The north end is changing. That’s been the thesis statement used over and over as new developments rise up on the northern half of the peninsula, while longtime residents move out. In the wake of all this upheaval, seven candidates have stepped forward trying to replace outgoing councillor Jennifer Watts at City Hall. One of them will be handed the reins on October 15 to steer Peninsula North towards a smarter, more inclusive future. Let’s hope they’re up to the challenge.
Eligible voters: 19,835 (as of 2014)
(Up about 100 people from 2012)
Past voter turnout: 37.99 percent
Watts made the call for a more diverse council when she announced she wouldn’t be re-offering back in the spring. Enter Brenden Sommerhalder. The director of marketing for the Downtown Halifax Business Commission and Halifax Bloggers founder, like it or not, evokes the image of the upwardly mobile young professional at home in the new north end. Don’t let that fool you. Sommerhalder has an expert knowledge of city hall procedure and was front-and-centre trying to stop the Homes Not Hondas demolition a few months ago. But now he’s up against Lindell Smith. Like Sommerhalder, Smith emerged early in this race with an organized, professional campaign. The Centreline co-founder and youth programmer for the Halifax North Memorial library grew up in Uniacke Square and has made a career (and now campaign) of getting area youth involved in their community. And those are just the first two names on a deep roster of candidates. Former school board representative and community activist Chris Poole, along with the English-born artist Anthony Kawalski, have been hard at work since the summer. Some late additions to the ballot just before HRM’s September filing deadline included heavy hitters like former HRM councillor Patrick Murphy, and the perpetually campaigning Irvine Carvery. The district’s seventh candidate, Martin Farrell is less well-known then his opponents, but he’d almost have to be.
The problem of an election without an incumbent is that no one’s being challenged during the campaign. The candidates in District 8 have not only been jovial with each other through this race, but—save some minor differences—they’ve largely been on the same page about the district’s unprecedented growth, changing demographics and housing affordability problems. That’s good, given the history of the area and the repeating stories of longtime residents priced out of their neighbourhoods. Anyone who wins this race will have a mountain of problems to sort through—some of which are HRM’s responsibility (senior programs, schools, the Centre Plan), and some of which aren’t, but will still need councillor support regardless (the city’s housing crisis, healthcare). Most of all, the next councillor for Peninsula North needs to listen. They need to make the time to hear from the district’s residents and the communities that can otherwise be so easily overlooked at Regional Council.
Click here to find out more info on how, where and when you can vote in HRM’s municipal election.