By Andrew Macdonald
With municipal races in Nova Scotia two years off, and now in his second term, Halifax mayor Mike Savage has a popularity among voters in the 70 per cent range.
That’s historic and not seen during the era of Peter Kelly, who was city mayor for 12 years, and who now is city clerk with Charlottetown.
With the envy of many politicians, second generation politician Savage is doing all the right things, according to Mills, who has been taking opinion polls in Halifax and the Atlantic Provinces since 1978 when his firm, Corporate Research & Associates was founded.
The Halifax mayor’s high popularity numbers contrast that of Fredericton mayor Mike O’Brien, who saw his popularity plummet by 20 per cent, for reasons I explain elsewhere in this edition of The Macdonald Notebook.
At 70 per cent support, Mike Savage should steamroll to a third term if he runs again, although, there continues to be speculation he would take over from Premier Stephen McNeil as leader of the provincial Liberals.
Savage’s own political aides are among those doing the speculating, although last November, Premier McNeil told The Notebook categorically he would run for a third historic term.
Regional councillor and wannabe mayor Waye Mason says he is in the dark when it comes to Savage’s aides suggesting a move to the premier’s job. But that is the story I continue to hear from political chattering classes, despite McNeil’s vow to run again.
Seven in 10 polled support Mayor Savage and that’s record results for a sitting politician, not least for a second term politico.
“Satisfaction with the performance of council under Mayor Savage’s leadership is consistent with recent levels, maintaining the improvement evident in early 2018, when satisfaction rebounded from its lowest level in over three years,” says Mills.
Helping to push Savage’s numbers into the political popularity stratosphere is the fact Haligonians feel pretty good about their city, which has an economy firing on all cylinders.
“Consumer confidence in Halifax is stable, and remains favourable this quarter, according to the most recent urban report survey conducted by Corporate Research Associates Inc.,” says Mills’ report.
“Specifically, the Halifax consumer confidence index stands at 103.6 (compared with 104.0 three months ago), and rests below only Moncton when comparing consumer confidence across the four urban markets in this study.
“Satisfaction with the municipal government in Halifax is consistent with previous levels observed in 2018. Specifically, seven in 10 (70 per cent, compared with 67 per cent in May 2018, and 72 per cent in February 2018) Halifax residents are satisfied with the performance of Council under Mayor Mike Savage’s leadership,” says Mills.
“Of note, satisfaction with Halifax council continues to be above that of Moncton, Fredericton, and Saint John,” he added.
The poll surveyed 400 residents in Halifax Regional Municipality, and was conducted from July 19 to Aug. 8, with overall results for each accurate to within ±4.9 percentage points.
I spoke to Mills about his latest figures after the poll was released Thursday.
“I think there has been a high satisfaction of regional council really since Mike took over the mayor’s role, going back five or six years ago,” Mills tells The Macdonald Notebook.
“When you hover around 70 per cent approval for a municipal government, I think that is a pretty good number,” he adds.
“I give credit to the mayor for managing the council in a very different way then the previous mayor (Kelly) did, and Mike has a more collaborative leadership style and people have bought into his strategic direction that he is trying to take the city,” says Mills.
“We haven’t had the fights of the past. There is not much disruption on the council. They are not talking about petty issues, they are focussed on big ticket items, big issues. A lot of credit has to go to the mayor.
“I have to point out it is also a smaller council, so it is easier to manage, and going from 23 to 17 plays a bit of a role in that (popularity),” says Mills.
“It’s a good endorsement of council and the leadership of the mayor”.
In comparison, Mills conducted a poll in Fredericton, which found that incumbent’s popularity fell by a whopping 20 per cent.
“The level of satisfaction with the performance of council continues its declining trend under Mayor Mike O’Brien’s leadership, reaching a record low in this regard,” said Mills.
We take a look at the New Brunswick poll results in another story in this edition of The Macdonald Notebook, examining not only Fredericton, but the popularity numbers in Moncton and Saint John.
Mills was no fan of Peter Kelly’s 12-year tenure as Halifax mayor. “He knows I am not a big fan.
“He was a terrible mayor. He was awful. He was very divisive and he has no legacy that I am aware of.”
But Kelly did preside over the opening of the Halifax Harbour sewage treatment plant, I reminded Mills.
The pollster says the ball on that score got rolling by one time mayor Walter Fitzgerald, and he says Kelly was not an original fan of the $300 million sewage clean-up.
I also reminded Mills that Kelly was mayor when the HRM By Design blueprint for development in the city core was approved.
Mills responded that during Kelly’s reign as mayor no office or apartment or condo high rises were built, but only became a reality under Mayor Savage.