N.S. mayor announces PC leadership bid, days after coming out
Published Saturday, February 3, 2018 2:12PM EST
The mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has announced his intent to run for the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leadership, just days after coming out as gay because he says someone threatened to expose his sexuality.
Cecil Clarke made the announcement Saturday afternoon at a fire hall in North Sydney, N.S. He joins fellow candidates Tim Houston and John Lohr in the race.
Clarke came out as a gay man in a radio interview on Thursday but said at the time he felt forced to make the announcement because someone has threatened to expose his personal life.
Clarke, 49, was apparently so distraught about having to make the announcement about his sexuality that he declined media inquiries on Friday. Despite the troubling way Clarke was forced to reveal his sexuality, the mayor has received an outpouring of support.
Peter Steele, former Chair of Cape Breton Pride, decided to come out decades ago, but it came as his decision and his alone.
“I'm a little upset under the circumstances that (Clarke) wasn't able to do it under his own terms, to have done it because he felt blackmailed (and) threatened,” he told CTV Atlantic.
Steele says Clarke has given people living in the closet a voice.
“He's become an incredible role model for a lot of people that, ‘yes, it's okay to be gay’ and ‘yes, that's not going to stop me from being whoever I want to be in life,’” he said.
Support has also come from his colleagues at city hall, such as Counc. Ray Paunch.
“I don't think it was motivated by politics, and like I said earlier, I tip my hat to the guy for making the decision he made,” he said. “It must have been very, very difficult for him.”
According to the mayor’s office, Clarke is seeking legal advice for what to do about the alleged blackmail.
The Nova Scotia PC party began its search for a new leader on Nov. 1 when then-leader Jamie Baillie announced his desire to step down, but said he would stay as leader until a new one would be elected. Baillie left the party abruptly on Jan. 24, following an allegation of inappropriate behaviour.
With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore and with files from The Canadian Press