Peter Kelly says he won’t seek another term as Halifax Mayor in the upcoming municipal elections. What does this mean …
Mayor Peter Kelly wants more open government?By Trevor J. Adams | Nov 30, 2011
Tags: Council, Halifax, HRM, Mayor, Peter Kelly, politics
Sometime on or around November 29, three Christmas ghosts visited Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly. Through a series of time-travelling vignettes, they showed His Worship the terrible fate that would befall Halifax if he didn’t embrace more open government.
Or so I assume. How else to explain yesterday afternoon’s peculiar press release? In it, Peter Kelly explains how it’s his responsibility as Mayor to ensure Halifax’s government is open and transparent. “As elected officials, we are responsible to residents and they are, quite rightly, demanding more openness, transparency and accountability in government,” Kelly says. “We need to make changes to the way we oversee the public’s business.”
These are excellent notions, except that they do not at all reflect the level of secrecy Kelly has fostered during his decade as Mayor. Under his leadership, Council has held 20+ closed-door meetings per year, making controversial decisions like busting up a peaceful protest on Remembrance Day and voting on corporate sponsorship for the skating Oval on Halifax Common.
Until yesterday afternoon, Kelly had staunchly defended the practice. When I interviewed him in our November 2010 issue, he said: “We’re not unique in having these kinds of meetings. Every municipality across the country does it. The Province, every week, the cabinet meets and they talk in confidence.”
In our March 2011 cover story, Richard Woodbury looked at the secrecy at City Hall. Kelly continued to defend the status quo. “When we are told by lawyers that ‘You can’t do that because you’re going to put us at risk or you’re going to do this,’ It wears thin with us, so I’m sure it wears thin with the public,” he said. “But ultimately, [when] the first big lawsuit [happens], I know the question will be asked, ‘Why didn’t you take the advice of your lawyers?’ and I can see you guys asking questions very, very quickly.”
But now the Mayor has had an epiphany. “Public debate is the very air that democracy breaths [sic],” Kelly says in yesterday’s press release. “We need to open our windows as wide as possible to achieve that kind of ventilation.”
How to explain that, unless it’s a Christmas miracle?
Of course, another view might be that the newfound commitment is a crass political maneuver, to try to reframe Kelly as trustworthy and open in the lead-up to next October’s municipal election…
What do you think?