Two progressive voices on London city council — councillors Mo Salih and Jesse Helmer — announced today in a joint statement that they will not seek re-election in 2022.
The pair say they’re stepping aside to make room for other progressives to serve on city council.
“Making space for new voices and diverse perspectives is how we renew the progressive movement,” said the statement released Wednesday.
“We are proud of the progress we have made so far but we aren’t done yet,” said the statement. The statement said council needs to become more diverse: “London should have a council as diverse as our city.”
Both councillors — Salih in Ward 3 and Helmer in Ward 4 — were first elected in 2014 and re-elected by wide margins in the 2018 municipal election. Helmer’s ward includes Old East Village while Salhi’s covers the northwest corner, roughly bordered by Dundas Street in the south and Highbury Street to the west.
Salih, a black Muslim, told CBC News he believes stepping aside now will clear the way for new voices, and said a significant gap is the need for more women of colour to serve on council. Arielle Kayabaga, who was elected as a new councillor in Ward 13 in 2018, is currently the only other black London city councillor.
Salih said he didn’t have anyone specific in mind to run in his ward, but says he believes someone strong will emerge.
“I believe there’s good people in the community and there’s good people who can win, who will bring diversity, who will bring the equity lens,” he said.
As left-leaning councillors, both Salih and Helmer championed improving transit in London. Both voted to implement the entire Bus Rapid Transit system but only three of its five segments earned council support in 2019.
Helmer served as deputy mayor from 2018 to 2020 while Salih chaired the police services board before stepping down in 2019.
During that time Salih worked to end the controversial practice of “carding” — questioning people on the street without evidence they’d been involved in any crime.
Salih said while he feels some progress has been made, he says there’s still more to do.
“I don’t think anyone is thinking that the work has been done,” said Salih. “It’s not an easy go, pushing for change. These are challenging times for everyone in our community.”
Salih said keeping Londoners safe and helping the local economy as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold will be his priority for the remainder of his term.
In a statement Mayor Ed Holder thanked both Salih and Helmer for their contributions to council, saying he was at first “surprised and disappointed” by their decision not to run then “completely supportive” when he learned why they’d decided not to run again.