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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Charlottetown mayor-elect Philip Brown was busy putting up “thank you” stickers on his campaign signs late Monday night into Tuesday morning.
He then spent some time waving at vehicles in downtown Charlottetown throughout the day Tuesday, balancing that with a series of media interviews after topping his closest challenger, Kim Devine, in the mayor’s race on Monday night.
After running unsuccessfully twice against current Mayor Clifford Lee, Brown has finally achieved his goal.
And it means that things have already gotten a lot busier for the 59-year-old Prince Street School teacher. However, he found time to sit down with The Guardian on Tuesday to talk about his plans and priorities for the next four years.
Q: The current mayor spent his entire 15-year term balancing his full-time job with his role as Charlottetown’s top elected official. How much time do you plan to devote as mayor?
A: I have to be a full-time mayor and I’ve started that discussion (Monday) night with my wife, Lori, that I have to start making arrangements with my employer. How I’m going to work that out remains to be seen but I have to put my full energy into this new job.
Q: We heard you talk about many issues during the campaign. What will be your first priority?
A: Affordable housing. I heard it in Sherwood, Parkdale, East Royalty, West Royalty, everywhere it was talked about. And it was maybe people who were not directly affected by it, but they knew people who were affected by it.
Q: How deep does the affordable housing issue go? Does it only affect students and young families looking for a place to live?
A: It affects everybody, seniors included, where they’re going to live. Seniors that are living on a pension, just getting CPP and Old Age Security, that’s not a lot of money for food, lodging, clothing and entertainment. Hopefully, we can find some balance. Let’s identify the stakeholders, which is pretty easy, federal and provincial governments.
Q: So, will your first meeting be with the federal and provincial governments?
A: My first meeting will be with the new council. I have to start working with them. I’m only one person of an 11-member group. I’m a leader amongst leaders. Each of those councillors are leaders from their own wards, so we’re all sitting around as a team as equal partners so we have to work with the team and collaborate.
"I’m going to be listening more and talking less, which may be difficult, and learning as much as I can ... I think the experience of the councillors sitting around the table will add to the learning for all of us."
Q: With the exception of the two new councillors elected, Alanna Jankov and Julie McCabe, all of the incumbents were re-elected. How do you plan on working with a council full of mostly veteran members?
A: I have two terms experience (as a councillor), so I know what I’m getting into. It’ll be a learning experience. As a new mayor, I’m going to be listening more and talking less, which may be difficult, and learning as much as I can. It’s great that the two new councillors are women. That’s great. I think the experience of the councillors sitting around the table will add to the learning for all of us.
Q: How will your term as mayor be different from the 15 years Clifford Lee served as mayor?
A: I have committed to two terms, that’s what I said in 2010 and 2014. I believe if you can’t do it in eight years you can’t do it at all. I want to make sure the chairs of all the committees are allowed to do their work. I don’t want to be stepping on his or her toes.
Q: Have you made a decision on who will be deputy mayor or who will chair the various standing committees?
A: No decision has been made who will be serving on what committees or who will be serving as deputy mayor. I want to sit down with each of the councillors and maybe sit down as a group and try to figure out what are the priorities.
Q: The status of Peter Kelly as chief administrative officer sparked some discussion between you and mayoral challenger Cecil Villard at The Guardian’s mayors debates. Any thoughts on the future of Kelly?
A: Any new council always has to do due diligence. Due diligence may mean an administrative review (involving) management, upper management, middle management and the workforce or the staff, in general, as well as a review of governmental services.
Q: In 2016, the P.E.I. government announced it was taking control of the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation (CADC). Two years have passed and still there is no clear direction. What is your view for economic development in the city area?
A: Reinstating or creating a new development agency for Charlottetown has to be a priority. That involves not just talking to the minister responsible for municipal affairs, it involves talking to the six MLAs who represent Charlottetown. They have to stand up and be a part of our defence that says we need a development agency for Charlottetown.
Q: Why is the status of CADC so important to you?
A: For heaven’s sake, it was working since 1974, scandal-free. And there have been lots of great projects (they are responsible for): Invesco; the expansion of the Delta convention centre; the restoration of Water Street and Great George Street; the restoration of the Victoria Park boardwalk – you can just go on with list after list. For something that was working, why close it down? The letter that was sent to the premier that reviewed CADC didn’t recommend abandoning it, they said let’s look at refocusing their mandate.
Q: Your brother, Richard, is the minister responsible for municipalities. As the mayor for the capital city, how will you avoid any conflicts of interest?
A: It’s difficult to get away from conflict of interest on Prince Edward Island, it’s just too small. If there is a perceived conflict of interest he steps back or I step back, but I’m not just dealing with Richard Brown, I want to deal with the cabinet and government MLAs representing Charlottetown . . . and we’re not biased against any party.