Let me ask an awkward question. Why is that we—citizens of the modestly immodest cosmopolitan, metropolitan metropolis of Halifax—seem incapable of electing a mayor who offers vision and hope, and is not… well, how can I put this?
Exhibit Number 1: the late Ron Wallace, prominent local optometrist, nice guy and undistinguished Liberal MLA who is Halifax’s longest serving (1980-91) mayor.
Wallace’s perhaps-having-us-on pet project was to hollow out Citadel Hill as an underground parking garage. When Wallace died in 2008, commentators seemed hard-pressed to recall a single significant accomplishment from his time in office. But he was—quite rightly—celebrated as “a charming, lighthearted man with a smile that lit up his whole face.”
That’s something, I suppose.
Oh, and then there was Edmund Morris-s-s, Halifax’s tiny pluperfect mayor (1974-80) best remembered for his small stature, polysyllabic pontifications and stereophonic sibilance.
Morris, in fact, did distinguish himself in other political spheres. In the sixties as a Tory MP, he helped bring down the Diefenbaker government on a matter of principle. But as mayor, he was, well… unmemorable. I found a 341-word bio of him online. Its 13-word summation of his mayoral legacy: “Between 1974 and 1980 Morris served as Mayor of the City of Halifax.”
And then there’s Walter Fitzgerald, whose modest claim to fame is that he was the last mayor of the old Halifax (1994-1996) and first mayor of the new HRM (1996-2000). Though an excellent companion and all-round-good fellow, can you really take seriously a leader whose nickname is “Googie?”
Which brings us to Peter Kelly, our current—soon to (heaven help us!) surpass Ron Wallace for longevity—mayor.
Boyishly earnest, occasionally schoolmarm-ish, Peter Kelly seems constitutionally incapable of herding, let alone leading his fellow elected representatives, not to even imagine offering them, or us, a vision of what our city could be in 10 years.
And yet… we keep re-electing him. We’re now slightly less than two years from our next trip to the municipal polls. It’s time to think seriously, first about the kind of city we really want and then about who can make that happen.
Surely we can do better.