Metro Vancouver votes for change as long-serving mayors ousted by upstarts
Many councils face potentially unstable governing coalitions, and a big transit battle looms
On Saturday, people across Metro Vancouver voted for change.
In Surrey, former mayor Doug McCallum made the biggest comeback the city has ever seen, defeating Surrey First's Tom Gill, after two failed mayoral bids in 2005 and 2014.
In Burnaby, Derek Corrigan went down in a shocking defeat after 16 years as mayor and 31 years total on council, even though the city has a billion dollars in reserve and Corrigan has no personal scandals to his name.
Also defeated were Mike Clay in Port Moody, Jon Becker in Pitt Meadows, and Grant Meyer in White Rock. In Langley City, former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Peter Fassbender's presumed return to office was interrupted.
Even further afield, there was change, including in tiny Hazelton in northern B.C., where Alice Maitland, mayor since 1976, was defeated.
Yes, Vancouver looks much the same as it did yesterday: the pro-environment and pro-labour Kennedy Stewart replaced the pro-environment and pro-labour Gregor Robertson as mayor, and there are enough people on the left of the political spectrum to pass legislation through city council.
But across Metro Vancouver, the message was fairly consistent: people want the region to be governed differently.
Whether it was concern about the high cost of housing or rising ambivalence directed at establishment politicians, Saturday saw a bigger turnover of leaders in B.C. than at any time in recent history.
Now comes the hard part: making that change happen.
Fun at the mayors' council
If there's one place the region's new leadership and new dynamic will be felt immediately, it's the TransLink mayors' council.
The group oversees all TransLink decisions, was chaired by Burnaby's Derek Corrigan, and had committed to building light rapid transit in Surrey, with a complex funding formula totalling $1.65 billion agreed to by all three levels of government.
Suddenly, Corrigan is no longer chair. And Surrey no longer wants LRT. It now has a mayor, with a majority on council, who says he'll do everything in his power to ensure a SkyTrain to Langley is built instead.
It means an interesting vote will take place on who becomes the new chair — and vice-chair, with the District of North Vancouver's Richard Walton retiring.
It also means delicate conversations will be taking place on whether to accede to McCallum's demands to scrap the LRT lines to Guildford and Surrey, put that money to the Langley SkyTrain, and find an estimated extra billion dollars to fund the new project — to say nothing of whether the provincial and federal government will go along with that plan.
Those conversations will happen with 16 new Metro Vancouver mayors at the table, putting pressure on the longest-serving ones — Richmond's Malcolm Brodie and Coquitlam's Richard Stewart — to provide a lot of institutional knowledge for critical decisions in the near term.
The mayors' council isn't the only place where new coalitions will be made.
Mayors don't wield power over city councils in the same way a provincial leader with a majority can. They're more like chief executive officers, so in order for a mayor to pass a policy, he or she must round up the necessary votes.
In Burnaby, Michael Hurley faces the unenviable position of working with a council where seven of the eight members are from Corrigan's Burnaby Citizens Association.
In Richmond, Malcolm Brodie has gotten much of his agenda through with the support of councillors from Richmond First and the Richmond Communication Coalition. Now, they've dropped to just three of the eight seats.
In Vancouver, Stewart will likely have to rely on the support of Green Party councillors Adriane Carr, Pete Fry and Michael Wiebe, COPE's Jean Swanson and OneCity's Christine Boyle if he wants any of his motions passed — a very eclectic group of five soon-to-be councillors.
Election night is full of celebrations. But the next four years are about making campaign promises a reality.
Some will have an easier time with that than others.