If Mike Savage truly has multi-partisan support for his campaign for mayor, he will be the strongest threat to Peter Kelly since the Bedford bumbler first took over at City Hall. And there are signs that Savage does have support beyond the Dartmouth crowd or the Liberals who sustained him in federal politics. NDP icon Alexa McDonough introduced him at his kickoff rally, which is pretty much a stamp of approval from an important segment of the vast NDP throng that currently dominates politics in the HRM.
Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd at Alderney Landing in hometown Dartmouth, Savage hit a lot of the right keys in making his announcement. He wants HRM to be liveable, entrepreneurial and more inclusive. He wants to end the culture of secrecy at City Hall and to get the city moving again.
But the strongest line of all in a pretty darn good speech was simply to say that it’s time for change in HRM. In my opinion, that is pretty much the most powerful political message anyone can deliver in any race, for any position, by any party. When the old regime has outlived its use, it is time for a change. And when that gets into the heads of voters, it’s impossible to hold back.
Is it time for change in HRM? Ask any citizen. Most will tell you they have had enough of Kelly’s misdirections and vacillations and his secrecy fetish. They’ll tell you he has overstayed his welcome and indeed, it’s time for a change.
This isn’t to say Kelly will be easy to knock off. The 2012 HRM mayoralty race is going to be a knock-down, drag-out affair. Kelly is well financed and spends vast amounts of time cultivating his suburban following. He has never been seriously threatened. But if the Savage team, perhaps with help from the legendary NDP voting-day machine, is able to crack suburban complacency and get the younger vote motivated in the urban core, he will be the next mayor.
So let’s review. Mike Savage has comparable political experience to Kelly’s. He comes from a family with a distinguished record of public service. His father helped clean up Nova Scotia politics to the point where at least you could no longer smell it in Greenland. Savage has a deep personal interest in matters of social justice, which will serve him well with urban voters. But this campaign is also his chance to evolve from the role as a backbench Liberal MP to the role of municipal leader. And it is leadership people crave here in the HRM.
To further review, Kelly is carrying baggage, big time baggage. Beyond the concert scandal, the secret Council meetings and his fumbling of the Occupy Nova Scotia protest, he has also alienated too many constituencies with his weather-vane leadership style.
Mike Savage isn’t the only guy in Halifax who thinks it’s time for a change.