Off and…Possibly Running?

CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke wants to be the next leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative party and has been touring the province trying to determine whether anyone else wants to see him in that role.

I’m guessing this means he is running. The alternative — that he will announce publicly that his listening tour has told him there is no hope — seems unlikely.

His story is that he’s been approached and encouraged to run (“implored” according to Glace Bay’s The Coast 89.7FM) by a “group of Progressive Conservatives.”

The idea that this group is somehow completely independent of the Mayor himself stretches credibility just a tad, given that it includes Shirley MacLeod, a “card carrying Conservative” of no fixed address who also happens to be the wife of Sydney-Mira-Louisbourg MLA Alfie MacLeod (PC), who accompanied Clarke on his listening tour last week:

 

In case you need further evidence that this Shirley MacLeod is Mrs Alfie MacLeod, here’s the photo from which the above headshot was cropped:

Alfie and Shirley with their good friends, Jack Carr,New Brunswick MLA for the New Maryland-Sunbury West riding and his wife Cheryl. Jack and Cheryl came to the beautiful riding of Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg to show Alfie their support. (Source: Facebook)

“Alfie and Shirley with their good friends, Jack Carr,New Brunswick MLA for the New Maryland-Sunbury West riding and his wife Cheryl. Jack and Cheryl came to the beautiful riding of Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg to show Alfie their support.” (Source: Facebook)

 

Vacation

Mayor Clarke was on CBC radio Tuesday morning admitting he is considering running for the leadership largely, it would seem, for altruistic reasons involving his “passion” for public service. He is being strongly encouraged to run, he said, hence last week’s hegira, which saw him visit Halifax, the South Shore, the “Sou’west,” the Annapolis Valley, Northern and Central Nova Scotia. (No word on Sable Island, but those wild horses are notoriously bolshie.)

Asked if he worried CBRM “taxpayers” (I would have said “citizens”) might feel he was neglecting his mayoral duties in pursuit of the leadership, Clarke said this:

No one has lived life in the CBRM more than I have. No day of the week. There is no clock. Anything I’ve done, even last week, I’ve taken my personal vacation time to do that at my own expense so it’s not something anyone needs to be concerned about. The fact that I put in so much time as the only full-time member of council if I went by normal accounting I would have in excess well in excess of 20 weeks’ of vacation. So, if we want to use that as a calculation it would tell you the amount of time that I haven’t taken for myself and put in for public service so, no one needs to worry that any taxpayers’ money in the CBRM is dealing with any review I have that as my own expense.

This is like a stuffed Christmas stocking to someone like me, so I’m going to unpack it slowly, savoring each piece like a Depression-era child with an orange:

No one has lived life in the CBRM more than I have.

This is like opening your Christmas stocking and finding another, tiny Christmas stocking, inside. What can he possibly mean? No one has ever lived as large? I don’t know about that, I can think of at least one guy who actually lived in a castle in Sydney. No one has lived more fully? But surely anyone who has held a regular, non-political job while raising a family has lived as, if not more, full a life. No one spends more time in the CBRM? But there must be any number of CBRM residents who spend more time here than our Mayor, who has racked up thousands of dollars in travel expenses this year alone visiting places (China, Savannah, Montreal, Toronto, St. John’s) that are clearly not the CBRM. I’m afraid I must admit defeat on this one. I do not know what he means.

No day of the week. There is no clock.

I think this is the verbal equivalent of a Salvidor Dali painting. There is no clock because the clock has melted.

Anything I’ve done, even last week, I’ve taken my personal vacation time to do that at my own expense so it’s not something anyone needs to be concerned about.

But the question was not, “Are CBRM taxpayers subsidizing your run at the PC leadership?” The question was, “Are you neglecting your duties as Mayor in pursuit of the PC leadership?” And Clarke didn’t answer that question. Besides which, his vacation is presumably paid vacation, so citizens are financing his listening tour, in a way. If he really wanted to make a clean break he’d resign — or at least take a leave of absence — wouldn’t he?

The fact that I put in so much time as the only full-time member of council if I went by normal accounting I would have in excess well in excess of 20 weeks’ of vacation.

Again, he sidesteps the question of neglecting his mayoral duties in favor of presenting us with his own calculations as to a) how much he works and b) how much vacation he would have if we calculated vacation in a way that, apparently, we do not.

So, if we want to use that as a calculation it would tell you the amount of time that I haven’t taken for myself and put in for public service so, no one needs to worry that any taxpayers’ money in the CBRM is dealing with any review I have that as my own expense.

“So, if we want to use that as a calculation” — but what if we don’t want to use that as a calculation? What if, instead of the Mayor’s secret holiday-calculating algorithm, we’d rather use whatever system the municipality actually uses to calculate vacation time and the pertinent records?

And again, the question Clarke is supposedly answering was not, “Are taxpayers paying for your listening tour?” (although that is a good question and one I’ll get back to). The question was (I’m paraphrasing), “Are you neglecting your duties as mayor while focusing on your leadership run?” Clarke didn’t answer this question so I will: how could he not be?

 

Port ahoy

Clarke seems to think you can front-load governing: do all kinds of it in 2017 to free yourself up to campaign for the Tory leadership in 2018. But governing doesn’t really work like that. And trying to tie up loose governing ends in a hurry so you can focus on your own priorities sounds like a really bad idea to me.

Today, Cecil met with grassroots Progressive Conservatives in Cumberland County! Support is growing for a Cecil Clarke candidacy! (Source: Facebook)

“Today, Cecil met with grassroots Progressive Conservatives in Cumberland County! Support is growing for a Cecil Clarke candidacy!” (Source: Facebook)

In its least worrisome form, it looks like a Mayor scheduling council meetings on a Tuesday from 10:00AM to well past 10:00PM so that he can travel the province visiting his fellow Tories on Thursday and Friday.

At its most worrisome, it looks like rushing a port deal through council so as to be able to declare “Mission accomplished” and move on to bigger and better things. Asked in the CBC interview if leaving next year would put “progress” made on the port file in jeopardy, Clarke said an amazing thing:

What I have said is…the first election was, would I see my four years out? And I committed to that. This last election was about finishing what I started on behalf of the citizens and that was with the wider port. I believe in the coming weeks, as was indicated with the trip to China, that people will see the outcomes and the benefit of our hard work, but I’ll leave it to our partners to be able to come and deliver that news themselves in the New Year.

My memory is not what it once was, but I do not recall Clarke’s 2012 slogan being “Vote Clarke: He will see out his four years.” Surely even his staunchest supporters would have considered that setting the bar too low? Nor do I recall him running in 2016 on a, “Port, then I’m outta here” platform. In fact, I recall his promising 100 More Positive Changes for the CBRM (“A four-year plan made with you, crafted from the ideas and goals shared at budget meetings, community events and conversations along the way”) in which the port appeared precisely once:

64. The Port of Sydney will continue to develop our port’s relationship with global partners.

A year later, we’re to believe port development is a done deal and the Mayor’s work here is done?

 

Bettens & Lamey

Clarke was very keen to reassure us that we are not subsidizing his run for the Tory top spot, but are we really to believe his campaign activities won’t bleed into his regular work week? Are we really to believe he will not be sending emails, taking phone calls, reading polls and obsessively watching rival Tim Houston’s Facebook videos on CBRM time?

If, for example, he’s at his desk on a Monday morning and gets a phone call from an important supporter, are we to believe he won’t take it? That he’ll instruct the supporter to call him back on Thursday, which he will be taking off because, by his own mysterious calculations, he’s owed 20 weeks’ vacation? I find that hard to picture.

And what about his controversial “political” staff — spokesperson Christina Lamey and executive assistant Mark Bettens? The citizens of the CBRM pay their salaries, too. Have they also been saving up vacation time to use, if necessary, on Clarke’s campaign? Did either travel with him last week? Will they be traveling with him in future? If so, who pays their expenses?

On a side note: Bettens traveled with the Mayor to China. I know this because Lamey finally answered my request for a delegation list (although she has yet to give me anything resembling an itinerary):

Aspects of the trip to China for the overall delegation were coordinated by the Mayor’s Office and involved several itineraries. CBRM officials (Mayor, CAO, Economic Development Manager and Mayor’s Executive Assistant) travelled Nov 30 and returned on Dec 5/6. First Nations officials as well as Minister MacLellan and MP Eyking travelled separately.

For more information on the Mayor’s China trip, see Wednesday’s edition of the Cape Breton Post in which a Post reporter lends Clarke a friendly ear and allows him to explain all the reasons why we can’t know who he met with or what he signed in China.

 

Special elections

Clarke was asked by reporters in North Sydney on Tuesday what would happen if he won the Tory leadership but he declined to discuss it. Apparently, that’s none of our concern either.

Since he doesn’t want to address the topic, I will, with a little help from my friends at Municipal Affairs.

If he wins the Tory leadership and resigns as Mayor of the CBRM, then according to Municipal Affairs spokesperson Sarah Gillis:

Once the Mayor’s resignation is official, the special election requirements in the Municipal Elections Act take effect. The resignation is not effective until it is signed by the Mayor, and the Clerk delivers it at the next meeting of council. The Municipality has to name a date for the special election within 4 weeks of the resignation.

During the gap between the Mayor’s resignation and the election of a new Mayor, the Deputy Mayor fulfills the Mayor’s duties.

As for who fulfills the Mayor’s duties while the Mayor is busy campaigning for another office, the legislation is surprisingly silent on the matter.

 

 

 

 

 

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