City mayor already holds term record; also strong options for PC leadership
© Guardian photo by Dave Stewart
Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee says the city wasn’t about to proceed on a new water source without having a financial plan in place first. Putting water and sewer rates up to pay for the work was no an option, he said.
In the minds of many civic voters, Clifford Lee launched his campaign for re-election as Charlottetown mayor on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.
In a wide-ranging year-end interview with The Guardian, Mayor Lee laid out an impressive series of accomplishments over the past year and vigorously defended controversial decisions on ditch in-filling, a new well field, infrastructure priorities, water meters and a long-term plan for Victoria Park.
Mayor Lee has been criticized for not acting sooner on a new water supply for the city since it has been drawing near capacity from the Winter River for some time. With a building boom in apartments and condominiums, and the added demand of supplying the needs of large cruise ships thronging the port from May to October, the city's major problem is providing enough water to meet the demand.
Mayor Lee was reluctant to proceed on a very expensive water source project, now estimated at $18 million, until a financial plan was in place. It appears a new federal Build Canada program will launch this year, which is perfect timing for the city and its mayor.
He said ditch in-filling was about installing a storm water system for pre-amalgamation communities and giving them the same level of service as original city residents.
Mayor Lee wisely side-stepped the popular police in schools issue, which has been reduced because of costs. But police services are working on a new operational plan to address a growing drug problem and will likely address the school issue as well.
Mayor Lee will be seeking a record fourth term as the city's top elected official. He first won the office in 2003, replacing George MacDonald, and won again in 2006 and 2010. He already holds the record as the longest-serving mayor in the 159 years since the Island capital city was incorporated in 1855. The previous record holder was T. Heath Haviland Sr., who held office for 10 years (1857-1867) and was mayor when the Fathers of Confederation met in Charlottetown 150 years ago. After that it was rare for any mayor to hold office for more than three to four years. There was a stretch from just after 1900 for approximately 50 years that the mayor held office for two years only.
Frank Moran held a nine-year term (1978-1987) but no one can rival Clifford Lee. An election win Nov. 3, 2014 would give Mayor Lee four more years in office and stretch his record streak to 15 years.
Barring the unforeseen, Mayor Lee appears an overwhelming favourite to win a fourth term. Coun. Rob Lantz had been suggested as a possible successor but it would seem unlikely he would challenge the incumbent. Former councillor Philip Brown, who ran against Lee in the past two mayoral elections, has kept his options open.
Mr. Brown has commented occasionally on city issues, primarily fiscal, where Mayor Lee might be vulnerable. But Mr. Brown will also likely wait on the mayor's official decision before announcing.
The huge variable in play, of course, is who will seek the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. If Mayor Lee has any interest in becoming premier, he almost has to make his move now. If he doesn't go, Mr. Lantz may.
Mayor Lee is weighing his options. He's virtually unassailable if he runs for mayor again, especially since he will be front and centre with many 150th anniversary events celebrating the Charlottetown Conference. That same spotlight might also propel him as the leading contender for the Tory leadership.
Yes, 2014 should be a very good year for Mayor Clifford Lee.