2 min

A strong voice for our community

Diane Holmes heads to the polls

Credit: Capital Xtra files

Not too long ago, Diane Holmes thought she was retired from active political life. After 17 years in municipal politics, she left her seat as a councillor in 2000 to pursue volunteer interests.

Now she’s back with a vengeance. Holmes has announced that she will run in Somerset Ward, a seat that will be vacated by Elisabeth Arnold when she takes a crack at her own retirement from municipal politics.

Why is she back? There are many reasons, as it turns out.

“I just wasn’t busy enough,” jokes Holmes.

“I was volunteering with many organizations, including the Women’s Action Centre against Violence, which has been working to perform safety audits in the downtown core and at transit stations.

“I’ve also been working with inter-faith housing initiatives that bring together Christians, Jews and Muslims with the common goal of developing housing.”

Holmes is pleased with the results of Elisabeth Arnold’s work for the ward on council, but says, “There’s still lots of work to be done in Centretown.

“There’s the development of LeBreton Flats. There is a lot of rezoning that needs to be looked at. Greening needs to continue in the downtown core. We need more housing in Centretown – certainly affordable housing, but all types of housing development.”

Holmes also cites pedestrians, cycling and public transit accessibility issues as important for Somerset Ward, as well as a focus on developing the commercial aspects of downtown.

“The commercial streets downtown – Sparks, Bank and Elgin – need attention. There needs to be more public consultation on how to improve them.

“I’m a strong believer in public participation, and in making sure that everybody is heard from,” she adds.

Holmes has long been a champion of housing, development and renewal in the downtown core. Twenty years ago, she was part of a city council with a strong activist streak, led by Mayor Marion Dewar. Now, with left-leaning councillors like Arnold and Alex Munter announcing that they will not run in the municipal elections this fall, was the possible lack of a strong left-wing voice on council a factor in her decision?

Of course, says Holmes. “I was concerned about a good strong voice speaking about human rights issues and social services. Certainly, seeing Elisabeth and Alex leaving was a concern.”

In fact, Elisabeth Arnold is the one who sowed the idea of running again in Holmes’s mind.

“I had approached her for suggestions for a possible candidate,” says Arnold. “When she came back and said she was interested, I was very pleased.”

Holmes adds, “When Elisabeth told me she was not going to run, I thought about it for quite some time. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that (running again) was a natural step from the community work I had been doing.”

Arnold thinks that Holmes will continue to represent Somerset Ward effectively.

She says, “First and foremost, Diane has years of experience at the municipal level. She brings a very community-based, progressive voice and is a very strong advocate for downtown.”

Holmes is also a very strong advocate for human rights and social issues. To her, acknowledging the GLBT community and the unofficial “gay portfolio” within city government is a big part of that advocacy.

“One of my personal issues is human rights. That includes gays and lesbians, both from the perspective of things like same-sex marriage and in terms of making sure funding is provided to all groups equitably by the city.

“That will be one of my interests – to ensure that the GLBT community can advance their concerns and needs to council.

“Alex has always been interested in being the point-person on GLBT issues, so he will be missed.

“I hope this will be an interesting three years,” says Holmes, who plans to take her return to politics one term at a time.

“There are certainly lots of interesting things to do at the city level.”