New era set to begin at Charlottetown city hall
It took three tries, but Philip Brown is now preparing to take over as the mayor of the capital city.
The teacher and former councillor lost twice to outgoing mayor Clifford Lee before tasting victory on Monday night. With Lee departing the municipal scene, Brown prevailed over four other challengers with his closest rival being Kim Devine.
A former councillor herself, Devine is also his sister-in-law and works as a communications advisor for Philip’s brother - Communities, Land and Environment Minister Richard Brown.
Brown is signaling he plans a new approach to job than his predecessor. While Lee juggled his mayoral duties with a full-time job, Brown plans to devote his full attention to city hall.
He took a leave of absence from the classroom to campaign and is talking to the Public Schools Branch about his future. Brown said he may do some part-time teaching after he gets his sea legs at city hall but that remains to be seen.
In several media interviews, Brown has described his new role as a “leader among leaders.” Brown said he considers all 10 councillors leaders in their wards and on the committees on which they serve. He considers his role to be a consensus builder, although he concedes there will be times when councillors will have to agree to disagree and move on.
He is also following the lead of outgoing Summerside Mayor Bill Martin in setting a limit to his time in office. Martin honoured his pledge to only run for one term and Brown said if he wins in 2021, that will be his last campaign.
Rival candidates Cecil Villard accused him of planning to fire Chief Administrative Officer Peter Kelly if he won the vote. The former Halifax mayor has had a controversial tenure as the capital’s top civil servant, as he took the job under the cloud of an investigation regarding a land sale at his former job as CEO in Westlock County, Alberta. An independent investigation said Kelly approved the sale without a paper trail from council, but the municipality did not pursue any legal action.
Brown denied he planned to have Kelly fired, saying he simply called for a review of all government services with a view to improving efficiency. He maintains that is simply “due diligence” on the part of the new council.
The mayor-elect said affordable housing will be the major priority for his administration. That will likely mean working closely with his predecessor, who has accepted a job as the province’s affordable housing czar. Brown noted he heard the issue time and again at the door, noting the concerns spanned several age groups.
He is not viewing the fact his brother is a senior cabinet minister to be a major factor in his dealings with the province. Regardless of which party is in power, there has been a close working relationship between Province House and city hall and he doesn’t expect that will change much. That being said, he admitted perception is everything in politics and if it does look like is a problem, one of them will step back.