I was sworn in as the city councillor for Ward 4 on 1 December 2014. I was re-elected in 2018 and finished serving my second term on city council on 15 Nov 2022. I served as Deputy Mayor for two years, ending my term in Dec 2020.
As a city councillor representing Ward 4, my job had several distinct aspects:
- Legislator: along with my colleagues, and with the advice of city staff (provided through reports and at meetings) and residents (often shared via email or at meetings), we work in standing committees and as a council to consider, debate and pass bylaws regulating a wide range of activity in our city, including, for example, parking, trees, land use planning, taxation, business licensing and animal protection.
- Resource allocator: we work as a council to set the City of London's operating budget ($867,194,000 in 2017) and capital budget ($215,835,000 in 2017) and allocate funding to the various services provided by the city (roads, snow removal, fire and police services, homelessness prevention, affordable housing, parks and recreation, etc). The city also funds agencies, boards and commissions, such as the library, London Transit and the public health unit, and some non-profit organizations.
- Helping residents navigate the bureaucracy at city hall and connect with the right city staff person to resolve issues. Our excellent five-person staff team in the Councillors' Office, which works with all fourteen councillors, does a lot of this work.
- Listening, connecting, advocating and informing: within our wards, the broader city and outside the city, councillors learn a lot about what's happening in the city and play a connecting role between residents and various businesses, nonprofits and other levels of government. Councillors also share information with residents about what's happening at city hall.
As a councillor, I serve on the following committees, working groups, boards and commissions (attendance record in %):
- Council (100%)
- Strategic Priorities & Policy (99%)
- London Transit Commission (100%)
- London Police Services Board (89%)
- Old East Village BIA (94%)
- Audit Committee (100%; Chair, 2018-2020)
- Community and Protective Services Committee (Chair, 2021)
- Civic Works (95%; member 2014-2015, Chair 2015-2016)
Past committee appointments:
- London Transit Long-term Growth Report Working Group (67%; 2014-2016)
- Planning & Environment (98%)
- Corporate Services Committee (96%; member 27 Sept 2016-30 Nov 2017; Chair as of 1 Dec 2017)
- Rapid Transit Implementation Working Group (100%)
- Waste Management Working Group (100%)
- Governance Working Group (95%)
- Lake Huron Primary Water Supply Board (81%)
- Middlesex-London Health Unit (Chair) (93% board of health; 87% finance & facilities committee; 77% governance committee)
All of the meetings that I have missed for the health unit and the Old East Village BIA have conflicted with council or committee meetings, primarily because of the more frequent meetings related to the City of London's strategic plan and budget in January and February 2015. I missed three meetings (one planning and environment, one civic works and one Lake Huron water board) during a June 2015 trip to the Canadian Urban Transit Association conference in Winnipeg and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Edmonton. I missed a Lake Huron water board meeting in June 2016 because I was attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Winnipeg.
I also attend meetings of committees of which I am not a member (audit, 88%; community and protective services, 98%).
My overall participation for meetings of council, committees, boards and commissions is 96% (733/766 meetings) as of 28 Sept 2018. See this Google sheet for details.
Disclosures of pecuniary interest
For the first forty months that I served on council (Dec 2014 - April 2018), I was a part-owner of Groundforce Digital, a company that designs and produces websites and trains people how to use digital tools effectively, and I declared a pecuniary interest in matters relating to current clients during that time period.
I own shares in Tesla, Seagate Technologies and Northland Power, publicly-traded companies that operate globally.
My father, Alan Helmer, was the general manager of South Muskoka Curling & Golf Club in Bracebridge for the first 17 months that I served on council (Dec 2014 - April 2016) and I declared an indirect pecuniary interest in matters relating to the City of London's golf courses during that time period. As of August 2018, he is employed by the National Golf Course Owners' Association, of which the City of London is a member.
As of Sept 2018, I am employed as a part-time teaching assistant at Western University and a member of PSAC Local 610. I will declare a pecuniary interest in matters where my employer or union has a pecuniary interest.
Disclosure of expenses
Each councillor has a maximum budget of $15,000 for expenses. Reports on our expenditures are published every three months on the City of London web site.
I've published a summary of my expenses on a quarterly basis in this Google sheet.
I usually attend the following conferences: Association of Municipalities of Ontario (August), Federation of Canadian Municipalities (June), FCM Sustainable Communities Conference (February), Ontario Good Roads Association (February), and the Canadian Urban Transit Association (May or June).
I usually do not charge per diems, home office internet, tickets to attend community events or pay for advertising that is self-promotional. I do not claim a travel allowance, as I am able to travel quickly from City Hall to locations in my ward on my bike or on the bus, which is very inexpensive.
Statement of Remuneration
In addition to quarterly disclosure of our office expenses, city staff report annually on the overall remuneration for each councillor. This report includes compensation, benefits and stipends or expenses paid for as a result of our service on agencies, boards and commissions.
Page one of the report for 2015 shows $33,427.91 in compensation (keep in mind that 1/3 of that is not taxable), $10,166.26 in benefits and $1,754.03 in expenses not included in my general expense account (for a tour of rapid transit projects in Ontario and attending the CUTA conference in Winnipeg).
Page two of the report for 2016 shows $38,306.27 in compensation (keep in mind that 1/3 of the council portion is not taxable), $10,488.84 in benefits and $1,728.91 in expenses not included in my general expense account (for the CUTA conference in Halifax).
tl;dr: see my LinkedIn profile.
I believe politics can be a force for good in our community. I’ve been involved in politics since I was a teenager as a member of several political parties, as a student journalist covering politics and as an elected student representative. I was honoured to serve as a councillor representing arts co-op students at University of Waterloo, on the board of directors of the student union, on the Senate of the university and as president of the student newspaper. I learned that to be an effective elected representative, you need to be inclusive, transparent, responsive to your constituents and able to disagree respectfully with your fellow representatives (we're not going to agree on everything!). I’ve also worked as a volunteer on local, provincial and national political campaigns.
Curious by nature, I enjoy asking questions, learning about issues and bringing people together to figure out how we can innovate to solve problems. Recently, I led a team of grassroots Liberals who championed the idea of a basic income pilot to dramatically reduce poverty in Canada, reaching out directly to Members of Parliament, policy experts and Canadians more broadly. We were thrilled when the idea was adopted as party policy at the national convention. I also facilitated the Emerging Leaders working group on economic prosperity, which recommended at London X that we invest in a municipal fibre optic network to make affordable high speed internet more widely available to Londoners and to provide an economic advantage to London businesses.
Because I believe that Londoners are experts on their own lives and often have very good ideas on how to make our city a better place to live and work, I started Better London a couple of years ago to provide Londoners with a platform to share their ideas, get their neighbours to contribute, and create a better community and city together. Now in the capable hands of Michael McAlpine, Better London has helped in a small way to support the campaign to Save Lorne Ave, to bring food trucks to London and to encourage people to opt-out of the Yellow Pages.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my life, and with the help of my parents, student loans and a bursary, I earned a Master of Public Administration from Queen’s University, where I focused on the non-profit sector and international trade. I then joined the staff of the Loran Scholar program in Toronto, where I worked with a great team of colleagues and volunteers to raise over $20 million from business and community leaders that we invested in hundreds of young Canadians all over the country who demonstrate outstanding character, service and leadership potential.
Through my work and volunteer experience, I've helped to develop or overseen budgets ranging from several hundred thousand dollars (student newspaper) to several million dollars (at the scholarship foundation, the student union and on the Senate of the university). I have some experience asking uncomfortable questions about budgets (ask me about the time the now Governor General yelled at me in a Senate meeting).
For over 20 years, my Dad was a branch manager for TD Canada Trust, which meant our family moved every few years to a new community in Ontario. Moving got harder as we all got older and our family eventually settled in Bracebridge, where I attended high school and worked part-time as a crew coordinator at the local McDonald’s and as a cook at Santa’s Village. I spent a lot of time riding my motorcycle, shooting pool and playing golf. These days I’m riding a bicycle, but you’ll still find me on the course at Fanshawe Park or River Road.
Showing 75 reactions
This is not a question or maybe it is, the sidewalks along oxford street have over two feet of snow, most caused by the plows since there is no room between the road and the sidewalk. This is from mornington to at least Quebec. People are walking down oxford st on the road. Tomorrow schools will be open and this is a route to two schools, how are the kids to get there. I understand we have had a great deal of snow but the sidewalks are not useable. The city needs to get their act together.
I am currently watching the SHIFT public meeting showing on Rogers TV. I am listening to Paul Chan talking about the BRT. I have to agree with him that this is not a good idea. I did not agree with the change in voting either. We do not have to be first city to approve that rank ballot major change, especially without knowing all costs. This BRT can wait, better to use funds for other needed improvements. Lets be prudent and keep our powder dry, we do not need to rush into this. We go to the poles again next year. If we do this and approve this BRT fiasco without concern for us the taxpayers, it will prove to be a terrible waste of money and also people who will be affected.
I live on Stackhouse crescent London Ontario. I wish that city could add speed bump on Stackhouse crescent close to fanshawe park road east . This 200-300 meter S shaped road is a little bit dangerous, people drive fast on it, I wish you add bump on it.
So did anything come of that query on Census Data on commuting patterns. I just glanced at a report put together by some firm (it looked “really” expensive) on commuting patterns of Londoners. The questionnaire was quite thorough, and the sample size was very large (over 14000 respondents). The report was prepared by some company out of Whitby (AECOM). My guess, it must of cost several $100,000. Published in 2010.
As a social scientist (I worked at Stats Can for over a decade on methodology), the first thing I’m skeptical about is: no discussion of “non-response” at all. What was the response rate? It is standard in the industry to get response rates in the order of 10 – 20%. In my mind, even after their attempts to “post stratify”, the quality is of very questionable merit.
It talks about a “target sample size”.. and an “obtained sample size”, and they correspond. But did they get this with a non-response rate of 90% or 10% or what? Anything over 50% in my mind is garbage.
If the city only needs to know about “commuting patterns” at a very refined level of geography, there is the census, which was mandatory in 2016 (long form). And, it is likely of high quality. I have no idea as to whether the data AECOM provided is of quality (my guess, it is seriously biased). STats Can refuses to release data with less than 50-60% response, and there they have some of the most talented methodologists/statisticians in the country adjusting for non-response. Who does it at AECOM?
We arrived home from vacation today to find a white wire running from our cable box, along our fence to the next store neighbor’s fence and into their cable box. We were not asked or informed of this or why it was done. The neighbor informed us that their landlord had cut a wire when digging the lawn and this was the cable company’s fix. The wire being WHITE is offensive and we want to removed, I feel that the wire should have been directed to the cable box(boxes) that are on the streets not into our box attached to our house. Do these companies have the RIGHT to come onto our property, use the box attached to our house WITHOUT our permission? Should they not at least have left us some kind of notice in our mailbox with their explanations and if it is a temporary or permanent solution . Please advise of our rights in this matter.