Incumbent Mayor Lisa Helps chats with Tracy James (right) and other supporters at her Fort Street campaign headquarters Aug. 7. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Lisa Helps opens campaign headquarters, a ‘space for the community’

Mayor and team park office on Fort Street to support merchants hit hard by bike lane construction

Mayor Lisa Helps opened the doors to her Fort Street campaign headquarters Tuesday evening, welcoming supporters and sending the message that she is ready to connect with Victorians ahead of the Oct. 20 municipal election.

The incumbent Helps, seeking her second term as Victoria’s political leader, currently faces three opponents – Gary Beyer, Rob Duncan and Sean Leitenberg – all taking their first stab at a run for mayor.

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“It’s really important to me that this space is a space that really is for the community,” Helps told a crowd of roughly 50 people mingling inside and on the back patio of 829 Fort St.

Helps and her team purposefully returned to the downtown neighbourhood, recently a point of controversy after the construction of new bike lanes, feeling it was “important to support all of the businesses on Fort Street.”

Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam and the Lekwungen dancers opened the informal gathering, calling it “an honour and a privilege” to stand in support of Helps.

“I lift my hands to the mayor and all she’s done for bringing our community and the city family closer together over the last few years and we really look to continue that work,” Sam said.

On Wednesday, Helps posted to her campaign website that the Sir John A. MacDonald statue outside City Hall will be removed Aug. 11, “so that the family members and other Indigenous people do not need to walk past this painful reminder of colonial violence each time they enter the doors of their municipal government.”

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The four-prong platform Helps is running on is rooted in affordability, well-being and prosperity, the notion of a sustainable city and a broader more inclusive approach to engagement.

“We’ve been working really hard over the last four years to make Victoria a place where everyone’s quality of life is improved,” she said. “It’s been a big job to make sure that even as the city grows and changes, it feels like there is room for everyone.”

However, the mayor is not oblivious to the growing pains the city has sustained in the process. That’s the real tension right now, she said.

A quote from author and urban advocate Jane Jacobs sits on a sign in the window at 829 Fort St., Mayor Lisa Helps’ campagin headquarters. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

“There’s a lot of growth and change, some people love it, some people hate it,” she noted, adding there is some uncertainty from residents, but generally a sense of positivity and optimism permeates.

The campaign headquarters are open to the public Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Helps drops in every Friday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. for the “office social.”

“We’ve started to put together some very bold plans to make [Victoria] affordable for everyone, forever,” she said, adding the public would get more detail after the official campaign launch following Labour Day.

High on the list of priorities is a focus on improving the climate action program and continuing to keep the city’s economy strong.

Tracy James and her partner Aharon Arnstean – who are expecting a child days before the election – came to show Helps support despite having recently moved to Saanich. The couple work in Victoria and said economics, affordability and transportation affect everyone.

“I think we all need to care, regardless of what municipality we’re in, about what happens in Victoria,” said James, adding the issues transcend municipalities and jurisdictions.

“This is not a city which is really good at change,” she pointed out. “But I think … a lot of the things which are currently controversial will be part of the things we celebrate about Victoria. Lisa is able to have that kind of long-term vision.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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