Richard Stewart says he'll seek one final term as Mayor of Coquitlam
With so many Metro Vancouver leaders leaving, Stewart believe it's important to have some regional continuity
After months of speculation, Richard Stewart has made his decision: he'll seek one more term as mayor of Coquitlam.
And only one.
"My wife has told me that yes, this is my final run," said Stewart, explaining his choice to run for a fourth term in office.
"The challenge ahead of us is to keep Metro Vancouver communities as livable as possible. And if anything, expand that livability. We've made great strides in Coquitlam, there's lots more to be done, and it's the same across the region."
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Business owner Adel Gamar and former council candidate Massimo Mandarino have also declared their intention to run.
But Stewart — who has increased his vote percentage in his three election victories from 52 to 68 per cent — will be considered the favourite, in a year where so many of his fellow mayors are choosing to step aside.
"There's so many major projects that have to be completed, and, partly down the path, I do believe we're going to need some measure of continuity at the Metro Vancouver board table to ensure these projects move forward."
Before entering politics, Stewart served in a variety of roles related to affordable housing and building codes, and the topic motivates him, as the region grapples with an affordability crisis.
"I'm running mostly because of the challenges we have with housing across the region ... my career has been in housing. And there are some things governments can do to help mitigate the current challenges, and to advance public policy that supports families in being better housed and more affordably housed."
To Stewart, this means increased density — not just along new Evergreen Line stations, where multiple condos have been constructed but more townhomes and multiplexes in the city's older, single-family home neighbourhoods.
"There's no more land to build out. We're not going to sprawl. That means we have to build upward to some degree," he said.
Stewart's detractors point out that despite his passion, affordability in Coquitlam hasn't improved. (The benchmark price of a home has increased by 62.5 per cent in the last three years.)
Still, he believes there have been successes and with increased funding from higher levels of government beginning to take effect, it's important to have veteran leadership on a regional level.
"I came from a background of public policy, and I was overwhelmed at first by the vast amount of stuff that you didn't get asked about during the campaign, because the public isn't quite aligned with the a full understanding of Metro Vancouver's role."
Mental health a priority
Stewart revealed publicly three years ago that one of his daughters suffers from mental health issues and says one of his priorities if re-elected is to establish a municipal role for cities on expanding resources.
"The stigma has meant we don't talk about it, and if you don't talk about, it's hard for governments to fund it," he said.
"Our family has got to see firsthand the shortcomings of the existing system, the gaps, the very deadly gaps in a system that is full of well meaning people but not enough of them."
It's part of an ambitious agenda Stewart hopes to take on if re-elected. But he's hopeful Coquitlam voters give him the chance to take it on.
"The family has stepped behind me and said we're doing this again. Four years is a lot ... and it's a challenging decision. But we've got some things we need to accomplish."
CBC Vancouver is exploring the mayoral campaigns in each of Metro Vancouver's 21 municipalities leading up to civic elections on Oct. 20.