We continue our series of exit interviews with Metro Vancouver mayors standing down this election cycle with Port Coquitlam’s Greg Moore, wrapping up his third term as mayor, fifth overall in city council chambers.
With a planning degree from SFU, an MBA focused on digital technology, experience as city staff, and having served in a variety of high-profile intergovernmental leadership roles alongside his elected roles — including chair of the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors since 2011 — Moore is well-positioned to parlay his knowledge and experience into more political capital.
Some might expect him to seek elected office at other levels of government. But will he?
I spoke to Mayor Moore on Tuesday afternoon, as Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Horgan, and Moore’s outgoing mayoral counterparts Hepner and Robertson wrapped up a media announcement in Surrey for Phase 2 of the Mayors’ 10-Year Vision for Transportation.
I wondered whether you might be calling from the announcement in Surrey.
[laughs] I have too many meetings.
What has been your greatest achievement as mayor, as you believe you will be judged?
I think providing good governance and a respectful workplace, both as mayor and as chair of Metro Vancouver for seven years. For PoCo council, as well as for directors around the region, to govern and push ideas, respect other’s ideas, and work together.
What do you personally feel is your greatest achievement?
Chairing the group to create the Mayors Plan, the document we created as a 10-year vision for transit and transportation in the region. That was the document that the referendum was about, and now phase 1, phase 2, and hopefully in the next year, phase 3 funding. Really, working with all the local governments in the region, and having all but one mayor support that plan to move forward.
The announcement today all started when we put together that plan in bringing the region together, for what we needed to do to move forward. That’s the one that always jumps to my mind, because I think that’s the one that will have generational impacts down the road, long after I’m gone.
Would you like to take a do-over on anything?
The referendum — I think it was a terrible decision, but given that it was forced upon us, I think we could have run our portion of the referendum differently in retrospect. I’m not sure if it would have changed the outcome, but I think there were a lot of lessons learned there. Partially because we had never run a referendum for transit or transportation in the region, and we were trying to figure things out on the fly.
How has your city changed in the time you’ve been in office?
In PoCo, we’ve changed the way we do our community outreach, and I would say that more people feel engaged in the community decision-making process than they did before. We have much richer dialogue with our residents and businesses now, and I think that’s really paid some dividends for us.
What advice would you give an aspiring civic candidate?
Never forget the passion of why you want to serve your community.
What should citizens understand about governing?
A lot of governing comes down to being fiscally responsible, and delivering the services that your residents want. The art of governing is finding the balance between those two.
What is the greatest challenge facing Port Coquitlam in the future?
There’s a lot of noise out there, and a lot of misinformation. So the biggest challenge for politicians in cities, and I think the region, is to try to have really meaningful conversations with their residents amongst all of the noise and misinformation.
It’s not as much a PoCo issue; I follow other communities’ discussion boards on Facebook and it’s much worse. I think the smaller the community sometimes the more intense it is — look at Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Port Moody, White Rock in the last couple of years. There are some really nasty comments and discussions that are going on from people that are frankly not informed about the issues.
And it doesn’t matter whether the issues are transportation, traffic, density, land use planning — you name it, everyone’s got a one-sentence opinion, and people are generally much bolder online than they are if they had come to meet with someone face to face to actually have a conversation about it. So I think that one of the things we need to work on overall is putting more emphasis on better dialogue with our residents, not on social media.
I think it’s a reason why you’re seeing so many mayors not seek re-election. It’s not just mayors — I think I read the other day that there’s the largest number of MPs have already announced they’re not seeking re-election next fall.
I think you’re going to see this at every level of government, a much large turnover or churn rate of elected officials not even seeking re-election. Never mind if they don’t get elected, they’re just not going to seek it. Because it is getting to be so nasty in the online world. And it’s unhealthy for democracy.
Will you stay involved in politics in some way?
[quickly] No. [laughs] Maybe I said no too quickly. I think I’ll always be engaged in democracy, but I won’t be involved in politics. You won’t see my name on a ballot ever again. What that looks like in the future, I’m not sure.
I’m going to do my own consulting business to help organizations understand how to work with local and regional governments around British Columbia. And also do some facilitation for different levels of government to help them get through some of the challenges that they might be facing working in the community.
I joke with people that right now they get my advice for free. We’ll see if it’s worth anything after October.