British Columbia

New leadership first order of business for Metro Vancouver and Mayors' Council

Election season is over at a municipal level but not at a regional one.

The regional boards oversee TransLink, growth strategies and much more — and they need new chairs

Metro Vancouver's offices overlook bustling development centred around the Metrotown SkyTrain station in Burnaby. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Election season may be over in individual cities. But at a regional level in Metro Vancouver, it's just beginning. 

Both the Metro Vancouver board of directors and the TransLink Mayors' Council will meet in the middle of November for the first time since local elections resulted in a massive change of leadership.

And when both groups meet, they will immediately have to choose new chairs and vice-chairs to head the powerful organizations.  

"There's a lot of discussion and lobbying, or electioneering  [on the part of ] people who might want to become the chair to reach out to others for support," said Greg Moore, the outgoing chair of Metro Vancouver and outgoing mayor of Port Coquitlam. 

Sixteen new mayors have been elected in Metro Vancouver.

Role of Metro Vancouver

The Metro Vancouver board is made up of 40 representatives from all 21 regional municipalities, with the largest cities  (Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam, Langley and Delta) having one additional representative for every 100,000 people in their municipalities. 

City councils will decide which people will be their representatives on the Metro Vancouver board, but it's guaranteed at least 60 per cent of members will be brand new. 

Once there, they will be in charge of an annual budget close to a billion dollars, responsible for everything from regional growth strategies to parks to wastewater facilities. 

"Almost nobody understands, other than those that sit at the table, the complexity of the regional governance structures, because the public doesn't see them firsthand," said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, one of the five returning leaders in the region. 

Stewart is hopeful the mayors who got elected promising to slow down growth and conduct more consultations understand the need to continue progress on some regional issues that have been in the works for years.

When I first got elected mayor, there were a few projects I wanted to revisit, but it wasn't possible. Once the work has started on a project, we really have to continue on it, unless there's a major reason not to," he said.

"I want to talk to those newly elected. I welcome them, but I want everyone to be realistic about the importance of the regional infrastructure needs."

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Coté for Mayors' Council chair? 

The dynamic is similar on the Mayors' Council that oversees TransLink, which also needs to choose a new chair after Derek Corrigan's dramatic defeat on election night. 

Just six of the 23 people on the council are returning (the five surviving mayors, plus Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Bryce Williams), putting more pressure on incumbents to provide institutional knowledge in the months ahead. 

"I think the few remaining members are going ot have to play strong roles, definitely with the experience and understanding the work those two bodies are working on," said New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté. 

"But those boards have to find ways to allow the many new voices around the table to help shape the region."

Coté said he'll be reaching out to fellow mayors to see if they would support him as chair. If he succeeds, he'd play a leading role in whether Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum's pledge to push forward on a SkyTrain to Langley — and ditch funded plans for LRT to Guildford and Newton — becomes a reality. 

"It would be a significant departure from the previously approved and fully funded plan the TransLink board was moving ahead with," he said.

"Having said that, if a host municipality is not supportive of a major transportation investment, that's not something that can be ignored." 

The first mayors' council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 15, with the first Metro Vancouver board meeting on Nov. 16. 

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