Governance & Politics
September 25, 2018

Mayoral Exit Interview: Surrey (Part II)

There was a time when Surrey was the butt of jokes. No more.

As we read in Part I of our exit interview yesterday, the city is growing by leaps and bounds. New town centres, new towers, new parks, and of course, new bike lanes.

More tellingly, the next mayor will have at least as much influence over the implementation of the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy as any other mayor. ‘Cause Surrey is where it’s all going to happen —people, homes, transit and jobs. The big question though — in what order?

In our conclusion, Hepner addresses the role of the Province in accommodating that growth, why she feels women sometimes avoid politics, and what candidates should stay away from. (If you’ve been reading this Mayoral Exit Interview series, you may not need three guesses for that one). Plus, her immediate priorities upon leaving office.

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This year, despite the oxygen taken up by Vancouver’s municipal election, Surrey’s race is just as interesting — highly partisan, complex and crowded.

Six candidates for every available seat on Council, and eight mostly credible candidates for mayor.

And zero chance of Surrey First repeating its clean sweep of 2014, when Mayor Linda Hepner stepped in. It’s a tough act to follow. None of the candidates bring anything resembling Hepner’s experience and steady rise to power over the past 33 years — two decades as city staff, three terms as councillor, and now the mayoralty.

All this, right at the end mid-point beginning (?!?) of Surrey’s growth explosion; currently close to 550,000 people, the city tends to add the equivalent population of a Mission or Port Coquitlam every five years.

Thankfully, work on Phase 2 of the Mayors Plan for transit and transportation will bring a commuter rail system to Surrey’s bursting town centres; Hepner’s been fighting for light rail since her election in 2014, as the BC Liberal referendum plot brewed away in Victoria.

Despite the senseless delay, the plan is going ahead and the rail lines will be built — as will the new Pattullo Bridge. Just not on her watch.

Infrastructure is a funny thing that way. So are legacies — and Hepner has something to say about that.

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Yesterday, Part I of our exit interview with District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton covered issues demonstrating the typical range of concerns acknowledged by mayors in other cities.

Such as the appearance of traffic backups from the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge to Lower Lonsdale in 2012, within days of the opening of the Port Mann Bridge…25 kilometres away. The critical, cross-jurisdictional piece of North Shore infrastructure that he believes everyone has forgotten about. And the reasons why mistrust and resentment are brewing away in one District community, on the basis of new developments, lack of housing affordability, and traffic.

Check it out, and read Part II below — on North Van being caught in the missing middle, on engaging the community on change, and what that change may need to look like in the near future.

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In this 4th in our series of Mayoral Exit Interviews, Richard Walton of the District of West Vancouver, who has spent fully one-third of his life in public service — as school trustee (1986-’93), then as councillor (2002-’05), and finally as mayor (’05-’18).

Walton has also done what many of today’s mayoral candidates may not fully appreciate as an essential part of the job — serving on the Boards of a number of organizations representing the enormous operational complexity and cultural diversity of this region: B.C. Games for Athletes with Disability, Fraser Basin Council, Metro Vancouver, Municipal Finance Authority of BC, Mayors’ Council, North Vancouver Police Committee, and Metro Vancouver (GVRD) committees on Culture, Environment and Energy, Federal Gas Tax, Finance, Performance and Audit, Port Cities, to name a few.

In 2004, Walton also reinforced one of the more unfortunate stereotypes of chartered accountants everywhere, by co-founding the World Mountain Bike Conference and Festival.

The brain drain continues with his retirement this fall; here’s part I of our exit interview. 

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Yesterday, we published Part I of our interview with Mayor Wayne Baldwin of White Rock, who shed a bit of light on what’s been happening in the ‘City by the Sea”, and his experiences as both Mayor and City Manager.

Today, some regional and electoral context — are White Rock residents dealing with the same issues as other Metro Vancouver residents? What’s his impression of the field of candidates in his city, as we prepare for unprecedented turnover?

And a discussion of amalgamation…is that a thing in White Rock? (Side question for you, dear reader — when was the last time you looked at White Rock on a map?)

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Nobody has asked the question why, for a series called ‘Mayoral Exit Interview’, the headline refers to the city name and not the mayor’s name.

The simple fact is that, if the headline said ‘Wayne Baldwin’, the majority of our readers may not make the connection. (That’s on us, not him.) But White Rock? We all know at least one thing about this beautiful little urban oasis, named after a 486-ton granite boulder that wandered away from a glacier a few thousand years ago, and became a guano-covered beacon to sailors.

In this slightly less poetic, modern age, the City of White Rock is a municipality of just five square kilometres, and smothered in Surrey. It also boasts five kilometres of south-facing ocean coastline, one of the region’s best beach-and-patio locales. And of course, it has become a housing destination for people fleeing other, more expensive urban centres.

Baldwin served as City Manager for over two decades before stepping into the Mayor’s chair in 2011, so if anyone can speak to the White Rock experience the past few decades, it’s him. Now, before he leaves Buena Vista Avenue for good and takes those 30+ years of experience with him, let’s find out some of what he’s learned.

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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.

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This week, we’ve been posting excerpts from our first Mayoral Exit Interview, featuring City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto.

Part I covered his perception of the public’s judgement of his time in the Mayor’s seat (13 years, spanning the 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014 elections), and his achievements.

In Part II, Mussatto discussed do-overs, changes in the city during his tenure, and the challenges he believes the next Mayor will face.

Now, we conclude with Part III — on advice for this year’s candidates, what citizens need to know about civic governance, and his plans for the future.

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Yesterday, we published Part I of our chat with Darrell Mussatto, Mayor of the City of North Vancouver, which included his take on accomplishments during his four terms in the role.

Which, by the way, is only half of his time in City Hall; Mussatto’s political career began as councillor with the 1993 election, the same year:

  • Ground broke at Vancouver’s Library Square
  • Surrey became a city
  • MP Hedy Fry defeated then-incumbent Prime Minister Kim Campbell in her own riding
  • The Clinton-Yeltsin summit at UBC
  • Launch of Mosaic, the first World Wide Web browser

We begin Part II of the Mayoral Exit Interview with this magic question:

What would you do over again?

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At last count, 11 Metro Vancouver mayors will not be returning to council chambers in the fall; with some mayors having served multiple terms, the changeover accompanying the October 20 province-wide municipal elections represents a unique, and perhaps unprecedented, loss of institutional memory at city hall after city hall.

As such, Price Tags will publish exit interviews from mayors wishing to share their lessons learned from their public service.

Our debut Mayoral Exit Interview features Darrell Mussatto of the City of North Vancouver; this is the first of a three-part post from our chat.

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