Mayor Kelly's Moses moment

What to make of Peter Kelly’s Moses memo to members of HRM Council? Thou shalt not drink to excess… Thou shalt not drive drunk… Thou shalt call 9-1-1 if a fellow councilor violates #2… Thou shalt pause and reflect…


Mayor Kelly issued his I-regret-I-have-to-write-this-however-circumstances-demand-it memo July 9. The ink had barely dried before it showed up in the media, local and national; closely followed by outraged howls from councilors claiming the mayor’s broad brush, father-knows-better innuendo sullied what passes for their reputations; followed by their own temperature-inflating innuendo about who leaked the memo and why; followed by the mayor’s digging-himself-ever-deeper defence to reporters that he’d once intervened to keep a drunk councilor—no name—from driving away from a public event—no name; followed by…

First question. Do Halifax Regional Councilors have a drinking problem? How many? Who?

Metro reporter Alex Boutilier bravely named names—two of them—in a report Thursday. Veteran city hall watcher Tim Bousquet didn’t name anyone but did suggest, in a radio interview, as many as four councilors appear to over-indulge at times; he later refined that to suggest only one probably has a serious drinking problem.

From a personal point of view, one, of course, is too many.

But there are only two legitimate public concerns here. First, is alcohol interfering with the individual’s ability to do the job? Second, is the individual endangering public safety by driving drunk?

If the answer to either question is yes, councilors face the same wrenching dilemma the rest of us do: how, and how far, to intervene in the personal life of another person.

It’s complicated.

As a reporter, I’ve covered politicians who accomplished more for the public good in one night of drinking than others after a lifetime of sobriety.

Several readers who posted to Metro’s website claimed to have seen one councilor drunk at public events and said he drove away after. How many called police? Should councilors—or the mayor—be held to a different standard?

The mayor has raised a serious issue. But his hectoring memo just trivializes it. One more symptom of the sad lack of leadership at city hall. Pity.

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