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Mayor says ousting from Metro board politically motivated as move divides Delta council

Councillors say motions aim to restore order, good governance; colleague claims it’s about future election
Motions introduced on Monday, May 6 targeting Mayor George Harvie have shined a light on divisions within Delta council, with the mayor and one councillor claiming the actions of the others are not about re-establishing good governance as they say, but rather a desire to weaken Harvie ahead of the next civic election in 2026 to better another councillor’s chances of beating him in the race for mayor. (submitted photos)

Councillors behind the decision to remove Delta’s mayor from his position at Metro Vancouver say it was done to “re-establish order and good governance in a city that had veered off track,” but the mayor and one dissenting council member say the move was politically motivated with an eye towards the next civic election.

On Monday afternoon (May 6), council unanimously voted in favour of a motion by Coun. Daniel Boisvert to rescind Mayor George Harvie’s appointment to the board of Metro Vancouver (where he serves as chair) effective July 1, as well as a seven-part motion by Coun. Jennifer Johal seemingly intended to curtail the mayor’s ability to operate or represent the City of Delta without prior council approval.

(Coun. Alicia Guichon is currently on leave from council and did not take part in Monday’s meeting.)

Boisvert’s motion originally called for the mayor to vacate his seat at Metro Vancouver immediately. However, he and council were persuaded by Harvie to give him more time in order to fulfil his obligations as board chair and “leave the office there in good stead.”

In a joint statement released after the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, Boisvert, Johal and councillors Rod Binder and Dylan Kruger thanked Harvie for his past service to the community but said their decision “reflects council’s loss of confidence in the mayor’s ability to effectively represent the city’s interests at Metro Vancouver.”

Councillors allege leadership ‘failings’

A longer, more detailed statement from the four was released Thursday morning (May 9), after being delayed two days due to Kruger’s wife giving birth to their son early Tuesday morning. The statement said the motions brought forward Monday were “aimed to re-establish order and good governance in a city that had veered off track due to a series of regrettable actions by Mayor Harvie,” noting his leadership style has changed over the past year “to the point of nonexistence.”

“Last fall, without warning or explanation, the mayor essentially ceased communication with members of council. Despite several attempts to re-establish communication, including direct calls, text messages and emails, most members of council have not been permitted to speak with the mayor outside of formal meetings for over six months,” the statement reads.

The councillors allege Harvie has increasingly been making decisions outside of his authority, creating “an untenable working environment for staff and council.” They further allege that on a number of occasions Harvie attempted to prevent council from gaining access to information while “citing his authority ‘as mayor and CEO of the city.’”

“In other cases, citing the same authority, the mayor has attempted to direct serious policy matters outside of a formal council resolution,” the four claim.

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They point to a report on port policing by Peter German & Associates, commissioned by the mayor and released Sept. 28, 2023 as an example of Harvie exceeding his authority “at a cost of tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars.”

“In other instances, the mayor has directed staff not to invite members of council to events, not to allow members of council to speak, and not to pass on media requests on certain topics to members of council,” the councillors allege.

They also allude to “other serious personnel issues are now before the courts” which they are not able to comment on, presumably a reference to a lawsuit alleging wrongful dismissal and defamation filed by Param Grewal, former general manager of economic development and stakeholder relations in the mayor’s office, that names the City of Delta and Coun. Dylan Kruger as defendants.

“Months of non-communication, abuse of authority and increasingly erratic behavior from the mayor have led council to lose confidence in his ability to represent Delta’s interests at the regional table,” the statement reads.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to failings in the mayor’s leadership that have arisen in the last year. The easy thing would have been to do nothing. As council had been unable to resolve the matter directly with the mayor, we felt we had to take this action in the best interests of Delta residents.”

Mayor blindsided by motions against him

In an interview Thursday afternoon, Harvie said he “felt very gut-kicked” at being removed from his position at Metro Vancouver with no notice.

“I’m really concerned with regards to the image, the bad image this is showing of Delta right now in our community and the rest of Metro Vancouver.”

The mayor took exception to many of the claims made against him, especially singling out the group’s use of the report on port policing as an example of his overreach.

Harvie pointed out that when Peter German presented the report to council on Oct. 23, 2023, Kruger said he was “very thankful” the mayor had taken the issue on. He directed the Reporter to the video record of that council meeting on the city’s website. (Kruger’s remark comes at the 33:48 mark of the footage.)

“That’s what I like about these videos of council meetings; the facts are right there if you want to look at them.”

Harvie said council had “every opportunity” at the time or even after to mention any concerns — “They never did” — and that Kruger had even attended a tour of the Port of Seattle alongside Harvie, German and representatives from Metro Vancouver, the City of Vancouver, and both the Vancouver and Delta police departments prior to the report being published.

“He rode in the same van as us. So I find it really disappointing that they would say that they had no involvement in approval of that subject,” Harvie said. “That was a very serious and still is a very serious public safety initiative which [DPD] Chief Dubord and I took on. But they were fully knowledgeable of it.”

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Harvie also took great exception to the allegation that he created an “untenable working environment” for city staff.

“I’ve always had the support of our staff; I was a staffer. I’ve always supported working [well] with our unions and city manager. (…) That’s the statement which I’m very, very not impressed with,” he said.

Harvie expressed frustration the group took issue with his saying the mayor is chief executive officer of the city when that is the exact language used in the Local Government Act (chapter 323, part 5.2, division 2, section 218(1).

Harvie said he has asked the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to send a representative to speak to him and council about their respective roles and the role of the city manager, in an effort to build respect and understanding.

“I need to show the leadership, which is what I like to do always, to see what I can do to move this forward and leave the political arguments or political conflicts off to the side. They don’t belong at city hall, they belong outside of city hall,” he said.

“I’m not perfect. If there’s things that I need to change, I will change, as my goal is to get us back running to where we’re working effectively for the people of Delta that voted for us.”

Councillor claims colleagues aim to unseat mayor next election

Coun. Jessie Dosanjh, who voted in support of both motions Monday but is not listed among the statement’s authors, claims the motive behind the motions is “to harass, discourage and prevent Mayor George Harvie from running for re-election.”

“This is a political coup and a blatant power grab, with the intention of taking control of the City Of Delta by a very ambitious, but immature and inexperienced individual,” Dosanjh said in an email to the Reporter.

“Why? Because Coun. Dylan Kruger feels he is entitled to be the mayor of Delta. He is being assisted and supported by three councillors who are only in their second year of council.”

Dosanjh himself is also in his second year on council, having been elected as part of Harvie’s Achieving for Delta slate in October of 2022. Achieving for Delta nearly swept that election, claiming the office of mayor, all six council seats and six of seven seats on Delta’s school board.

Dosanjh pointed to Harvie’s vision, leadership and track record as mayor and Delta’s former city manager as the reason why the team had chosen to run under his banner and why they were victorious at the polls.

“George Harvie has over four decades, 40 years, of experience at every level to run efficiently, manage and govern municipalities/cities. He is very well respected by his peers at Metro Vancouver and elected members of the provincial and federal government. His colleagues and fellow directors at Metro Vancouver have elected him as chair of Metro Vancouver because they have full confidence in his abilities and vision,” Dosanjh said.

He said Monday’s actions had nothing to do with policy, Harvie’s vision or his leadership, but Kruger’s “blind ambition.”

“Dylan has demonstrated with his devious political scheming that he is not suited or can be trusted to lead Delta,” Dosanjh said. “Sad for Delta indeed.”

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Mayor Harvie echoed Dosanjh’s supposition, saying the motions removing him from Metro’s board and limiting his ability to attend events without council’s prior permission were, in his opinion, “done for political interests, to reduce my profile over the next two years to give them a better chance of winning an election for mayor.”

“It just feels that way. I know a lot of other people do too.”

Harvie said he heard towards the end of last year that the four councillors had been out fundraising to run in 2026 with Kruger as mayor.

“There was a lot of pretty nasty information that was being spread, which I did not agree with, and I said to them, ‘meet me any time, I’m at [city] hall, we can discuss anything after meetings or before meetings.’

But he said he refused to attend “political meetings,” which he believes led to the claim he ceased communicating with some members of council.

“If you watch any of our videos, our meetings are not toxic, they’re very civil, they’re very respectful. But I was not going to attend a political meeting to discuss elections and things. I just said I wouldn’t go,” he said.

Harvie reiterated that he wants to do what is best for the city and show leadership, which is why he has asked the province for assistance from an independent third party who can speak to council as a whole.

“We need to get over this, and we need to get over this very quickly and put the political election of 2026 off to the side. I respect always people who want to seek office, and if they want to seek office again, great, go ahead,” he said.

“But we need to separate our political ambitions away from our responsibilities that we signed on for, to be councillors and mayor and run this city properly.”

Moves against Harvie not about future election, says Kruger

In an emailed response to the Reporter, Kruger did not confirm or deny his intention to seek the office of mayor, saying “we are more than two years away from a point where I would even consider discussing the 2026 election.”

“The only person talking about politics is the mayor. The majority of council is focused on restoring good governance, respect for taxpayers, and accountability back to city hall.”

Kruger said Monday’s actions by council were not about any one councillor.

“This is the last thing council wanted to do,” Kruger said. “I was very proud to campaign for the mayor in both 2018 and 2022. I was also very proud to support the mayor in his bid to be chair of Metro Vancouver. I worked hard making dozens of phone calls to rally the votes for him to be successful. Until recently I believed he was my close friend and mentor.

“The events of the last six months are heartbreaking to me and my fellow councillors.”

Kruger said it should be noted that Dosanjh voted in favour of both motions on Monday and did not provide any comments of concern or opposition at the time.

Dosanjh, in turn, said he had no interest in his fellow councillors’ motions, calling them “dubious, with the sole purpose to curtail [the] powers of Harvie without any basis or rationale.” He said they were introduced “without any advance notice or sound reasoning,” calling it a “clear abuse of council power based on current numerical advantage this group has.”

As to why he voted in favour of motions he did not support, Dosanjh explained in an email that he did it to ensure Mayor Harvie got the time he was asking for in order to fulfil his obligations as board chair and facilitate a smooth transition.

“The motion to remove Mayor Harvie from Metro Vancouver Board was a lost cause and a forgone conclusion because they had four votes. I was more interested in ensuring that the amendment for Mayor Harvie to stay on until July 1 was approved,” he said.

“So while I was totally opposed the motion of removing Mayor Harvie from the Metro board, I voted only so the amended motion of allowing him to stay on till July was passed.”

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James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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