Halifax City hall through the memorial arch
Budget Committee

Stoddard, Blackburn, Cleary perform well – budget season councillor ratings

Disappointment in Dartmouth
 | May 21, 2021

Hello sports fans! I know my editor hates this lede, but in this case it’s entirely relevant since we’re copying a popular end of season soccer format. And before anyone gets too bent out of shape, this is just a fun little thing not meant to be taken seriously but more for people to get some quality banter going about the performance of their councillor in much the same way we’re all trashing Leafs fans for what seems to be another year of flaming out of the playoffs. And I know we report a lot on police and that may seem to heavily influence our ratings here, but defunding the police is the easiest and most direct link between election platforms and the budget. And with the Coast’s amazing pre-election questionnaire we can directly evaluate councillors on whether or not they voted in the way they told the Coast they were going to pre-election. With that said, here’s our rating scale, definitely not copied from Gregor MacGregor at the Bristol Post

10 – Councillor of the year, even compared to others nationally.

9 – Outstanding budget season.

8 – An excellent budget season.

7 – A solid year of progress.

6 – Decent performances; more up than down.

5 – Decidedly average.

4 – Must do better next year.

3 – A poor year, all considered.

2 – A problem that needs resolution.

1 – Let’s not go there.

Mayor Mike Savage (Mayor) – 5 

There was some debate by the editorial board about whether or not 5 was a fair rating for our veteran Mayor. He was exactly what we’ve come to expect from him, now on his third term. He gained points for asking direct questions and not wasting time (except for the required public displays of civic pride required by a Mayor). However, he told the Coast that he would support tax increases in the name of improving the quality of life of HRM residents but advocated strongly for a lower tax rate, which was ultimately a symbolic gesture for most and a meaningful savings for big box stores. 

Councillor Kathy Deagle-Gammon (District 1) – 7 

Deagle-Gammon gets big praise from our team for a rookie councillor. We are cutting councillors some slack who voted for the increase but status quo police budget, and she voted against the court disposition clerk budget over. She also told the Coast she doesn’t support tax increases and voted in favour of the lower tax rate proposed by the Mayor. 

Councillor David Hendsbee (District 2) – 6 

Hendsbee had a relatively average performance and voted with ideological consistency. He got bumped up to a six from our team because of his voracious efforts to help rookie and fellow rural councillors try and better serve their districts. 

Councillor Becky Kent (District 3) – 4 

Kent’s performance this year was a hard one to rate. She is a rookie councillor, this term, but has experience in the political realm. There is no question about Kent’s passion to represent the underserved Eastern Passage and she did that well. However, she told voters via the Coast that she was in favour of higher taxes for better services. In the budget debates she said she was against higher taxes, but also voted against things that would decrease city spending and therefore taxes. We just expected better when we know she’s capable of performances like this

Councillor Trish Purdy (District 4) – 4

This was the hardest one to rate because we were unsure of how much was rookie inexperience. Purdy was also one of the councillors who didn’t fill out the Coast’s survey so we don’t know where she stood definitively on any issues. And her still live election campaign page is also bereft of any meaningful policy positions. We ultimately decided on a rating of 4 due to her vote on the court disposition clerk budget over. Not for the vote itself, but for asking to vote last to feel out the rest of council before casting her own vote. For us, councillors are paid to make those decisions for their constituents, not based on what everyone else is doing.  

Councillor Sam Austin (District 5) – 6 

Austin lost some points due to his position during the campaign as adamantly in favour of defunding the police while running against an ex-cop. However, in the police budget vote he voted in favour of increasing the police budget arguing that it wasn’t really an increase because it was just inflation. Most of his constituents’ wages probably didn’t go up because it was just inflation. That said he was well versed in debating and voting on the meatier things council has to deal with, as one would expect from a veteran councillor. And to kick him up from a 5, he voted against Savage’s symbolic tax cut arguing it was only benefiting the Walmarts of the HRM, which bumped him up to a 6.  

Councillor Tony Mancini (District 6) – 4 

Mancini was fairly average for a veteran councillor. He lost marks from our team for two main reasons. The first reason he lost marks was because he told the Coast he was in favour of higher taxes for better services but voted for the meagre tax break. He also lost a lot of points with our team during the budget adjustment meeting. In that meeting he joked about his constituents, saying a lot of them would like him to take money from the police and give it to the library but it didn’t work that way. The reason he lost marks for this from us was because at that meeting he absolutely could have made a motion to take the police overs and give that funding to the library, but didn’t. It does work that way, he just didn’t want to. Which is fine, without the joke at his constituents’ expense.  

Councillor Waye Mason (District 7) – 7 

A good performance from the veteran councillor. He was not in favour of defunding the police prior to getting elected and voted for the budget. But he also said he thought the police got too much money for what they do. In that vein, he voted against the police’s request for a disposition clerk, which is something that they absolutely should be able to cover within their $88 million budget. He also got bumped from an average performance because he identified a major need in the city’s capacity to complete ambitious projects. And after identifying that need made everyone vote to fix it.

Councillor Lindell Smith (District 8) – 6 

Just a good solid performance from Smith this year. He did vote for increased police funding, which he said he was against, which is points against. But he didn’t waste time, asked direct good questions and was clear about why he was voting the way he was, if needed. 

Councillor Shawn Cleary (District 9) – 8

Cleary is an enigma. He lost points from our team because his attempts to help and explain what’s up to other councillors often just rubs us the wrong way, it feels like mansplaining. That’s not fair to him, and we realize that, that’s our bias. He did however rank extremely high because of all the councillors who said they were in favour of defunding the police budget he was the only one who tried to slash it, by voting against the RCMP’s budget. We respect bold policy choices. 

Councillor Kathryn Morse (District 10) – 7 

Morse had an excellent rookie season. Her votes lined up with what she said she stood for throughout the budget season and her answers to the Coast’s survey. Her questions were direct and indicated she had clearly done all the homework required for these meetings.  

Councillor Patty Cuttell (District 11) – 7 

Cuttell also had a good rookie season. She seems to be a thinker who genuinely considers things carefully. She wants to do more and is still getting her footing and learning but is never afraid to not think about the issue at hand and say something worthwhile. She didn’t do the Coast’s survey so we can’t really judge her performance based on that.  

Councillor Iona Stoddard (District 12) – 8 

Stoddard fought so hard to have the worst budget season of any councillor. She tried at every turn to fight for her community but was routinely smacked down by process and procedure, even if she had been told that this was in fact the right time to bring these things up. We fully expect Stoddard to be a force to be reckoned with in future years, if her willingness to go to the mat for her district this year is any indication of her potential as a councillor.

Councillor Pam Lovelace (District 13) – 6 

Good or bad, Lovelace wasn’t afraid of making a stink to look out for her constituents or trying to find a way to address her constituents’ concerns. Her performance this year got a signature move named after her, the “Lovelace Gambit,” which is jamming a local issue into a larger budget debate. It’s not clear if it’s the demographics of her district or not, but the people she seemed to be looking out for the most frequently seem to be…ahem, affluent or approaching it? We understand that area may in fact be fairly affluent, we don’t know, we can’t afford to live there. 

Councillor Lisa Blackburn (District 14) – 8 

Blackburn had a solid performance we’ve come to expect from this veteran councillor. She got rated an 8 from us, for her unofficial role as peacemaker and bridge builder. When other councillors, notably Stoddard, were getting procedurally smacked around, she had a genuine desire to help, and tried to find practical ways to help rookie councillors get their work done. Using her experience, knowledge of procedure, and a light touch, she was frequently the grease that helped the wheels turn. 

Councillor Paul Russell (District 15) – 6 

Russell lives in a weird place (not Lower Sackville), as he’s on his first full term as councillor, but still hasn’t done a full four years. He was also the chair so his performance is also based on that. Well, that and he didn’t do the Coast’s survey. He voted against the court disposition clerk, which ties into his apparent belief that spending should be efficient (and therefore should have been covered in the police’s overall budget). And he was a ruthless timer, which helped these debates chug along. However, he did occasionally step out of order, opining as the chair, which wasn’t usually called out by his peers with a point of order (but should have been). 

Deputy Mayor Tim Outhit (District 16) – 5 

Outhit had a good budget season as one can expect from a veteran councillor. We rated him as a 5 because we took notes for most of the notable occurrences during the budget season and here’s what we have for Outhit: