British Columbia·Metro Matters

Brad West looks set to become Metro Vancouver's youngest — and most outspoken — mayor

What makes Port Coquitlam interesting in this election isn't the competition, but the type of politician 33-year-old Brad West is.

'I don't see populism as a dirty word,' says West, 33, who has focused on foreign investment in housing market

At 33 years old, Brad West has already served on Port Coquitlam council for a decade. (City of Port Coquitlam)

There are 13 mayors in Metro Vancouver stepping down next month, and some of the election campaigns to replace them are full of intrigue.

Then there's Port Coquitlam. 

With three-term mayor and Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore stepping aside, there are four candidates looking to replace him: Patrick Alambets, Eric Hirvonen, Robin Smith and Brad West.

Alambets got less than five per cent of the vote when he ran for mayor in 2008 and 2011, Hirvonen only got 11 per cent when he ran in 2014, and Smith has no discernable profile in the city, nor a campaign underway. 

West, on the other hand, is a three-term councillor who got the most votes of any candidate in 2011 and 2014, and is endorsed by the popular incumbent. 

"The only reason [others] who want to run for mayor right now is to be a disrupter, and frankly get some of their crazy ideas out there. I'm not even suggesting they're doing it for the right reasons for our community," said Moore. 

"Brad's done a great job on council, a great job in our community, and I think he'll do a really great job as the mayor of Port Coquitlam."

'I'm not sure how Brad will be when he becomes the mayor, but when you're running for an office, you're tying to get noticed, you're trying to get your issues forward, and Brad's very effective at doing that,' says Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore. (CBC)

Supply and demand

But what makes Port Coquitlam interesting in this election isn't the competition but the type of politician West is.

"I don't see populism as a dirty word," he said. "I think that too much of politics and decision-making, and many of our politicians, are detached from the reality of most working people." 

While an experienced politician, West is just 33 years old — and is happy to sometimes buck conventional wisdom among Metro Vancouver's current leaders. 

Take, for example, the question of affordability. Like most, West says the region needs a greater supply and diversity of housing options. But on the question of the impact of foreign money, West is more aggressive than most in pushing for a crackdown. 

"You first have to deal with some of the abuse and quite frankly corruption that has occurred in the real estate market," he said. 

To that end, West said he would consider forcing developers to offer presales to locals first as a condition of rezoning and permit approvals and would lobby the provincial and federal government for further changes. 

"People who want to live here, work here, pay taxes here and contribute to the community, those are the people who I'm interested in helping. Not people who have an address here, but it's used as a method to get money out of a foreign country."

Moderating when mayor

The subject of foreign influence often animates West. Just last week, he criticized mayors and councillors attending a reception in Whistler held by China's consulate-general, saying "voters and residents are going to rightfully question who their mayors and councillors are working for when they show up at stuff like that."

Moore wonders whether West will keep up his strong tone when he becomes mayor or moderate how he talks about hot-button issues. 

"We have seen more direct conversations all the way from the president of the United States through to local politicians, and there's some people who definitely prefer that style, and it works very well for them," he said.

"I'm not sure how Brad will be when he becomes the mayor, but when you're running for an office you're tying to get noticed, you're trying to get your issues forward, and Brad's very effective at doing that." 

For his part, West said he'll emulate Moore's consensus-based approach around the council table if he becomes mayor.

But he's also clear that a promotion to Port Coquitlam's top job won't impact his communication methods. 

"I will continue to be outspoken," he said. "That will not change." 

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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