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'A great big thank you': Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps shares parting thoughts on her legacy


Outgoing Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says she's grateful for the two terms she's served as the city's mayor, and weighed in on some of the rewarding and challenging aspects of her job while speaking with Victoria radio station CFAX 1070 on Wednesday.

Helps, who was mayor for eight years and a city councillor for one term before that, was speaking on the last day of her job as mayor, before she hands the position off to Marianne Alto on Nov. 3.

Helps says she's proud of the way the city has grown up in the time she was mayor, shedding its reputation for being a sleepy seaside town.

"When I took office in 2014, Victoria's – well the foundational story is the Indigenous story – but let's call it after that, the story of Victoria has been a little piece of old England, high tea, hanging baskets," she told CFAX 1070.

"Now, eight years later, I think people see across the country, and the province, and again in some cases internationally, see Victoria as a very entrepreneurial city, an innovative city."

She notes that Victoria's biggest industry is tech, with tourism coming in second.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps speaks during a vigil to honour the victims of the Quebec City mosque shooting in Victoria, B.C., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito


Helps says one of the most difficult aspects of her job was feeling like she was misunderstood in the public sphere.

"I think the most frustrating part of the job, and I realized this very early on, it's just the nature of the job, is being constantly and completely misunderstood," she said.

"It was a bit frustrating because some of the perceptions out there – when I hear what some people say, 'Oh she's about this or she's about that,' I literally feel like they're talking about somebody completely other to who I actually am," she explained.

Helps says she learned to tune out most of the noise while being receptive to constructive opinions.

"What I finally learned to do is keep my head down and listen to good information when it comes in – whether that's challenges to policies or a praise of policies – and just get the work done," she said.

Helps says one of her largest regrets is that the city wasn't able to pass its Missing Middle Housing Initiative, though she's hopeful the next council will be able to review it and move it forward.

Victoria City Hall is seen in this file photo. (CTV)


Helps says the three issues she was most passionate about while mayor were housing, climate change and Indigenous reconciliation.

While she's uncertain what she'll do next, she says she "wouldn't be surprised" if she wound up in one of those fields.

"The most pressing issue though in our city and province and country is housing," she said.

"Not only housing for people who are currently living on the street and living in tents, that's obviously important, but housing for the middle class," she said.

"Housing for working people, working families. It's a bit of a shame that we've somehow normalized that a young family with two good jobs won't be ever be able to buy a home. That is not OK," said the outgoing mayor.


Helps says she hopes future mayors and councils balance meeting the current needs of the city while also keeping an eye on the future.

She also recommends that council continue to listen to community feedback and ensure that city hall is a place that welcomes input from residents.

"Our job as the government is of course to take care of the present, the roads and the sewers and the parks and those things," she said.

"[But it's] also to say, 'What does this city and its residents need two decades from now, three decades from now?' And to have the courage to do those things," she said.

Overall, Helps hopes she's remembered as a mayor who had an eye towards the future and long-term planning.

"My final thought is really just a great big thank you," she said. "It has been an enormous, enormous privilege to serve in this role."

Helps says she's grateful to community members who supported council and its decisions, and those who voiced criticism.

"Those people made our policies and programs better when they rolled out," she said.

Long-time councillor Marianne Alto will become Victoria's 53rd mayor Thursday morning, alongside an entirely new table of city councillors. Top Stories

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