De-amalgamation — but not a slate of candidates — was on the table Thursday night in Bedford as about 40 people turned out at a Citizens for Halifax rally.
The non-partisan group is keen on supporting people to run in this October’s municipal election who show leadership and who are engaged in their city, says member Iain Taylor.
It’s not to run a whole slate of candidates to replace the current council, he noted.
But “there are 24 incumbents,” he said in an interview, referring to the existing 23-member council and Mayor Peter Kelly.
“So it’s hard to believe there aren’t more than a few who aren’t doing their job.”
Citizens for Halifax doesn’t have any candidates in mind now, he admitted, because “they don’t know who’s running.”
As well, the group hasn’t formed a platform yet.
Thursday night’s meeting, held at the Lions club in a city-owned rec centre, was to gather ideas from its members before a general meeting in May, Mr. Taylor said. At the top of the ideas list was amalgamation, the 1996 unification of four former municipal units into one entity, the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Perhaps spurred by a keynote talk from Brian Lee Crowley of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies — who said in an interview later that “the evidence is strong that amalgamation has not been good” — most said it should be undone.
However, that’s just not a choice right now, said mayoral candidate and Coun. Sheila Fougere (Connaught-Quinpool).
“It’s a provincial mandate — we’re children of the province — so the choice to de-amalgamate is not one we get to make,” she said in an interview.
Ms. Fougere is not hearing the urgency to break up the municipality, at least not outside meetings of Citizens for Halifax anyway.
“In this room, there is an opinion that’s been expressed. But I think a lot of places you’ll find that people couldn’t care less one way or the other.”
Despite her attendance Thursday night, don’t look for Ms. Fougere’s name on the Citizens for Halifax bill in the fall. The mayoral candidate says she is not looking for an endorsement from any organization.
“Municipal politics has always been a non-partisan endeavour and I think that’s . . . why it’s always been able to be close to the people.
“Creating a platform and pushing a slate comes dangerously close to becoming a political party.”
Mary Lynn Saturley, a candidate in the 2000 election for the former St. Margarets Bay-Prospect district seat won by Coun. Gary Meade, joined Citizens of Halifax because she wants to see a slate of candidates who share the group’s vision of leadership and engagement.
“We have a dysfunctional council and we don’t see them operating as a team, they’re operating as 23 members only interested in their own part of HRM,” she said in an interview Thursday night.
Ms. Saturley, who says she is not running this fall, wasn’t the only former candidate at the meeting. Brian Warshick and Beverley Miller, who lost to councillors Andrew Younger and Sue Uteck respectively in the 2004 municipal election, were on hand, as were Citizens for Halifax organizers Don Mills and Barb Stegemann. Despite their attendance, the turnout at the meeting was much lower than organizing meetings held last fall in Halifax and Dartmouth, which drew upwards of 100 people.
“We were obviously hoping to get a decent turnout and I think we’ve got slightly on the low side, but we have enough people here to be satisfied with,” Mr. Taylor said.