Metro Matters

As White Rock's mayor steps down, election is about change vs. status quo

In White Rock, the divisions are similar to those in other communities: the pace of development and whether the council is open and transparent with its citizens

The only councillor running to replace Wayne Baldwin says he can't name a bad decision of his

The City of White Rock borders Semiahmoo Bay and is host to dozens of beachfront businesses. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

If elected mayor of White Rock in October, Grant Meyer plans to keep his job as a second officer with BC Ferries, helping to chart the path between Tsawassen and Swartz Bay on a regular basis. 

"White Rock's a smaller community, and many of our past mayors have had full-time jobs, and I've talked with my employer, and I'll be able to do a job share or leaves of absences or something to that effect," he said.

It's an unconventional approach, but, in most other respects, Meyer is a conventional local politician. A three-term councillor, Meyer has been part of the majority coalition on council (White Rock Coalition) and hopes to continue the approach of current mayor Wayne Baldwin, who's not seeking re-election.

"I think generally things are going well in White Rock," he said. 

"I don't think there's anything the mayor has done that I could point out, on the spot, saying it's a bad thing."

New opposition group

But sharp political battles have long been part of the small, seaside municipality's culture, and this election looks to be no different. 

"The frustration levels in the City of White Rock is in what mayor and council are doing without the input of local residents," said Darryl Walker.

A former president of the B.C. Government Service and Employees' Union, Walker is the mayoral candidate for Democracy Direct White Rock. The group started in opposition to Baldwin in 2017 and has enough community support that South Surrey-White Rock MP Gordon Hogg agreed to speak at its event earlier this week and will be announcing council candidates later this month. 

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin says he will not seek a third term in office. (whiterockcity.ca)

The group has focused its criticisms on a perceived lack of transparency and the introduction of highrise towers in a city of just 20,000 people. 

"You simply have to say to people '[we want] a moratorium on high rises in White Rock,' and it's 'where do I sign?' There are people who are frustrated. They see their community as almost overrun by towers now," said Walker.  

"We're not certain whether people trust Mr. Meyer or not. He's voted on virtually every one of the initiatives that Mayor Baldwin has brought in, so I think that shows his positioning."

New towers that are either under construction or planned for the city's town core, including the planned Phase 2 of the Miramar Village, have divided residents. (Bosa Properties )

'Some people have said they're NIMBYs'

But Meyer has the same explanation for development that many politicians across the region have, whether in White Rock or Vancouver: changes in housing stock are needed, more density is required for affordability, and the projects approved have been balanced.

"Most of these new [towers] are going up in an area where they're not displacing anyone but will add units in the area," he said.  

"We're growing at a smaller rate than many of our neighbouring municipalities and a lot of people are happy with some of those changes. There are difficulties with change and with revitalization and we're trying to handle those the best we can."

Meyer was less than complimentary of Democracy Direct — "They're entitled to their opinion. That's fine. Some people have said their NIMBYs or against everything" — and with three sitting councillors supporting him, is the presumptive favourite at the moment.

And, at this point, he is speaking in a way more reminiscent of an incumbent than a challenger. 

"I think White Rock's always been a great place to live, and we'll continue to be a great place," he said. 

"I think we're moving forward with a lot of positive things and would like to continue that."

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.

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