City council’s inaugural meeting included the appointment of Jesse Helmer, ward 4 councillor, as deputy mayor.
The deputy mayor takes over the mayor’s position in case of any absences. The individuals in these roles are usually allies. However, as seen during their campaigns, Holder and Helmer hold polar views on key issues.
“The act [of appointing Coun. Helmer] is an indication of Mayor Holder wanting to bring people together and have a council that’s not going to be based on political divisions,” Andrew Sancton, municipal politics expert, said. “But, I would be very surprised if Mayor Holder and Deputy Mayor Helmer don’t have significant political battles,” he added.
Sancton expects the topic of Bus Rapid Transit will be at the forefront of these battles. “One way or another this BRT issue is going to have to be dealt with,” he said. “It’s not going to go away. It’s likely going to be the focus of division and debate,” Sancton added.
Helmer’s appointment went through, but not without conflict. Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen along with Coun. Steven Hillier voted against the mayor’s selection. This disagreement “does [foreshadow what council is going to be like]. But, I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Sancton noted. “Many more divisions like this will come in the future, especially with this council,” he added.
The 15 city councillors are a mixed bunch. The group covers a wide range of ages and political backgrounds.
“There’s nothing wrong with division, controversy and debate. We’re in a democracy and people have different views,” Sancton noted.
“Sometimes people think that [municipal governments] should be united, that they should all think in the same direction,” Sancton explained. “But why should they be doing that? They were elected from different parts of the city with different ideas and visions…That’s a good thing,” he added.
Sancton expects the divided council will provide Londoners with a balanced debate on key issues concerning residents.