Dismissed Cape Breton University president to run for NDP in Halifax

Dismissed Cape Breton University president to run for NDP in Halifax

The man dismissed as president of Cape Breton University last December has emerged as the NDP candidate in the provincial riding of Halifax Armdale.

The New Democrats said on Thursday that David Wheeler will be nominated at a party meeting next week.

"I've always been interested in public policy," said Wheeler, who was dean of management at Dalhousie University in Halifax before taking on the president's job at CBU.

His 3½-year tenure at the helm of CBU ended when the university board of governors voted to dismiss him over concerns they hadn't been provided certain information about labour negotiations. There was a negotiated severance package but details were not disclosed.

Tony Blair

Wheeler's attention is now turning to politics, but it's not the first time he has delved into that world. Originally from the U.K., Wheeler said during the 1980s he was principal academic adviser to the British Labour Party on environmental issues.

He also noted that in the late 1990s he was an adviser to Tony Blair, helping him with "business outreach" prior to his first term as British prime minister.

Wheeler said he knows the Halifax Armdale area quite well, since he lived near the riding when he was working at Dalhousie.

He has high praise for NDP Leader Gary Burrill, for whom he said he has "enormous respect."

Burrill not worried about dismissal

Burrill said he's "over the moon" Wheeler will run for the NDP and is not concerned about his dismissal from CBU. Wheeler was trying to avoid layoffs at the university, Burrill said, "a pretty honourable position to take, in my mind."

He praised Wheeler's extensive knowledge of environmental and post-secondary issues, and called him "one of Nova Scotia's primary intellectuals."

"His credibility is in the stratosphere in Nova Scotia," Burrill said.

Eliminate tuition fees

Like Burrill, Wheeler is a proponent of reducing the cost of getting a post-secondary education. He supports Burrill's recommendation that tuition fees be eliminated for all Nova Scotia Community College students.

"I think that's a good first step," Wheeler said, adding that reducing or wiping out university tuition should be the province's next move following that, in conjunction with the federal government.

Asked how he feels about running against incumbent Halifax Armdale MLA and Liberal cabinet minister Lena Diab, Wheeler said: "I like her a lot. But unfortunately she represents a government that really has no economic game plan. She voted with the government against the teachers. I guess she must take responsibility for those things."

Wheeler expects an election call to come "sooner rather than later," given the recent stream of government funding announcements that the NDP is calling "March Madness."

"No one is betting against a May election," he said.