Mike Savage was born in Northern Ireland, and raised in south Wales, United Kingdom. He had three brothers and three sisters. His mother, Margaret, a native of Belfast, was a teacher and a graduate of Queen’s University Belfast. His father, John, a Welsh native, was a physician. In 1966 the family immigrated to Canada and settled in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
John Savage became a partner in a medical centre and focused on family medicine. When Mike Savage was a teenager, his father ran unsuccessfully for the Liberal Party in the 1972 and 1979 federal elections.
In 1985, John was elected mayor of Dartmouth, serving three terms before resigning and entering provincial politics as the Liberal leader. John Savage served as premier of Nova Scotia from 1993 to 1997.
Education, Family, Business Career
Mike Savage graduated from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor of Arts (History) in 1980. At Dalhousie, he met his wife Darlene, who was a student at nearby King's College. Today, the couple have two children and live in Dartmouth.
Savage spent the first 20 years of his career in business. From 1986 to 1997, he was general manager of S. Cunard and Co., a Halifax heating fuels distributor. In 1997, he became director of sales and marketing for the provincial electric utility Nova Scotia Power, and in 2002 he became vice-president at Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette, a corporate recruiting firm.
Savage's parents had played an important role in establishing the Dartmouth Book and Writing Awards in 1989. In 2003, after they had died, Mike and his siblings started the Margaret and John Savage Book Award.
Savage has served as a board member for the IWK Health Centre, a provincial children's hospital. He has volunteered as president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia, and sat on the national foundation’s board.
Member of Parliament
In the 1997 federal election, Savage ran unsuccessfully as the Liberal candidate in the riding of Dartmouth. He ran for the Dartmouth–Cole Harbour federal seat in 2004 and was elected. He won the seat again in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
As an MP, he also started "Wheelchair on the Hill" day to raise awareness on disability issues, and served as the Liberal opposition critic for Human Resources and Skills Development, and for the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
He lost his seat to the New Democratic Party in the 2011 election, becoming one of the casualties of the surging NDP, which became the official opposition that year under leader Jack Layton. After his defeat, Savage returned to the private sector as vice-president at the Halifax public affairs firm M5 Communications.
In 2012, Savage announced he would run for the office of mayor of Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) — the amalgamated city that includes Dartmouth, where his father was once mayor. Six candidates ran, but on 20 October, Savage won 56.86 per cent of the vote, more than double his nearest competitor.
His first four-year term came as Halifax continued a building boom in which the value of hotel, condominium and office tower developments on the Halifax peninsula nearly tripled between 2006 and 2015. Among the major projects were the Nova Centre convention complex, and a new Halifax Central Library.
As mayor, Savage was a member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Big City Mayors’ Caucus, and in 2015 co-chaired its task force on Syrian refugee settlement. He also argued that immigrants who live in Halifax and are permanent residents of Canada should be allowed to vote in municipal elections – although the province had not changed the necessary legislation as of the 2016 election.
Savage has also long supported the idea of building a sports stadium in Halifax, possibly to host a Canadian Football League team, but that had not happened as of 2017.
Savage ran for a second term as mayor in October 2016, on a platform that included protecting and enhancing the Blue Mountain–Birch Cove regional park, which at the time included part of a planned development. He also said he would implement plans to remove the sprawling Cogswell (traffic) Interchange in downtown Halifax and replace it with mixed-use spaces. He also advocated improvements to bus transit services, and increases in arts funding.
Lil MacPherson, a local business owner, was his only opponent in the 2016 election. Savage won with 62,096 votes, more than double MacPherson’s total.