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Dal student for mayor

Matthew Worona. Photo by Adele Van Wyk

Matthew Worona’s mayoral campaign is an oddity, and not just because of his youth. The second-year Dalhousie student says he will not be accepting donations from unions or corporations to fund his campaign.

In making that decision he sets himself up against current HRM Mayor Peter Kelly, who received hundreds of donations adding up to $68,359 in his 2008 campaign. Some of the highest donors were development companies such as APL Properties and Cresco Developments.

City councillor Sue Uteck says she supports Worona’s bid for mayor.

“Anyone who steps up to the challenge of public office is to be commended,” she says. But she says candidates usually spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaigns, and it isn’t realistic not to accept donations.

Worona’s platform will also be unusual. He decided to create an online, interactive video platform, but he doesn’t know for sure what the content will be. Participants will be able to vote on parts of the platform by choosing from a drop-down list of “If I were mayor, I would…” options.

He says no one but media ever really read written platforms, and he’s hoping to stir up interest by putting his online. He wants to use his platform to “get the conversation started” and “get people interested in the voting process.”

The goal is to use it to come up with a coherent plan to run on. Worona says he’s not sure it will work, but hopes so.

Uteck says she’s worried that having so many candidates in the race will split the vote against Peter Kelly.

“We really need a change in leadership,” she says. Worona says he’s encouraged by the vote-splitting buzz because it means people consider him a real candidate, but he’s not worried about unintentionally splitting the vote against Kelly.

About 101,000 people, or 36 per cent of Halifax’s eligible voters, showed up to vote four years ago. Kelly got about 53 per cent of those votes, Sheila Fougere got almost 46 per cent and what was left went to David Boyd. So roughly 18 per cent of Halifax voted for Kelly.  Worona says he will be working to get more people interested in the mayoral race. His logic is that if more than 36 per cent of voters show up, Kelly supporters won’t represent as much as 53 per cent of voters.

He says he won’t be depending only on students’ votes, since they only represent a small percentage of people in Halifax. He says he’s not focused on any demographic in particular.

Out-of-province students will be allowed to vote in the next election. Students make up only 10 per cent of Halifax’s population, but considering voter turnout in 2008, 10 per cent could be a considerable chunk.

Worona admits that a lot of media interest in his campaign is because of his age. He’s 19, and has only lived here for a couple of years. But he dismisses critics who say he isn’t experienced enough to run a city, or doesn’t know enough about Halifax.

“Mayors don’t run the city. People run it.” He says he wants to give more power to community councils. He’s also planning on running on promises to be less secretive and improve public services.


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