On Tuesday, London mayor Ed Holder announced he would not be running in the next municipal election. Holder appeared on London Morning and spoke with host Rebecca Zandbergen. Here’s that conversation.
RZ: Why aren’t your running in the next election?
EH: It’s a fair question and one I had to reflect on quite a bit. Here’s the situation. Not that long ago, I had a medical surgery and it wasn’t easy. As I was going through recovery it made me think that to be the very best you can be, to be that mayor that people expect with the commitment that it takes, you have to be on top of your game. You have to be someone who is prepared to commit to long hours, prepared to be at your strongest mental acuity. And frankly, I did not feel that as a result of what I’ve been dealing with, that I’d be in a position to do that. I was concerned that would let Londoners down and let myself down. It wasn’t something that I thought that they deserved.
RZ: Do you still have a long recovery road ahead of you?
EH: I saw my surgeon on Friday and he said he could easily justify another four weeks off for me. And I said, ‘Thank you, but I can’t. I’ve got to get back to work.’ That’s the conundrum. I’ve got a couple of other things that have come up since my surgery that I’ve got to deal with, minor, I’m going to survive it all. Things play in your head about how you can be most effective and this is a role that you need to be effective. And as a result of that, I made the decision.
RZ: As you look back on your career as mayor, what are the things that you are most proud to have achieved?
EH: I look at it as team achievements and I look at how this council has come together on all major issues. No one elects council members to be homogenous. They come in with their own thoughts and ideas. But on the major issues, the Climate Emergency Action Plan, our approach to anti-racism and anti-oppression, rapid transit — helping coalesce council around those major issues, that’s absolutely one of them. And can you imagine doing all this through a pandemic. London stood tall through this and and I’m particularly proud of that.
RZ: London has been through tough times during your term. What has it been like leading a community through difficult challenges?
EH: If anything, it’s shown me the critical importance of communicating with people and showing leadership. A leader’s role is to lead and you pray to God you’re doing it the right way, and in the right direction. But you can only go so far as where people will let you lead. And so I think it’s trying to understand the mood of the public and at the same time working with the public. I’m going to give full marks to our council for that. I think they have sensed that very, very well. I think the pandemic has been one of the most challenging things anyone’s had to deal with, and my God, that’s been tough for people. You have to have empathy if you’re going to be in this role. That’s so critical.
RZ: You mentioned rapid transit as one of the things you’re most proud of. I think many Londoner would count that as unfinished business or even a failure, How do you justify that as a success?
EH: Unfinished business is a fair comment. One of the things that we were able to do in this term that the prior council wasn’t able to complete, was to get unanimous support on so many projects. That didn’t happen in the prior council. But unfinished? Yes. Because there’s still federal and provincial money on the table. So it was successful because we got commitments and yet unfinished because there’s still more work to do.
RZ: How would you characterize the council that you’ve been leading? There are those around the table who are progressive and others who are more interested in the status quo. Have you found that there are two sides?
EH: No. Tell me how many sides there are around the table, and that’s how many sites we’ve got. That’s the nature of politics and that’s the nature of people. I call it dynamic. I think that’s made it fun to do this role, to bring different views to the table and come up with solutions that matter to the city. I think this has been an exciting council. I love the passion that they bring into it.
RZ: Anything left on your list before you’re finished?
EH: I’ve got six more months in this role and and I intend to finish the work that we’ve done. One of the things I’ve been particularly proud is the relationship building we’ve done at other levels of government. You’ve seen that with the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) coming to London, the expansion of GO, Amazon right on our doorstep. Our economy is just busting out. Our population is growing and London is adapting to a brand new, larger city. And I suppose, if anything, it’s getting people to think in terms of London as the major city that it is. We’re in the best city in the world. And I’m proud to be part of that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity