Slideshow: Student's campaign vows for openness


Bringing politics back to the people. (Photos: Adam Scotti)

Mayoral candidates for next fall's election can expect to receive a letter today challenging them to walk away from union and corporate donations. One of them won't receive the letter because he wrote it.

Matthew Worona's already vowed to rid himself of special interest groups.

"If we're really going to be committed to transparency, we should have our leaders do something during the election, not just a promise," he says.

Worona uses the example of Power Promotions Concepts' $500 donation to Mayor Kelly's 2008 $68,359 campaign. They were the promoters behind the 2010 Concerts on the Commons scandal which was sorted out behind closed doors during an in-camera Halifax Regional Council meeting. Both the concert scandal and the number of in-camera meetings are issues council are shouldering.

Worona hopes his campaign will strike down convention by changing the way candidates raise money.

Worona says he will accept donations from individuals, just not from special interest groups.

"I think it will give any of the candidates who accept more clout when it comes to dealing with the issues," he says.

In an interview with the Dalhousie Gazette, South End Councillor Sue Uteck said it was only realistic to accept donations for a mayoral campaign. Worona said she misunderstood, he will be accepting donations, just from independants.  

Worona isn't just striking down convention with his sources of funding; he's creating an interactive platform-one residents can change.

An online forum will allow for ideas to be voiced and voted upon.

"Hopefully I'll be able to run just on the opinions of residents," said Worona.

It's the opinions of residents that Worona is relying on; he'll have to.

The second-year marketing student at Dalhousie University has lived in Halifax for only a year-and-a-half. Worona admits he lacks a comfortable knowledge of what goes on in Halifax communities. But that's why he says he's chosen to run for mayor rather than councillor.

Being mayor is more of a consensus-building role, he says, something he saw lacking in how the city sold St. Patrick's-Alexandra school. He also saw divisions with the handling of the Occupy Nova Scotia participants during their eviction on Nov. 11 2011.

Worona can count on concerns over inexperience. Matthew Jelly ran for mayor of Hamilton, Ont., when he was 21 years of age. He says people were quick to judge him for his age.

Even though he wasn't planning on winning, Jelly says he was still able to raise some important issues during the dozen debates he participated in. Once people looked past his age, he says he began to see some support.

For 19-year old Worona's campaign to be successful, Jelly says he'll have to count on the student vote, a demographic most empathetic to Jelly's run for office in 2003.

Halifax is home to an estimated 55,000 working-age students.

If Worona captures even a sliver of the student pie, it's a good start. But dessert comes after the main meal, and no one's going to win if they aren't able to gather votes outside of Dalhousie and Saint Mary's universities' new Peninsula South-Downtown district.

Worona knows even the student vote won't be one for the taking.

"You can be talking to your friends, and they'll have totally different opinions, totally different ways of voting," he says.

Time constraint on student registration

Only 101,000 (36 per cent of the city's residents) voted in the last municipal election. But as Jeremy [the Dawgfather] Riddick says, "Students are a sleeping giant."

Riddick, a concession stand vendor outside Dal's Student Union Building who is popular with students, is already helping students register for next October's election.

Riddick and Worona both say there's a problem students need to be aware of: they must be a resident of Nova Scotia for at least three months before they're eligible to vote.

By next October, many students will only have been in Halifax two months since the summer.  In order to gain the third month, they will need to register prior to leaving in the spring to ensure voting priviledges. The recently amended Municipal Elections Act outlines eligibility rules.

Come next fall, candidates can look forward to questions about a declining downtown core, eviction notices, transit deals and if Matthew Worona's campus hub (the Dalhousie Bike Centre) has a say, a cross-town bike route too.



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