Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan enters London, Ont. mayoral race

Deputy mayor and 2022 mayoral candidate Josh Morgan and former city manager Martin Hayward outside of London, Ont. city hall on May 26, 2022. Andrew Graham/980 CFPL

Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan has officially entered the race to succeed Mayor Ed Holder in the city’s top job in this year’s civic election.

The Ward 7 councillor appeared Thursday morning in the city hall elections office to file candidacy papers, joined alongside by former city manager Martin Hayward, who will serve as a senior adviser on Morgan’s campaign.

The move comes two days after Holder announced he would not seek a second term as mayor, and would instead retire from political life at the end of the current council term.

Morgan, 44, has served as Ward 7 councillor for two terms and was first elected in 2014. He was elected deputy mayor by council in 2020, after being nominated for the role by Holder, replacing Ward 4 councillor Jesse Helmer.

As of Thursday, the father of four is one of two registered candidates running for mayor. The other, Sean O’Connell, registered on May 2, and previously ran for mayor in 2018 and for the Ward 14 council seat in 2014.

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Speaking to reporters outside of city hall, Morgan said his campaign would be focused in part around continuing the work done by council, which he said “has a great track record.”

“When you look at the things that we’ve started that absolutely, positively need to be completed” — climate action, dealing with homelessness, housing affordability, anti-racism and equity, and adhering to the city’s fiscal plan — “these are all things that Council are united on, and I would expect any candidate running for mayor wants to continue on with those initiatives,” he said.

“Where you will see new things emerging and new pieces are on the opportunities that I see for us to emerge as a huge player within southwestern Ontario, Ontario, and this country,” he continued.

Morgan added that he would be “respectful and engaging” with the “dynamic candidates” running for ward seats, their ideas, and what they’re hearing from voters.

During the scrum, Hayward, who began at city hall as a janitor and who worked his way up to city manager before retiring in 2020, praised Morgan as someone respectful of people and their opinions.

“I would say that he does his homework. I can’t tell you how many times when I was treasurer, he’d come in and question me about … complex issues just so he would have an understanding so he could make an informed decision at council,” he said.

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Morgan’s mayoral run leaves open his Ward 7 council seat.

The ward is now one of at least three guaranteed to have a new councillor this November. Councillors Mo Salih and Jesse Helmer of Wards 3 and 4, respectively, have both indicated they will not run for third terms.

As of Wednesday, the only councillors who had filed nomination papers were Ward 13’s John Fyfe-Millar, Ward 6’s Mariam Hamou, Ward 14’s Steve Hillier, Ward 9’s Anna Hopkins, Ward 8’s Steve Lehman, Ward 2’s Shawn Lewis, and Ward 12’s Elizabeth Peloza.

No candidates had yet filed to run in Ward 7.

“I don’t know who will run in Ward 7,” Morgan said. “I only made my final decision very recently, and I’m sure there are many people who will see this today and be thinking about running.”

“There are still a number of vacancies across the city in many wards, and frankly, I want to lead a good, high-quality team of people, and that means we need a diverse set of candidates for Londoners to choose from. And it’s Londoners who will choose what that team is.”

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Housing and affordable housing will likely be among the top issues, if not the top issue, focused on during the municipal race, as well as the provincial election campaign.

The average price of a house in the London and St. Thomas real estate market has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, hitting $823,974 in March, an increase of 83 per cent from March 2020, according to figures from the London St. Thomas Association of Realtors.

While prices cooled slightly in April with the local average falling to $771,682, the figure is still 80 per cent higher than it was two years ago.

“I do not know how my kids, my young children will be able to afford their own family home in the city with the way the costs have elevated,” Morgan said.

The issue of affordability, he said, is not something that can be solved by one councillor, or one city. “You see the engagement at the federal and provincial levels on this. We will need their support. But we will also have to take actions,” he said.

“There is very good work that has been done by (London Development Institute) and the home builders to try to set the stage. They’re working on producing some reports with some solutions. I’m interested in reading those reports and seeing what may work for London and what role the municipality can play.”

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Candidates have until Aug. 19 to file nomination papers. Voters head to the polls Oct. 24.

— with files from Andrew Graham

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