MP Andy Fillmore announces run for Halifax mayor

Andy Fillmore is officially running for mayor of Halifax, leaving federal politics after nearly nine years as the city's MP.

He made the announcement Wednesday morning in Dartmouth's Alderney Landing, among a large crowd of supporters that included current and former MLAs and MPs but no sitting councillors.

"My whole career has been all about being a champion for Halifax. I've done that in Parliament, I've done that at city hall as a planner, I did it at the Waterfront Development Corporation," Fillmore told reporters after his speech.

"Now I feel a call to be back home in Halifax to help us navigate through the challenges of growth that we're experiencing and feel that I'm uniquely positioned and qualified to do that."

Fillmore, who joked that his bid for mayor has been the city's "worst-kept secret," said last year he was considering the idea. He delivered his final speech to Parliament in June.

If elected, Fillmore promised to freeze the municipal tax rate for two years to better help residents cope with the rising cost of living and housing prices.

MP Andy Fillmore announces his bid for mayor of Halifax on Wednesday, July 3, 2024, in Dartmouth, N.S.
MP Andy Fillmore announces his bid for mayor of Halifax on Wednesday, July 3, 2024, in Dartmouth, N.S. (Daniel Jardine/CBC)

During that time, he said, he'd make sure the municipality conducted an internal study "to understand how we can more efficiently deliver services," and build partnerships with the private sector and other levels of government.

When asked how he'd work with the new council to make that freeze happen, especially at a time when municipalities say they're underfunded and are calling for a new tax framework, Fillmore said councillors would hear the same message that he is hearing — that residents are "tapped out."

Fillmore said his first act as mayor would be to call Premier Tim Houston and "tell him that he's got a partner in me and in the city to address the housing crisis head-on." A municipal tax freeze could also help development and keep rents from rising more rapidly, he said.

He'd also like to see building code amendments that would enable more affordable and innovative construction techniques, like off-site manufacturers and 24-hour factories so homes could be built on-site in a couple of days instead of a couple of months.

"There is a lot that we can do at the municipal level," Fillmore said.

He also promised to fill more potholes on city roads, and address Halifax Transit issues that often see buses running late and ferry crossings cancelled.

He said there could be "modernized ways" of delivering transit that come out of the internal study he's pushing for, but the city must hire more ferry and bus operators, and listen to the union and transit users.

Fillmore has been the MP for Halifax since 2015, when he defeated incumbent New Democrat Megan Leslie as part of the red wave that brought in Justin Trudeau's Liberal government.

He was re-elected in 2019 and 2021. He has been on various committees and was parliamentary secretary to a few ministers over the years, but was never tapped for a cabinet position himself.

When asked how he will distinguish himself as an individual rather than a part of the federal Liberal government that has been slipping in the polls, Fillmore said he's "never been a partisan politician" and has worked collaboratively across the aisle.

"I'm not running away from anything. I'm running to something. I'm running to continue ... to be a champion for Halifax as I have my whole career," he said.

Born in Bloomington, Ind., Fillmore's family returned to Nova Scotia when he was young and he grew up in Halifax. He eventually attended Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., the Technical University of Nova Scotia (since merged into Dalhousie University) and the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Mass.

Worked as urban planner in Halifax, United States

Fillmore spent 20 years as a city planner, including in Massachusetts where he worked on the Big Dig highway megaproject in Boston as an urban designer, and was later a town planner in Maine.

In 2005, Fillmore returned to Halifax to work with the municipality and led the implementation of the HRM by Design Downtown Halifax Plan. He was the city's first manager of urban design and worked on the regional plan that provided guidance for 25 years of growth.

Fillmore said he'll spend the next few weeks finishing up constituency work before officially resigning as MP in September. It remains to be seen how the seat is filled — it could be through a byelection, but if a general federal election is called within the six months after his resignation, that won't be needed.

He is the third high-profile candidate to join the race for mayor, alongside current councillors Pam Lovelace and Waye Mason. It's an open field as Mayor Mike Savage announced in February he wouldn't reoffer after 12 years in the city's top role.

Multiple political newcomers are also looking to run for mayor, including Clay Bowser, Nolan Greenough, Ryan Dodge, Zoran Jokic and Blake Roache.

Municipal election day across Nova Scotia is Oct. 19.