Grade this year: C-
Grade last year: D
Peter Kelly has a knack for getting his indecisive personality caught up in events, you gotta hand him that.
Last summer, for example, he told the Chamber of Commerce that thanks to the new sewer plant, the harbour was clean enough to swim in. “Really?” asked reporters. Rather than pulling on the Speedos then and there and diving off the boardwalk, Kelly dithered and wavered for a couple of months, then made a media splash at Black Rock Beach. Two days later it rained, raw sewage was once again flowed into the harbour and the beach was closed to swimming. This winter, of course, the sewer plant crapped out entirely, and Kelly became the poster child for half measures and not getting the job done. It’s not entirely fair, but Kelly owns the failed sewer plant.
Same thing with the failed Commonwealth Games bid. Because he didn’t act forcibly to control the free-spending bid committee, he owns the cost overruns and horrific PR that resulted from the collapsed bid.
What’s especially irksome is that Kelly seems to have defendable political positions, but won’t say out loud what they are. For example, although he’s been critical around the edges, he’s yet to take a firm position on tax reform one way or the other. “I haven’t seen a proposal from the Tax Reform Committee yet,” Kelly said, responding to a direct question from Sue Uteck in an open council session.
That’s not leadership. It’s cover-your-ass equivocation.
Halifax doesn’t have a strong-mayor system of government, but Kelly is missing a huge opportunity to shape and direct this city into the future with use of the bully pulpit. As a result, we all lose.
Still and all, Kelly soundly defeated challenger Sheila Fougere in last year’s election, so that’s a consideration. And, responding to criticism that he lets council meetings get out of control, he’s attempted somewhat successfully to exert a stronger hand, even if it’s taken six months to get the hang of it.