Mayor Cecil Clarke takes heat over plan to hire political advisors
Cecil Clarke announces his decision to run for mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality at Centre 200 in Sydney on Sept. 6, 2012.
Published Thursday, December 6, 2012 6:05PM AST
The newly-minted mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is taking some heat over plans to create so-called advisor positions to speak with other levels of government.
Roy Jessome, a former city alderman, has been around municipal politics for most of his life.
He says he has never seen a mayor have a policy advisor or communications staff, and as a taxpayer, he resents the idea of paying for the new positions approved by CBRM Council.
“It’s two other positions we don’t need,” says Jessome. “We have a management team at CBRM, quite qualified and capable, to lead like they have with other mayors.”
However, Mayor Cecil Clarke says the positions are necessary tools for regional growth.
He also points out they exist in larger municipalities, such as Halifax, to send the municipal message to other levels of government.
“To deal with fundamental challenges, but also develop opportunities, you have to make sure you have the resources to do that,” says Clarke. “The citizens are looking for growth, for jobs.”
Clarke has taken over an area battling population decline, youth outmigration, and an uncertain economic future.
Many CBRM residents feel he was voted in based largely on perceived political ties – both provincially and federally – that could help the municipality reverse those trends.
There is also a feeling that such political experience means Clarke should have no need for advisors.
But Clarke is countering that argument, saying experience has shown him how things get done.
Coun. Eldon MacDonald admits he is wary about how the jobs will be filled.
“It should be done within municipal policy. When you’re hiring people, I’m not in favour of hand-picking and choosing,” he says.
“As far as I’m concerned, he knows already who he’s going to appoint,” says Jessome. “Patronage to the highest kind.”
Clarke admits he doesn’t yet know how much his controversial assistants will cost, but says people can judge their value by their performance, and his.
“The most important thing you can have working at the political level is trust,” says Clarke.
“You have to have people you can trust to get the job done and trust they are working towards the positive outcomes the people have voted for.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald