Housing, transit, environmental concerns and compost. These four topics are among some of the top concerns for Delta voters in the coming municipal election, and on Saturday (Sept. 29) nearly all mayor and council candidates had the opportunity to address them.
The all-candidates meeting, organized by the Delta Residents Association, took place at the North Delta Evangelical Church Saturday morning. In total, 23 of the 26 candidates for mayor and council showed up for the two hour event, answering pre-submitted questions from the community.
(Mayoral candidate Vytas Vaitkus was not present, as was council candidate Kay Khilvinder Hale. Team Delta council candidate Joan Hansen also missed the meeting because of a death in the family, but sent in a prepared statement introducing herself.)
The meeting began with mayoral candidates: North Delta businesswoman Moneca Kolvyn, former police chief Jim Cessford (with the slate Independents Working for You), former city manager George Harvie (with the slate Achieving for Delta), Ladner resident Alex Megalos and current councillor Sylvia Bishop (with the slate Team Delta).
Questions for the mayors revolved around some of the big issues facing the city of Delta, and ones that have been talked about in council and the community before:
- Should the Massey Tunnel be replaced with a 10-lane bridge?
- What should the city do about the development of highrises in North Delta?
- Should the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion (a proposed three-berth container terminal) be allowed?
- What can the city do to support affordable housing?
- What should be done about composting concerns in Delta (specifically referring to the smell coming from the Enviro-Smart facility in East Ladner)?
- Do you support the development of Burns Bog, particularly when it comes to MK Delta Lands?
In general, the mayoral candidates were consistent in saying that Delta needs more affordable housing, and much of the density that could accommodate affordable housing should be located on Scott Road. However, Cessford, Bishop and Kolvyn noted that their approval of highrise buildings and densification would be based on community feedback.
The candidates did offer some different ideas for increasing affordable housing in Delta.
Cessford said he would work to have developers have 15 to 20 per cent of the units in their development be designated as affordable housing, an idea similar to what is in place in the island community of Langford, which Bishop also proposed. She also suggested the possibility of having places like churches subdivide their land for more affordable housing.
Megalos, who hearkened back to his years travelling in Europe, said Delta should split houses into two units, while Harvie said Delta needed to work with Metro Vancouver Housing to increase the affordable housing stock.
Their answers were the same when it came to the Terminal 2 expansion project (no’s all around), and expected for the replacement crossing for the George Massey Tunnel. Kolvyn and Megalos supported an expanded tunnel. Cessford, Harvie and Bishop all supported a bridge.
“The tunnel is dying,” Harvie said. “We need to get on fixing the worst bottleneck in Canada.”
Harvie, Bishop and Cessford said they would ultimately defer to the new provincial government on the type of crossing it preferred.
Overall, the candidates said they were against development in Burns Bog — however, the two candidates who have worked with the current city council said they would support the MK Delta Lands development.
“That was a tough decision for me because I also care about the Bog,” Bishop said. But it ultimately came down to a net increase in bog land, she added, as both her and Harvie said they would push to get other bog land that is zoned for industry put back into the conservation area as part of the development application.
It was with the discussion of composting in Delta, and the smell coming from the Enviro-Smart facility, that the meeting became more overtly political.
Cessford said the issue with Enviro-Smart is something that should have been dealt with long ago.
“It’s not about pointing fingers, it’s about getting the job done,” he said.
Harvie said, in that respect, he agreed with Cessford.
Harvie had been at the centre of a discussion around a meeting in 2013, where council candidates Jeannie Kanakos, Bruce McDonald and Robert Campbell called him out for “strenuously opposing” Enviro-Smart getting an air quality permit in 2013. The issue has taken up many hours of council debate, and even more political press releases.
However, at the meeting the mayoral candidates stayed relatively focused on what could be done to improve the smell around the current facility. Harvie and Bishop both proposed to completely enclose the facility. Bishop also added they needed to cap the amount of compost it can process. Cessford said the city should work to stop industrial composting on agricultural land — something that would need to be taken up with the Agricultural Land Commission — while Megalos suggested moving it to around the location of the Vancouver Landfill at Burns Bog. Kolvyn said the facility should be in a commercial zone.
The mayoral candidates’ question period ended with what was intended to be a simple yes or no question about retroactive “golden handshakes”: did the candidates support them? Cessford, Kolvyn and Megalos gave the one-word “no” as an answer. Bishop said it was a difficult question to reduce to a yes or no answer, but said that she supported no retroactive handshakes.
Harvie said he was committed to removing the bylaw on retroactive end of service agreements for councillors when council candidate Sandeep Pandher, running with Cessford’s Independents Working for You, called out and said Harvie wasn’t answering the yes or no question. Harvie then reiterated his statement and added that some people had said he had written the “golden handshake” bylaw, which he said was untrue. People began to talk over each other, and the meeting was called to order.
Pandher’s comment marked the start of the council candidates’ portion of the meeting, which gave each candidate the opportunity to say an introduction and answer one question in the space of two minutes.
So far, the Saturday meeting looks to be the only opportunity for council candidates to answer questions from residents in a public debate-style format.
Questions for the council candidates were on similar topics to those given to the mayoral candidates, and some candidates were asked the same questions as the mayor-hopefuls. However some new questions were brought to the table.
Alicia Guichon and Dylan Kruger were both asked about the need for public transportation in Delta, and how they would ensure Delta gets what it needs. Both are young, South Delta candidates running with the Achieving for Delta slate who have taken the bus often. Kruger said council needed to get Delta on the map, literally, for TransLink, and said that “we should elect councillors who have actually taken the bus” to better advocate for transit.
Candidate Garry Shearer (Independents Working for You) was asked about what he thought appropriate house sizes would be for Delta, and what he would do to prevent mega-homes in the city. He said it was important to keep families together, and that the community should decide where appropriate places for larger homes would be.
Kim Kendall (Team Delta) was asked about removing the dedicated bus lane on 72 Ave to create a four-lane thoroughfare. She said she was open to the potential four-laning of the road, but didn’t “think eliminating a bus lane is a great alternative.” She said council would have to look at ways of mitigating traffic on that road.
Lori Mayhew, running as an independent, was asked about how she would protect Delta’s natural land. She said she would look to strengthen Delta’s bylaws regarding trees in urban areas, and look at other measures for enhancing North Delta creeks and South Delta migration routes.
Candidates Darcy Green, Sandeep Pandher (Independents Working for You), Robert Campbell (Team Delta), Bruce McDonald (Independents Working for You), Mike Smith, Craig DeCraene, Jeannie Kanakos (Independents Working for You), Param Grewal (Achieving for Delta), Lois Jackson (Achieving for Delta), Dan Copeland (Achieving for Delta), Chen Du, Cal Traversy and Simran Walia were also present.
They answered questions on Roberts Bank Terminal 2, Enviro-Smart, housing, ground water conservation, volunteerism and economic prosperity for residents. Several also answered questions on what they thought were the most important issues facing Delta (largely transportation, housing and transparency).
The all-candidates meeting wrapped up after two hours of questions and answers. The next public mayoral all-candidates meeting, organized by the Delta Chamber of Commerce, will be held at South Delta Secondary on Oct. 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. The first school trustee all-candidates meeting will be held on Oct. 4 at North Delta Secondary from 7:30 to 10 p.m.
To read more about the candidates for Delta mayor, council and school board, check out “43 candidates running in Delta civic election.”
For a play-by-play of the all-candidates meeting, scroll through the live tweets below.