Mayor Peter Kelly on the future

Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly sat down with Peninsula News for a feature interview. The question on everyone’s mind was why is he not running again. Kelly emphasized that his announcement to not seek re-election was entirely his own, and a decision that he has given it plenty of thought.

By Braeden Jones

A view of Halifax cityscape taken from a rigid hulled military boat.
For the past 12 years, Halifax has called Peter Kelly Mayor. In 8 months, his term will end, marking the end of an era. (Braeden Jones Photo)

Peter Kelly says he has not been pressured to step down from his position as mayor of Halifax.

“I’ve always said that all politicians have a shelf life, and I want to know my own shelf life is up rather than be told, you’ve expired. I want to be able to say my shelf life is up and it’s time to move on,” he says.

Kelly sat down with Peninsula News for a feature interview.

Kelly cites his 27 years of service in the HRM as being “a couple of lifetimes in politics” long, and acknowledges that the feedback the community has given him over the years has helped to keep him from growing “disconcerted.”

He says, “If you aren’t getting public feedback you have concerns. I’ve always had that feedback and I’ve been able to accept that.”

Preceding and following his February 22 announcement, mainstream media have covered Kelly’s life away from work in depth. This is something that he explains did not play into his decision but is still not “fair game.”

“I don’t think those elements, personal issues, should be able to be mainstay. Everybody has problems. Everybody has personal problems, I don’t think there is anybody who doesn’t have some problems in life and whether you are a student or anyone else, (you) have challenges that you want to deal with on your own.

“If issues that were personal to you became public, I’m sure you would become very much concerned,” he says.

“Once you go down the road of personalities, the whole discussion changes.”

“I’m no different from anybody else. I’m not perfect, I never said I was, never pretended to be, never wanted to be. And I’ve certainly made mistakes over the years and learned from those. When you are in politics people put themselves or others on pedestals. For me, it’s best to be close to the ground, because you need to work with people,” says Kelly.

“The best part of this job is the people of HRM. They have been phenomenal.”

Not Running, but not Done yet

Despite the attention that his announcement has drawn, Kelly insists that things will be business as usual in the mayor’s office. With nearly eight months remaining in office, he is “still dealing with the issue of the day, whatever that may be.”

“Certainly with strikes it’s not easy. (For the transit strike) it’s not easy for the drivers, their families, and certainly not easy for the travelling public… Transit is one of those issues that has found focus in the public and we get a lot of feedback about that issue,” he says.

“You don’t want constant focus or challenges in the workplace in terms of unions or potential or threat of strikes because it does have an effect overall and people to become polarized one way or the other and certainly with the issues in the province healthcare and other elements that are up for discussion for the next few months there is always something around it that can detract from the overall economic well being, that’s for sure.”

Other hot topics in the HRM include the overnight parking ban, and the time that bars are open in downtown Halifax.

Kelly says that this year’s parking ban methodology was a “trial period.” Last week, there were more than $33 thousand in tickets that many people thought were unfair. The ban has been lifted pending review. Last year, the parking ban lasted a fixed period.

“It didnt make any sense whatsoever that you couldn’t park  on the street when there was no snow,” says Kelly.

“To me that is asinine.”

The parking ban issue is one that is going to be discussed at council and reviewed for the future. Kelly says, “even during this time, although it was better balanced, sometimes there is very little snow on the ground and they put on the parking ban.”

In terms of the hours of downtown bars, Kelly says the data speaks for itself.

He says, “Two stabbings in the last two weeks is disconcerting. And this has always been a part of the mayor’s roundtable on violence. We have found that the later bars are open, the more people tend to drink. Which is probably to be expected. But when they get out from after or during those openings, things happen.

“The stats show, the later it is, the more calls (the police) get.”

The Future for New Mayor

Kelly says that with the new CAO, Richard Butts, the next mayor will not have budgetary issues to worry about. “He brings a wealth of experience and expertise. This is the first year that we have been able to make choices on allocating dollars due to assessment growth and whether we spend it, reduce the tax rate, or balance out both. So what we’ve found is by having a focussed individual as he, it allows us to keep the budget at zero for the most part other than a few minor adjustments.

“The budget is in check.”

Kelly points to the $7 billion in construction over the last 12 years as promising a strong economic development for the next mayor to look forward to. He says that the table is set for more revenue flow, and that he can “see development continuing.”

Related to the future of development in the HRM is the RP+5 regional plan that was launched last week. Part of the regional planning is increased accessibility, including new busses to the airport and beyond that to Enfield. This plan addresses the considerable size of the municipality. Kelly says “it is important to remember that we are four former municipalities. We are 196 communities.

“There has to be independent thought and opportunity and an understanding that people do not want to be treated the same way.”

“To force one thought or one approach (in this municipality) will become a failure,” says Kelly.