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Halifax mayor Mike Savage carries on legacy of activism and politics

Photo: British High Commission, Ottawa/flickr

It's hard to imagine a 30-minute conversation with former mayor Peter Kelly that could skip seamlessly:

  • from the rebuilding Halifax Mooseheads;
  • to a previous life as a backbench opposition MP ("the only less relevant position being a backbencher on the government side");
  • to the job of Halifax mayor ("I like it, sometimes more than I allow myself to say");
  • to the number of people ("too many") who have frozen to death on the streets of Halifax;
  • to the Ivany report ("it's become a buzzword; I can show you letters on both sides of almost any issue from people who each think they're 'Ivany'");
  • to his mother's little-known obsession with psephology (the scientific analysis of elections);
  • to how he thinks his first term in office should be judged;
  • to whether he will seek a second term…

Mike Savage, thankfully, is not his predecessor. Neither is he -- and this is more interesting and complex -- simply his father's son.

His father, John Savage, was a Scottish immigrant doctor and impatient social activist who became Dartmouth mayor, then Nova Scotia premier because he wanted to change the world. Now. "He was not a conventional politician," notes his son. "He didn't like knocking on doors, didn't lick envelopes, didn't raise money for other politicians…"

Mike Savage grew up in a home steeped in social activism and electoral politics. He has more happily done his share of door knocking over four federal and municipal elections in the past dozen years. "My strength is that I think I work well with people." It is not lost on the younger Savage that his father's "passionate, aggressive drive for reform" led to his ouster as Liberal leader before he'd even completed his first term as premier.

Savage has spent the first half of his own first term as mayor putting the pieces into place: council itself no longer seems quite so dysfunctional. He says he's "excited by the fact the city is now doing things -- in housing, immigration, health, the arts -- the city hasn't done before. We're maturing as a city."

What will that mean for the last two years of his four-year mandate? We'll talk about that -- and how he thinks he should be judged in 2016 -- next week.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: British High Commission, Ottawa/flickr

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