Richard Stewart says hell seek one final term as Mayor of Coquitlam

Richard Stewart says he\ll seek one final term as Mayor of Coquitlam
#CQvotes2018: Stewart seeks “one more” term as mayor
After months of speculation, Richard Stewart has made his decision: he'll seek one more term as mayor of Coquitlam.

"My wife has told me that yes, this is my final run," said Stewart, explaining his choice to run for a fourth term in office. 

"The challenge ahead of us is to keep Metro Vancouver communities as livable as possible. And if anything, expand that livability. We've made great strides in Coquitlam, there's lots more to be done, and it's the same across the region." 

Business owner Adel Gamar and former council candidate Massimo Mandarino have also declared their intention to run. 

But Stewart — who has increased his vote percentage in his three election victories from 52 to 68 per cent — will be considered the favourite, in a year where so many of his fellow mayors are choosing to step aside.

"There's so many major projects that have to be completed, and, partly down the path, I do believe we're going to need some measure of continuity at the Metro Vancouver board table to ensure these projects move forward." 

Before entering politics, Stewart served in a variety of roles related to affordable housing and building codes, and the topic motivates him, as the region grapples with an affordability crisis. 

"I'm running mostly because of the challenges we have with housing across the region … my career has been in housing. And there are some things governments can do to help mitigate the current challenges, and to advance public policy that supports families in being better housed and more affordably housed." 

To Stewart, this means increased density — not just along new Evergreen Line stations, where multiple condos have been constructed but more townhomes and multiplexes in the city's older, single-family home neighbourhoods.

"There's no more land to build out. We're not going to sprawl. That means we have to build upward to some degree," he said. 

Stewart's detractors point out that despite his passion, affordability in Coquitlam hasn't improved. (The benchmark price of a home has increased by 62.5 per cent in the last three years.)

Still, he believes there have been successes and with increased funding from higher levels of government beginning to take effect, it's important to have veteran leadership on a regional level.  

"I came from a background of public policy, and I was overwhelmed at first by the vast amount of stuff that you didn't get asked about during the campaign, because the public isn't quite aligned with the a full understanding of Metro Vancouver's role."

Stewart revealed publicly three years ago that one of his daughters suffers from mental health issues and says one of his priorities if re-elected is to establish a municipal role for cities on expanding resources. 

"The stigma has meant we don't talk about it, and if you don't talk about, it's hard for governments to fund it," he said. 

"Our family has got to see firsthand the shortcomings of the existing system, the gaps, the very deadly gaps in a system that is full of well meaning people but not enough of them."

It's part of an ambitious agenda Stewart hopes to take on if re-elected. But he's hopeful Coquitlam voters give him the chance to take it on.   

"The family has stepped behind me and said we're doing this again. Four years is a lot … and it's a challenging decision. But we've got some things we need to accomplish."   

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Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart announced on Wednesday that he will seek “one more mayoral term” in the upcoming municipal election. 

The three-term incumbent said he has accomplished a lot during his tenure, but more work needs to be done, particularly around housing affordability. He noted that community amenities will also be an important issue in the 2018 election. 

“Weve achieved a lot over the past four years,” he said in a press release. “But there are still some important initiatives to complete.” 

Stewart was first elected to council in 2005 before winning the mayors chair in 2008. He was re-elected in 2011 and 2014. 

During his time on council, he said he has worked to create more affordable housing opportunities in Coquitlam. With both the federal and provincial governments taking a renewed interest in the housing file, Stewart added that he believes there are opportunities the city can leverage. 

“Coquitlams Housing Affordability Strategy has been recognized across the region for its successes, and I want to continue to refine it,” he said. “Its been decades since both senior levels of government showed a keen interest in supporting affordable housing, and that bodes well for those who are struggling with todays challenged market.”