Bashing business-as-usual or sexist insults? Mayors race gets heated in City of North Vancouver

Bashing business-as-usual or sexist insults? Mayor\s race gets heated in City of North Vancouver
Race to Watch: Wide open contests as pair of 4-term North Vancouver mayors bow out
On the surface, the election in the City of North Vancouver is the same as so many in Metro Vancouver.

The sitting mayor decided to call it quits after several terms during which construction cranes dominated the skyline and the cost of housing nearly doubled. Residents grumbled that civic leaders listened to developers too much.

We could be talking about Port Coquitlam, West Vancouver, White Rock, Maple Ridge … there are a lot of races with similar contours this election. 

Two-term councillor Linda Buchanan believes the city is on the right track and the amount of growth is appropriate.

"We definitely need to focus on making sure the kind of development we're producing is at the right pace, and the right place, and the right kind — and we've been doing that," she said. 

But Buchanan doesn't have one well-known candidate running against her — she has two council veterans and an experienced mayoral candidate taking aim at her record and that of outgoing Mayor Darrell Mussatto.

"We've seen the impact of a developer-run council," said former councillor Guy Heywood. 

"The pace of development is far too fast, and we need to slow it considerably … the traffic situation is getting worse all the time, and that has begun to affect people's view points." said current councillor Rod Clark. 

"Affordable units are under attack. They're being developed into new units," said Kerry Morris, who finished a close second to Mussatto in 2014.

"The people that pay $900 to $1,400 a month in rent, they don't have the wherewithal to make that leap. So we're sending them packing."

Buchanan says she's happy to debate questions of growth and affordability, but criticizes the way her opponents have defined her.

"We've nicknamed Linda Darrell 2.0. She is a clone. If Darrell 2.0 gets into office, you can expect exactly the same thing," said Morris.

"They just continue to compare myself to a man, which I find insulting to me, and is insulting to every woman is our community," she said, pointing out her advocacy on a city dementia strategy, improved walkability, and preserving heritage spaces. 

"This isn't an election about the contrast between me and Mayor Mussatto, it's a contrast between me and these men. I have proven leadership in this community, and I find that insulting."

It's a unique wrinkle in a race that is otherwise very generic: forces against the way Metro Vancouver has grown over the last decade — and an incumbent happy to defend it. 

"I find it very shocking that, in 2018, these three men can't believe that a women can basically think for herself, and basically are overlooking everything I've brought to the council table." 

All of them strike similar notes about wanting to slow down development and improve gridlock in the region, but claim they're the best choice for anti-Buchanan voters — Clark mentioning his support of the incoming $237 million Harry Jerome recreation centre, Heywood and Morris criticizing Clark for the same project. 

"We really run the risk here, three opponents of the status quo, may allow the status quo to sneak back in," said Heywood.  

CBC Vancouver is exploring the mayoral campaigns in each of Metro Vancouver's 21 municipalities leading up to civic elections on Oct. 20.

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.

Regardless of who takes home the mayor’s chain come Oct. 20, it will mean the end of an era in North Vancouver.

For both North Vancouvers, that is, with the mayors of both municipalities calling it quits after having each served four terms in office.

City of North Vancouver (CNV) Mayor Darrell Mussatto leaves behind a changed municipality after leading it through significant densification of the downtown core.

District of North Vancouver (DNV) Mayor Richard Walton is stepping aside, citing the recent completion of the district’s Official Community Plan as his cue to pass the torch.

The rare openings have resulted in an unusual surge of candidates stepping forward; keep in mind their four terms in office, Walton was acclaimed as mayor twice, while Mussatto was once.

Traffic congestion, development and affordability lead the City of North Vancouver’s list of burning issues in 2018.

The city has seen significant intensification in the Lower Lonsdale area under Mussatto’s tenure, which has become a major flashpoint.

Two-term Coun. Linda Buchanan, seen by some as an acolyte of outgoing Mayor Mussatto, said she’s open to continued development near transit in line with the city’s official community plan.

“I believe growth needs to be at the right pace, the right place, and the right kind,” she said, adding she’s pushing for purpose-built rental and would look at leasing city land and working with non-profits to produce subsidized housing.

On transportation, Buchanan said she’d pressure higher levels of government for more highway and bridge infrastructure, while working for more walking and cycling infrastructure.

Seven-time Coun. Rod Clark, whose campaign materials have sought to link Buchanan and Mussatto directly, is campaigning on a pledge to cool the pace of development, particularity in the Lonsdale area, and with it the “cranes, condos, cars” he said have become endemic in the city.

“Congestion is becoming unbearable. I will put the brakes on the crazy pace of condo construction and get traffic moving again,” he told Global News.

Clark said he’d require 10 per cent affordable housing in new stratas and explore rental-only zoning.

Film industry entrepreneur Kerry Morris, who ran against Mussatto in 2014, has put gridlocked roads front and centre in his campaign. He’s pitching a series of “strategic roadway modifications” to repair North Vancouver’s “traffic mess.”

Morris is also promising to lobby for a third crossing to Vancouver, and light rail to Horseshoe Bay.

Two-time former Coun. Guy Heywood calls a third crossing and light rail unrealistic “quick fixes,” and said he’ll tackle congestion by working more closely with the DNV.

“The last council voted to tear down affordable housing in exchange for luxury towers, which has driven lower-income City residents away,” he told Global News.

Businessman and civil engineer Payam Azad is also running for mayor, pitching more radical ideas like city ownership of a third of all new developments, and the confiscation of empty homes.

Hydrometric technician Michael Wilcock rounds out the ballot with a platform focused on sustainability support for small business.

Congestion and development also form the core of the debate in the District of North Vancouver, where an Official Community Plan that targets development in four key town centres, is being implemented.

Former councillor and federal Conservative candidate Mike Little has the most name recognition in the race, and said the city is building “too much too fast.”

Little said he’d review the district’s OCP next year with an eye to cutting back on small, luxury condos, “set more modest densities, and more aggressive targets for specialized housing,” and consider the use of rental-only zoning.

He’s also pitching a two-year property tax freeze while the city looks for low-income housing solutions and a new land-purchase tax with money to fund transit.

Little said he’s push the province for immediate improvements to the Ironworkers Bridge, and more express buses to Vancouver that connect with SkyTrain stations.

Health policy advisor Ash Amlani, who currently sits on the district’s Community Services Advisory Committee, is heading up the district’s only slate, the Building Bridges Electors Society.

Amlani called congestion the district’s biggest concern, and linked it to commuters driven out by the affordability crunch.

“We have added thousands of new jobs on the North Shore over the past decade but dont have adequate housing options for the people who fill these jobs,” she said.

Amlani said she supports the OCP’s plans for compact development around transit, but would adjust targets for more purpose-built rental and fast track approval for such projects.

She’s also calling for more B-line service and bus priority on roads across the North Shore, along with park and ride options.

Business consultant Glen Webb said he supports the OCP, but that the city needs to create incentives for developers to build multi-bedroom, family-friendly housing, and better transit links to SkyTrain.

Filmmaker Erez Barzilay is campaigning on environmental sustainability and a slowdown in development to keep up with infrastructure.

Dennis Maskell rounds out the ballot with a call for elevated SkyTrain on the North Shore and the end of single-family zoning.

Adding an “X” factor to the race is the debate over whether to amalgamate the City and District of North Vancouver.

The idea has been met with less enthusiasm in the city than in the district. In fact, on DNV voters’ ballots on Oct. 20 will be a non-binding plebiscite question asking whether an advisory panel should be formed to explore the merger.

Opinion is divided in the City of North Vancouver race. Both Linda Buchanan and Rod Clark oppose the idea, arguing it will strip the city of its financial reserves and warning it could lead to higher taxes.

Guy Heywood and Kerry Morris have been open to the possibility. Both have said the concept should be studied and then put to voters.

In the District of North Vancouver, Mike Little said he supports amalgamation, arguing it would help eliminate duplication in service and competition among each municipality’s priorities.

Ash Amlani also said she’s generally supportive of the idea in the long-term, though she added it would be a multi-year process and require the consent of both the CNV and DNV.