Opinions

Peter Kelly’s year in review

Peter Kelly’s year in review
An arrested demonstrator about to enter the police van.
written by Ben Wedge
March 2, 2012 1:00 pm

The Occupy issue was one of many failures orchestrated by Peter Kelly in 2011. Photo by Ian Froese

2011 was a banner year for Peter Kelly. He was a key player in the execution of the Canada Winter Games, he opened the new Harbour Solutions plants, he made inroads with the famous Occupy protesters, he promised to end the practice of secret meetings and he moved forward on many issues facing Haligonians.

In short, Peter Kelly did what he could to prepare for a rumoured fourth run at the Mayorship of the Halifax Regional Municipality. Of course, the informed observer knows that painting almost any of the above issues in a positive light takes an extreme amount of bending the truth.

The Canada Games were well executed, with two weeks of competition and fun taking place around the city and province. Having attended many of the concerts on Grand Parade, I can attest to the festive mood that caught the city and held it for a fortnight.

The Canada Games brought an unexpected opportunity for Kelly: the public loved the temporary speed skating oval and rallied to save it. Kelly voted in favour of the oval and led the discussion around naming rights. The decision to sell the naming rights for the oval is a matter complex and divisive enough to warrant a column of its own, but Kelly ultimately supported Emera (owner of Nova Scotia Power) in its bid to have its brand displayed at the site.

Thus ends the remotely positive aspect of Kelly’s year.

Tim Bousquet of *The Coast* doggedly chased the issue of Mary Thibeault’s estate, but the issue failed to stick. In short, Kelly is the executor of the estate and has, for nearly seven years, violated court orders to actually take action on the file and pay the individuals named in the will. Bousquet accused Kelly of having sold a small parcel of land in the estate to the city so that the city could bundle and sell the land—and its adjacent properties—to developers looking to increase Halifax’s urban sprawl.

In mid-February the article was reprinted with new allegations that Kelly embezzled $165,000 from the estate, 25 per cent of its estimated original value. Finally, the major local outlets picked up the story and it received national coverage. Even still, Thibeault’s estate remains tied up, losing investment value and providing diminishing benefits to her heirs.

A person of moderate ethical standards would surely excuse him or herself from chairing a meeting in which a report by the Auditor General—naming the chair as a responsible individual in a scandal—is discussed. But Peter Kelly chaired the meeting in which the report that lay much of the blame for the concert scandal solely on his shoulders. Since merely chairing a meeting is boring, Kelly insisted on cutting the mics of councilors who asked questions that weren’t in the form of: “Halifax is a wonderful city full of rainbows and unicorns and it’s all because of you, right, Mr. Mayor?”

Draw your own conclusions here.

This past fall, the Occupy protests began consuming the world’s attention and Haligonians began pitching tents on Grand Parade. Kelly was unsure what he, as Mayor, should do. Finally, after the group began to grow, he went down and talked to them face to face. With Remembrance Day looming, he told the protestors they’d have to leave and invited them to pick any other location in the city. The protesters thought this was acceptable and moved to Victoria Park, taking great pains to leave Grand Parade Square squeaky clean.

A few days later, the rain was driving and one of the more vocal Occupiers—John Thibeault—was with Kelly at the Remembrance Day Ceremonies. They reportedly spoke amicably, shook hands, and did things that normal human beings do. Then, as the crowd began to disperse, the city’s bylaw team showed up at Victoria Park and told the protesters that Kelly had ordered them to be evicted for violating the no-camping bylaw.

The police rolled in and the eviction turned messy in a hurry. Kelly was quick to point fingers—the eviction was approved, apparently in secret, at a council meeting and he had only one vote. The fallout of that day is also worthy of its own column.

Finally, Kelly vowed to end the secret meetings. His year was on the up and up, so *The Chronicle Herald* requested to run a major year-end interview. He obliged, and the result was probably the biggest hit on Kelly’s reputation in years.

Laura Fraser asked pointed questions, and Kelly attempted to duck and dodge them. She refused to accept his answers and kept pressing. Kelly came off as a bumbling, incompetent guy who was used to always being in control and unquestioned. His composure went by the wayside and his answers became farcical. *The Herald* printed the interview, blow-by-blow; Kelly-bashing was no longer restricted to the alt-weeklies.

Peter Kelly’s tenure as Mayor started to show major cracks in 2011. With a wide field of already declared contenders, the race for his seat is constantly in the spotlight. After Bousquet ran the revised version of the article on Thibeault’s estate in mid-February, Kelly announced he would not seek re-election. Hardly the resignation the public sought, but a victory all the same.

Goodybe, Peter Kelly. You will not be missed.

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