Last week, Halifax elected a new municipal government. The cool thing about municipal politics is that the issues are so local, so tightly focused, that council races can be surprising—tight little dramas the rest of the city barely notices.
Breezing right past the most boring mayoral election ever, let’s take a look at council. (We’ll also skip over the councillors who faced no challenge. Clearly we already know what we’re getting from them. The interesting ones are the newcomers and the ones who may reconsider their approaches after gruelling campaigns.)
District 1 (Fall River-Waverly-Musquodoboit Valley)
Steve Streatch wasn’t the incumbent, but he sure feels like one. He was a four-term councillor before Barry Dalrymple defeated him in 2012. Campaigning on his experience and deep community ties, he beat five other candidates. He’ll bring a streak of conservativism and a strong rural rights focus to council.
District 2 (Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore)
Incumbent David Hendsbee easily beat an unremarkable field of challengers in a race that seemed to have no big issues. He’ll spend another four years on council, adding a streak of contrarianism to every discussion and, like Streatch, making sure rural Halifax has ample say.
District 5 (Dartmouth Centre)
Eight candidates crowded the field to replace the retiring Gloria McCluskey. This was municipal politics at its finest: several quality candidates with strong community engagement. In a mild surprise, 31-year-old Sam Austin won, guaranteeing residents get a dramatic change in their representation. As an urban planner, Austin is likely to leave behind McCluskey’s Dartmouth-first thinking and take a broader view of his job.
District 6 (Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East)
After first winning this district in a January by-election, Tony Mancini had little trouble beating Carlos Beals by almost 1,500 votes. With two elections under his belt, Mancini is now officially a veteran. I’m looking forward to seeing him assert himself more.
District 7 (Halifax South Downtown)
When Waye Mason took this district from long-time Councillor Sue Uteck four years ago, it was a razor-thin upset. Uteck returned to challenge this year and I was expecting an equally close race. But thanks to his social media savvy and relentless constituency work, Mason won easily. It won’t surprise me if he runs for mayor in 2020.
District 8 (Halifax Peninsula North)
Popular Councillor Jennifer Watts didn’t re-offer, saying she wanted to step aside to allow more diversity. Lindell Smith took the challenge, beating a crowded field that included former councillor Patrick Murphy (who finished a distant second, some 2,303 votes behind). You’re wrong if you pigeonhole Smith as just the diversity candidate, though. He brings a youthful perspective and a strong record of community engagement. He’s going to make things a lot more interesting.
District 9 (Halifax West Armdale)
This campaign started badly for incumbent Linda Mosher when she bought challenger Shawn Cleary’s Internet domain name and then blamed a mysteriously inept advisor. She never recovered from the PR blunder and Cleary eked out a narrow upset. An entrepreneur and one-time Progressive Conservative staffer, he touted term limits, campaign-finance reform, bikes lanes, and a suite of other progressive, but not-way-out-there ideas.
District 10 (Halifax-Bedford Basin West)
After serving on council (originally the old Halifax City Council) since 1994, Russell Walker found himself in a hell of a fight with Andrew Curran, winning by just 15 votes. He’s likely to continue his course of dogged committee work, pushing for by-the-book governance and prudent finances without a lot of drama.
District 11 (Spryfield-Sambro Loop-Prospect Road)
Captain Spryfield (AKA Steve Adams) won without breaking a sweat, taking nearly 75 per cent of the vote. He stands for tax reform and… well, Spryfield. He doesn’t really have any bold policy positions, but he’s not likely to do anything wacky either.
District 12 (Timberlea-Beechville-Clayton Park-Wedgewood)
Veteran Reg Rankin is heading off to private life, to be replaced by meteorologist Richard Zurawksi. Subtle as a sledgehammer, Zurawski champions evidence-based decision making. He’s promised to make council wake up to climate change.
District 13 (Hammonds Plain-St. Margarets)
Preaching positivity while blocking and mocking any citizen who dares to question him on social media, Matt Whitman easily fended off challenger Pam Lovelace. Being a solid constituency politician, who works hard for his district, was enough to win reelection, so don’t expect him to suddenly reform his thin-skinned ways.
District 14 (Middle/Upper Sackville-Beaver Bank-Lucasville)
As a well known radio personality and journalist, it was obvious that Lisa Blackburn would give incumbent Brad Jones a good fight, but like many election night watchers, I was shocked she actually won. She promises to focus on transit, the environment, and the arts.
Joining this dozen at the Council table will be Mayor Savage and unchallenged incumbents Steve Craig, Tim Outhit, Lorelei Nicoll, and Bill Karsten. How will the new group work together? Who will excel? Who will crash and burn? Stay tuned.