Lisa Helps wants Victoria’s top job

First-term Victoria councillor announces intention to challenge Mayor Dean Fortin in Nov. 15 municipal elections

Victoria Coun. Lisa Helps will challenge Mayor Dean Fortin for the city's top job in November 2014.

Victoria Coun. Lisa Helps will challenge Mayor Dean Fortin for the city's top job in November 2014.

Lisa Helps’ long-rumoured run at the mayor’s seat next fall is out in the open.

The first-term Victoria councillor confirmed she’ll challenge Mayor Dean Fortin in the Nov. 15 municipal election, but said there’s still a lot for council to accomplish before “active campaigning” gets underway.

“Maybe the campaign has unofficially kicked off, but for the time being, both Dean and I will continue to work – him as mayor, me as councillor – and do what the residents elected us to do, which is make decisions and get things done,” she said.

Helps said she notified Fortin of her intention to run for mayor before she went public.

Since being elected to council in 2011, Helps has often championed the need for greater public engagement on major projects. In 2012, she hosted several open houses where she challenged residents to balance the city’s budget using monopoly money.

“We need genuine, roundtable discussion, people sitting together and coming up with ideas right at the beginning,” she said.

The city’s “risk-averse” mindset is also something that needs to change rather than deferring every decision to the city’s legal department, she said.

“I’m not advocating recklessness, but I am advocating a little more creativity based on what’s worked in other places,” Helps said. “The solicitor’s office is probably the busiest place at City Hall.”

Helps was also critical of the expanding “gatekeeper” role of Victoria’s communications department and said staff need to be free to discuss projects with both media and the public.

“We’ve got amazing, competent, expert staff in all our departments, and I think it would be beneficial to have those staff speak for themselves and not have everything filtered through communications,” she said.

The London, Ont. native moved to Victoria in 1997, living first in Fairfield and then to her current home in Fernwood. Helps is a former chair of the Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group, while her day job is as executive director of Community Micro Lending Society.