Metro Matters

Bashing business-as-usual or sexist insults? Mayor's race gets heated in City of North Vancouver

Incumbent, establishment councillor Linda Buchanan doesn't have one well-known candidate running against her, she has three — an experienced mayoralty candidate and two council veterans.

On the surface, discussions are about growth, but Linda Buchanan says that's not all

Four of six of the mayoral candidates for the City of North Vancouver, from left, Linda Buchanan, Kerry Morris, Rod Clark and Guy Heywood. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

On the surface, the election in the City of North Vancouver is the same as so many in Metro Vancouver.

The sitting mayor decided to call it quits after several terms during which construction cranes dominated the skyline and the cost of housing nearly doubled. Residents grumbled that civic leaders listened to developers too much.

Also, people complained about traffic. A lot. 

After the mayors announced their retirements, a sitting councillor stepped up. 

We could be talking about Port Coquitlam, West Vancouver, White Rock, Maple Ridge ... there are a lot of races with similar contours this election. 

But things in the City of North Vancouver are a little different.

The City of North Vancouver has continued to develop its waterfront in recent years, including the Shipyards - Lot 5, a public area that will feature a skating rink. (City of North Vancouver)
 

Three main rivals

Two-term councillor Linda Buchanan believes the city is on the right track and the amount of growth is appropriate.

"We definitely need to focus on making sure the kind of development we're producing is at the right pace, and the right place, and the right kind — and we've been doing that," she said. 

But Buchanan doesn't have one well-known candidate running against her — she has two council veterans and an experienced mayoral candidate taking aim at her record and that of outgoing Mayor Darrell Mussatto.

"We've seen the impact of a developer-run council," said former councillor Guy Heywood. 

"The pace of development is far too fast, and we need to slow it considerably ... the traffic situation is getting worse all the time, and that has begun to affect people's view points." said current councillor Rod Clark. 

"Affordable units are under attack. They're being developed into new units," said Kerry Morris, who finished a close second to Mussatto in 2014.

"The people that pay $900 to $1,400 a month in rent, they don't have the wherewithal to make that leap. So we're sending them packing."

'Insulting to every woman in our community.'

Buchanan says she's happy to debate questions of growth and affordability, but criticizes the way her opponents have defined her.

"We've nicknamed Linda Darrell 2.0. She is a clone. If Darrell 2.0 gets into office, you can expect exactly the same thing," said Morris.

 "There is very little difference. They're peas in a pod," said Clark.  

"Linda really does see herself as protecting and extending the legacy," said Heywood.

All of which raises Buchanan's ire.   

"They just continue to compare myself to a man, which I find insulting to me, and is insulting to every woman is our community," she said, pointing out her advocacy on a city dementia strategy, improved walkability, and preserving heritage spaces. 

"This isn't an election about the contrast between me and Mayor Mussatto, it's a contrast between me and these men. I have proven leadership in this community, and I find that insulting."

It's a unique wrinkle in a race that is otherwise very generic: forces against the way Metro Vancouver has grown over the last decade — and an incumbent happy to defend it. 

Along with her own identity. 

"I find it very shocking that, in 2018, these three men can't believe that a women can basically think for herself, and basically are overlooking everything I've brought to the council table." 

All of them strike similar notes about wanting to slow down development and improve gridlock in the region, but claim they're the best choice for anti-Buchanan voters — Clark mentioning his support of the incoming $237 million Harry Jerome recreation centre, Heywood and Morris criticizing Clark for the same project. 

But Clark and Heywood both acknowledge the threat of vote-splitting.  

"We really run the risk here, three opponents of the status quo, may allow the status quo to sneak back in," said Heywood.  

CBC Vancouver is exploring the mayoral campaigns in each of Metro Vancouver's 21 municipalities leading up to civic elections on Oct. 20.

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About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is a reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering political stories throughout British Columbia.