VICTORIA — The brochures arrived this week and Stephen Hammond wasted no time putting them to use.

Within hours, the 59-year-old author, businessman and activist was going door to door, handing out campaign flyers and introducing himself as a candidate for mayor of Victoria.

It was both strange and familiar territory for him.

“I’ve been around politics all my life,” he said, “yet never as a candidate.”

Hammond, whose mother, Gerrie was a cabinet minister in Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon’s Progressive Conservative government in the 1980s, said he has worked on political campaigns for years.

“I’ve knocked on more doors than 99.9 per cent of Canadians,” he said.

Always, he was introducing somebody else. This time, he stepped up to run because he believes the city needs a change in leadership.

“I decided: ‘Hey, if someone’s not going to step forward, then no one will.’ ”

Hammond, who helped found the Mad As Hell neighbourhood group two years ago in response to the tent city at the Victoria courthouse, heads a team of candidates running under the NewCouncil umbrella.

The other members include real estate agent Gary Alberts, former B.C. Transit manager Randie Johal and Andrew Reeve, who works in communications.

Hammond, who earns his living writing and speaking about workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination, said fiscal responsibility and improving public safety will be top priorities for the team.

“A lot of people don’t feel safe going downtown,” he said. “And that’s wrong. I mean, this is Victoria.”

He also pointed to the lack of transparency around council’s decision to remove the statue of John A. Macdonald from outside city hall, and pledged to do a better job of listening to city residents.

“Our point is: Let us talk to people, let us listen to what’s going on — truly listen — not just (to) special interests as (Mayor) Lisa Helps likes to do, and then decide what needs to be done.”

Helps countered that she and the rest of council have done lots of listening over the past four years.

She pointed to an increase in public engagement events under her watch, regular community drop-in sessions in her office, and her frequent appearances on call-in radio shows to answer questions from the public.

“We are listening and it’s really challenging to balance all the perspective we hear in a rapidly changing city,” she said.

Helps acknowledged concerns about the statue decision. “Probably we could have done a better job, but I wouldn’t want that — and I don’t think it’s fair to let that — characterize a whole term of office, where I feel like I’ve been listening and engaged.”

On the issues facing downtown, Helps agreed that more needs to be done with regard to public safety.

“I think where I differ strongly from Stephen Hammond was, and is, my approach to the issue,” she said.

Helps said tent city was a difficult situation for everyone, and her approach was to work with the province, police, neighbours and tent city residents to find a solution.

“I think probably what people want in a leader, when a really tough situation comes up like that, is not somebody who’s going to get mad as hell, but somebody who’s going to stay resolutely calm and build relationships.”

Hammond is the fourth person to challenge Helps for the mayor’s job. He joins businessmen Gary Beyer and Sean Leitenberg and child poverty activist Rob Duncan.