Something cataclysmic seems to be brewing in the office of Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee. An announcement on his future is expected soon, and based on recent musings coming from the man holding an iron grip on the mayor’s chair since 2003, it should be significant.
This is a civic election year with Island municipalities heading to the polls Nov. 5 and Mayor Lee hasn’t declared his intentions yet. The mayor had been somewhat sedate over the past year; content to quietly contemplate his future and check the political winds – civic or otherwise.
He was happy to keep a low profile – especially as debate lingered over the future of controversial CAO Peter Kelly. As the countdown neared for the next civic election, early rumblings were heard. The first came in mid-August when the mayor took exception to complaints over street paving priorities. He largely stayed out of the pesticide bylaw debate and patiently waited for the facilities committee to bring in a report on a new sports and entertainment centre.
That laid-back mayor disappeared a month ago.
First, he made rare criticisms about council amending the winter parking bylaw. He thought it was a mistake to start an overnight parking ban at 11 p.m. Then the gloves really came off late in the fall session of the P.E.I. legislature during debate on the new Water Act. The mayor said he was tired of the city being the whipping boy of critics who have continually attacked the capital over its water use and well field management.
No one escaped – the Green Party, the Progressive Conservative Party and a few backbench Liberals all took heat as the mayor vigorously defended the city’s recent conservation measures.
His outburst raised some eyebrows and suggested the suddenly combative mayor has decided to make a fifth run for mayor. Then in a wide-ranging, year-end interview with The Guardian, the mayor seemed to set out planks for a campaign platform.
He mused about lowering taxes, which hasn’t happened since 2005. The mayor was elated with a new municipal funding agreement reached with the provincial government last year. He endorsed an action plan on affordable housing, something he had long supported but that file was often inactive.
The facilities report came in and the mayor adroitly remained neutral. Hard decisions are needed on funding, taxes, partnerships and closures of other arenas for the file to proceed. But the promise is there for a 5,000-seat facility that would make both city and province proud.
His outburst against criticism of the city’s silence when a downtown hotel turned rural residents away suggests the mayor isn’t going to let anything slide these days.
His recent actions suggest he’s either finalizing another run for mayor or ensuring his legacy is secure. The obvious conclusion is that he’s running again. Is there another option beckoning the mayor outside civic politics? The savvy career politician is certainly an expert on reading political tea leaves.
One thing is sure, he’s not about to retire. Far from it.