British Columbia·Analysis

Why Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West will likely have an easy re-election campaign in October

The reasons why Mayor Brad West has become popular inside and outside Port Coquitlam, B.C. — and the reasons he has detractors — are worth exploring. 

West received 86% of the vote in 2018 and currently faces no competition for the job

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West announces he'll seek a second term this October. (Joel Law/CBC News)

Mayors of mid-sized cities aren't usually on the shortlist of potential premiers of Canadian provinces. 

But when John Horgan announced he was retiring, Port Coquitlam's Brad West was one of the names floated as a potential leadership candidate, evidence of his success in making a name for himself after just four years as the city's mayor.

West made it known he wasn't interested, and on Wednesday formally announced he would seek re-election in Port Coquitlam this October. 

"We've accomplished a lot. I think we have a lot more to do. I think our city is distinguishing itself in the province for our leadership on a whole number of things. And I want to complete that work," said West in announcing his decision.   

With no competition at the moment and having received 86 per cent of the vote in 2018, West will likely have an easy campaign over the next two months. 

At the same time, the reasons why he's become popular inside and outside Port Coquitlam — and the reasons he has detractors — are worth exploring. 

(Goldie Poll/CBC News)

Focus on the basics — but have a strong Twitter game

West ticks off many of the boxes of mayors facing little competition in local elections: he runs a suburban community that doesn't deal with the same social issues as the nearby big city. 

He chairs a council where the focus is on congeniality — with one notable exception — and staff-led reports rather than councillor motions and marathon public hearings for rezonings. He has not been criminally charged. And the city's focus is on basic municipal issues. 

"New parks and new playgrounds, spray parks, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, water and sewer utilities, lighting, crosswalks, pedestrian-activated flashers," says West, listing off capital spending projects one by one. 

"Stuff that may not be super exciting, but is the nuts and bolts of a municipality. They're the things people actually spend their tax dollars at city hall for. And we can't ignore those."

West talks about how property taxes are the third lowest in Metro Vancouver, how a new community centre just opened, and the downtown revitalization underway. A second term would see a continuation of that, he promises, along with lobbying for rapid transit to his community and funds to replace the Coquitlam River bridge. 

But he's also not shy online about occasionally drawing contrasts between Port Coquitlam and other municipalities.

Privately, there are a few municipal politicians who grouse about West's portrayal of governing, arguing it's easy to move efficiently in smaller cities with no political parties where council agrees on most issues. 

But West says the things he highlights, such as quickly approving permits or drinking in parks, are popular measures that any city could do efficiently. 

"I tend to think that they're more complicated because the structure of some of those cities is complicated and larger and more bureaucratic. It doesn't have to be that way," he said.

"If it's a challenging issue where it's 50/50 in the community … I can get why that would take some time. But when you're talking about taking years to allow people to drink in some public parks … there's some issues with how the city is structured."   

Guarantees he'll serve a full term

There have been persistent rumours that West could run for the NDP in Port Coquitlam when current MLA and cabinet minister Mike Farnworth retires, perhaps as soon as the next provincial election. 

When asked he if could guarantee Port Coquitlam residents he would serve a full four years if re-elected, West said "absolutely."   

"We stay focused and we follow through and not just talk, but deliver. And that to me, is a hugely rewarding part of this job," he said.

"I don't know that you get that at other levels of government. Maybe you can. But I'll tell you, in my experience in dealing with a lot of politicians at every level … my god, there's a lot of talk. And I'm more of an action person."

To some, it might sound like another self-promoting one-liner, casually dismissing the complexity of problems in larger jurisdictions.

But if the past is any indication, chances are that to most in Port Coquitlam, it'll be another example of why they support Brad West. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now