Nice guy finishes first. Now what?


The race for HRM mayor really began on February 6, 2012, when former Liberal MP Mike Savage—surrounded by a fawning, hopeful who’s who of 300 of the city’s most influential business and political makers and breakers—declared he would challenge long-past-his-best-before-date incumbent Peter Kelly.The campaign effectively ended two-and-a-half weeks later when Kelly—already mired in myriad self-made political scandals and suddenly facing personal allegations about his handling of a friend’s estate—reluctantly announced he would not reoffer.

For Mike Savage, the challenge suddenly became how to say nothing—but say it pleasingly blandly—for seven months: nothing to raise questions among voters, nothing to provide an opening for his opponents to attack, nothing to force him to act one way or another once this past weekend’s pro forma ballot-counting exercise was history.

It was a classic front-runner’s campaign. And Savage executed it perfectly.

Now the hard part begins.

Savage’s first—and most crucial—task will be to convince 16 independently elected, beholden-to-no-single-agenda, motley mix of urban and rural councilors to work together for the common good. Given that 13 of the 16 are holdovers from the last fractious, sorry lot, it will not be easy.

The good news is that getting along has been Mike Savage’s strong suit. Unlike his late father John—the progressive and principled but sometimes bull-headed former mayor and premier—Mike Savage is personable, easygoing, a man more naturally inclined to traditional brokerage politics than to the ideological, confrontational style currently in vogue in North America.

One can imagine—hope—Savage will even find ways to harness the expertise and enthusiasm of his main mayoralty rivals, Tom Martin and Fred Connors, in his new administration. We—and he—would be well served.

But Mike Savage’s litmus test will come when he is finally forced to show himself on specific issues—on United Gulf’s proposal for a views-busting 48-storey twin-tower downtown highrise, on the court battle over the former St. Partick’s-Alexandra school property…

While it is good Savage did not inherit his father’s single-minded rightness about all things, we can only hope John Savage’s progressive and principled genes made it through to this generation.

We shall see. 

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