Sitting in his spacious, light blue office at Halifax City Hall, Mike Savage reflects on his last four years as mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality.
“It’s gone by very quickly and being mayor is a ridiculously busy job,” he says.
While the job is challenging and occasionally frustrating, Savage finds it’s just as invigorating and rewarding.
“You can actually see the change that you envision for the city coming to be in a lot of cases.”
Savage is running for re-election against Lil MacPherson, founder and co-owner of the Wooden Monkey restaurants, in Saturday’s municipal elections. If he wins, it will be Savage’s second term.
‘We’ve made great strides as a city council’
Since assuming office in 2012, Savage says Halifax and its neighbouring communities have become more inclusive, environmentally sustainable and economically strong.
He cited the welcoming of Syrian refugees to Nova Scotia as a highlight of his time as mayor. Since 2015, more than 1,000 have been resettled in the province.
In 2015, Halifax was awarded the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipality Award for the Solar City program, which allows homeowners to install solar panels on their properties. Over a span of three years, 400 participated in the project, at a cost of just over $13 million.
“There’s more that we can do, but I think we have done a lot in four years …. I’m proud of it,” says Savage.
High school teacher Colin MacEachern worked on many campaigns during Savage’s time as a Liberal Member of Parliament and praises his ability to lead the municipality.
“I think he is a very good public servant,” says MacEachern. “He is doing a good job.”
‘There is work to be done, but we’re on a good track’
While Savage says a lot has been accomplished during his time as mayor, there is still room for improvement.
For his 2016 platform, Savage emphasizes the significance of growth and sustainability.
In accordance with HRM’s Economic Growth Plan, Savage aims to achieve a local GDP of $22.5 billion and grow the city’s workforce to 271,000 by 2021.
Savage wants to continue the preservation of green spaces, such as Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Regional Park, 100 Wild Islands and the Purcell’s Cove backlands.
“It’s really an important issue for us,” says Savage. “The sustainability of your projects is a big piece.”
Through the Integrated Mobility Plan and opening of a bikeway lane on the Macdonald Bridge, Savage hopes to further incorporate the use of more sustainable transit options, such as cycling, busing and walking, within the municipality.
Anders Hayden, associate professor at Dalhousie University, says the HRM has done well at encouraging environmentally sustainable programs such as Solar City, but emphasizes the importance of improving transportation.
“We need urgent, really quite radical changes” in terms of environmental sustainability, says Hayden, to promote walking, cycling and use of public transit. “The public transportation infrastructure needs to be a high priority.”
Municipal election day in Saturday
Savage says he hopes to continue working with the municipality and representing HRM abroad and across Canada.
“I work hard at this; I take it seriously,” says Savage. “I don’t write off anybody’s opinion. I’m interested in what people have to say.”
His message to residents of HRM and potential voters: “It’s been an honour and I would be privileged to continue to be your mayor.”
Municipal and school board election day is Oct. 15. Visit https://www.halifax.ca/election/ to learn more about voter information and municipal candidates.