Holder one-on-one: Mid-term review of progress on transit, homelessness and jobs
LONDON, ONT. -- At the halfway point of city council’s four-year term, Mayor Ed Holder touts progress on server all of his priorities in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After being elected in 2018, Mayor Holder laid out his three priorities - jobs, transportation, and helping vulnerable Londoners. He now confides that there was a lot to learn about the mayor’s office.
“I don’t think I knew what to expect, remember, I’d been out of political life a few years,” says the former federal cabinet minister.
Sitting down for an expansive interview with CTV News, Holder is asked about the dozens of Londoners still living in tents on the eve of winter.
“This is not a police state. We can’t say you have to go inside. As it gets colder more people will go inside. They’ll couch surf or whatever it might be,” he says.
Holder adds that his team and civic administration have been “very committed” to London’s most vulnerable residents, pointing to new provincial funding for a permanent supervised drug consumption site at 446 York St.
“I think this city has done a stellar job, frankly, and with the support agencies that work with us.”
Just ten months ago, before the pandemic, Holder set a goal for London to become the first major city with a zero-emission bus fleet.
The pandemic has caused ridership to plummet by 50 per cent, however, and a new report to the London Transit Commission details the costs and complexities.
He is now considering more conservative timelines.
“If ultimately it works out that we are not first, but second, I’m alright with that. As long as we get there,” admits Holder. “The key is don’t lose sight of the goal, you put the plan in place, and you challenge people to get to that place.”
In 2018, Holder campaigned on the need for better bus service to industrial areas to ensure Londoners can connect with jobs.
“It’s a bit of a chicken and egg. If you don’t have the routes, you don’t have the riders. If you don’t have the riders, how do you justify the routes?”
He says the private sector businesses that will benefit from the routes will be asked to contribute.
“Clearly industry is clamoring for this, and we’ll be looking to them for some additional support.”
After resolving the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) debate with three-route political compromise, the mayor reveals he’ll soon unveil options to utilize the remaining transit funding from senior governments.
“It’s time limited, so one of the things we need to do with the rapid transit projects is to put some project ideas in front of council which we intend to do in our third year.”
The mayor teases some big job announcements are on the horizon— and hope that the city’s economic recovery from the pandemic will accelerate.
Holder telling CTV News, “There are going to be some major announcements coming forward in the coming months. Big openings I’m optimistic about even during the COVID crisis.”
And regarding Holder’s employment future, will he seek re-election in 2022?
The mayor replies, he wants to remain focused on his priorities entering year three, but, “Could I imagine myself running? Absolutely, but let’s have that discussion next year.”