Race for Mayor gets (a little) livelier

While Matt Whitman has been campaigning to be Halifax’s mayor for months, he’s mostly ran alone. With the election now a month away (Oct. 17), incumbent Mike Savage has joined the fray, releasing his platform on Tuesday and meeting Whitman for a candidates’ forum yesterday. Also in the mix was Max Taylor, the TikTok star who announced his candidacy last week.

The discussion doesn’t yield any shocking revelations but is useful in clarifying what separates Savage and Whitman. A moderate centrist, Savage took his strongest stance on the living-wage debate, as CBC reports. “I think the city should pay a living wage to its employees,” he says. “It should use its influence to make sure that people we do business with provide a living wage and that we need to be a leader on it.”

Although he’s a self-styled populist, Whitman strongly opposes the idea of paying workers more. “This would be the worst thing we could possibly do to stifle the rest of the businesses that are going to survive,” he rebuts.

Defunding the police is another wedge issue. Whitman reacted angrily to a question about it, repeating pro-cop bumper-sticker slogans. “I don’t think we should defund the police; I think we should defend the police,” he says. “Police do a very difficult job… If you don’t stand behind the police, maybe you should stand in front of the police.”

Savage, as moderate centrists are wont to do, took refuge behind the claim that there are “many different definitions” of defunding (“Defund,” transitive verb: to withdraw funding from—Merriam Webster), but supports looking at what services (mental health checks, for instance) would be better performed by other professionals.

The Cornwallis statue is another key differentiator. Savage strongly defends how HRM handled the Cornwallis statue removal. “Sometimes you have to do what’s right and what you believe is the correct thing,” he says. Whitman continues to dog-whistle around the issue, claiming that he wants to support “heritage” and HRM should “put up more statues.”

I haven’t given much attention to Taylor, because it’s hard to take a candidate without a real policy platform very seriously. He’s running in an effort to bolster voter turnout. His platform is literally “I don’t care who you vote for.” On most matters, he takes no hard position, encouraging people to consider both sides of issues like defunding police and the Cornwallis statue.

He speaks most strongly on the living wage question. “Living wage: you need this wage to survive,” he says. “You need it to live. If you’re a business that refuses to give a living wage, then you’re a greedy business.” He didn’t offer any specific living-wage policies that he’d enact as mayor.

The forum likely changed few minds.

Savage and Whitman stayed true to their brands (centrist and reactionary, respectively). Taylor had more to say than expected but is unlikely to have any significant impact on the race. In a poll released just before he joined the race, 89% of decided voters intended to support 60-year-old Savage. It’s safe to assume that 22-year-old Taylor draws from a different demographic.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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