yet declared, but he has been campaigning, courting the seniors vote in particular.

"We all have strengths and weaknesses. I do, he does, all the other four do as well," Kelly said in reaction to Savage's announcement.

Savage was the Liberal MP for the riding of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour for seven years, until losing his seat in last year's federal election to New Democrat Robert Chisholm.

Voters head to the polls in provincewide municipal elections on Oct. 20.

Also in the running for the mayor's job are former Halifax police officer Tom Martin and Halifax businessman, Fred Connors.