Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark to seek 2nd term, but says he won't campaign until September

Clark said he would rather focus his energies on the COVID-19 pandemic. His challenger, Rob Norris, called the move to announce but delay campaigning "a bit peculiar."

Clark said he wants to focus his energies on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

A masked Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark poses for a photo with his wife Sarah Buhler (centre) and a supporter after announcing his re-election bid Wednesday. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Charlie Clark will seek a second term as Saskatoon mayor during November's municipal election, setting the stage for a race against former Sask. Party cabinet minister Rob Norris. 

During a media event to announce the bid Wednesday, Clark said he would not formally launch his campaign until September so that he can continue to focus on COVID-19, but that he wanted to give voters some certainty about his election plans.

"I've worked hard to guide the community through this," Clark said of the pandemic, citing a phone call with Premier Scott Moe on Tuesday as one example of what he termed a collaborative approach. 

"I believe the way we get through this is by pulling the community together, not being divisive."

He noted that the city had prevented COVID-19 from spreading through the homeless population.

"On the other side, I also know that, with the wrong approach, we could see the same failures and challenges that are playing out in other parts of the world," he said.

Clark said he would be more specific about his goals for a second term during his fall campaign, but offered, "Keeping people safe will be my top priority." 

Asked about 2019's record-high homicide rate, Clark said, "This year we have seen a drop in crime in our community and we've seen some turnaround. We've hired more police officers."

Attendees kept their distance during Clark's announcement. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Clark also responded to rumours of his having ambitions for provincial office.

"Well here I am. I'm running for mayor," he said.

Clark's wife, Sarah Buhler, spoke first during the event, saying the decision to launch a re-election campaign was a big one for the family because Clark's mayoral duties have caused him to miss some family events.

"For us it came down to how we can play our part in making this the best city possible for all of us," she said.

'It's not partisan' 

Clark's announcement at the Sheraton Cavalier hotel capped off months of uncertainty about his immediate future political plans.

"The reason I like municipal politics is it's not partisan," he said. "It's the most tangible, on-the-ground form of politics."  

Norris, a former Sask. Part cabinet minister who announced his candidacy in late June, then held an event hot on the heels of Clark's announcement. 

Clark had announced his event on Tuesday afternoon. Late Tuesday night, Norris announced his own event to take place at 1:45 p.m. CST, at the home of a campaign worker in the city's Hampton Village area.

On Wednesday, Clark said part of his campaign would entail defending his record, including higher job growth in Saskatoon compared to the provincial average and property taxes — a particular bone of contention for Norris — that "this year [are] the lowest we've seen in a decade."

"I'm proud of what we've accomplished in these four years," Clark said, citing the opening of new projects like the Chief Mistawasis Bridge and Remai Modern Art Museum, and his hiring of Police Chief Troy Cooper.

Branded 'Re-elect Charlie Clark for Mayor' masks were available at Wednesday's event. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Norris keeps up attacks

At his own media event Wednesday, Norris welcomed Clark into the race but also criticized the mayor's decision to announce his candidacy but not immediately campaign as "a bit peculiar."

"Maybe he's gone back to the dressing room and he's retaping his stick," Norris said, before pledging to "to work hard, from dusk to dawn, on our campaign."

Rob Norris held his own media event Wednesday outside the home of a campaign supporter. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Norris said he's recently been asked by someone what he'll do if the COVID-19 situation fails to improve by September.

"I said I don't have an answer. I'm going to continue to campaign imperfectly. This is tricky. It's tricky for all of us."

Norris declined to get into specific policy goals of his campaign, saying it was Charlie Clark's day. Norris said some policy announcements would come in the next few days. 

"Charlie Clark may aspire to be a unifier, but the people I've talked to about the farmer's market don't think Charlie Clark is a unifier. The people I've talked to about how he treated board members at the Remai Modern don't think that that's a voice of unity. In fact we'll have more to say along the campaign trail on that."

Asked about his insistent attacks on Clark, Norris said he was simply acting as the challenger to an incumbent mayor. 

"I want to be respectful. I want to be constructive but I also want to make sure people understand that there is a very clear choice," Norris said. 

A Rob Norris election sign in downtown Saskatoon. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

All-platform journalist for CBC Saskatoon

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