Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Langley Mayoral Debate

City and Township of Langley Mayoral Candidates.

Last night, I attended the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce’s Mayoral Debate. The event featured mayoral candidate for both the City and Township of Langley. Running for mayor in the City of Langley are Randy Caine, Ray Lewis, and Ted Schaffer. Running in the Township are Jack Froese, Rick Green, and Serena Oh.

Unfortunately Serena Oh was completely ill informed of the issues. The answers she gave to most of the questions seemed to come from left-field. It really took away from the cadence of the event.

Ray Lewis was concerned about crime in the City of Langley though he didn’t seem to have any practical examples of how he would actually address the issue. He was not up to speed on other issues facing the community.

The questions that the Chamber moderators asked revolved around development, transit, the Township leaving Metro Vancouver, crime in the City, and amalgamation.

The Chamber also asked the mayoral candidates to talk about local government worker’s salaries increasing faster than provincial government worker’s salaries, referencing the highly-flawed report “BC Public Sector Compensation Review.” Most of the candidates noted that due to federal and provincial downloading, local government has had to pick up the slack to deliver much needed services that other levels of government no longer support. They also mentioned that you need to pay people a fair wage to attach high-quality employees.

On amalgamation, I overheard many in the audience say that bring up that topic was like flogging a dead horse. Both Froese and Green were in support of amalgamation. Schaffer was opposed to amalgamation while Caine was in support of amalgamation.

Regarding crime in the City of Langley, Schaffer talked about how the City has the highest ratio of RCMP to residences in Canada; 1 for every 500. Caine said that if we want to address crime, we need to address the root causes: poverty and addiction.

Some people have called on the Township to leave Metro Vancouver due to the lawsuit between Metro and the Township over the Trinity Western University District. Both Froese and Green said that leaving Metro Vancouver would be an expensive and messy process; a road that would have to be gone down with extreme caution. Green was opposed to leaving Metro Vancouver, Froese would only considering leaving Metro Vancouver after commissioning extensive research on the issue which may lead to a referendum on the issue.

Of course TransLink came up last night. Froese and Schaffer talked about how South of Fraser mayors fought hard to get South of Fraser transit needs incorporated into our region’s vision for transit. I was happy that Froese noted that TransLink funds both the Golden Ears Bridge and the Major Road Network. Froese and Schaffer both acknowledge that getting better transit will require more money. Both were opposed to the transit referendum being imposed on the region by the province.

I have to give Schaffer credit for saying that a small regional sale tax would be the most practical way to fund needed transit improvement.

Froese noted that because groups like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the province have called on TransLink to be more efficient, TransLink has reduced service on some routes in the name of efficiency, leading to even worse transit service in some areas.

Green said that he would not support giving TransLink any extra money until there was more transit service in Langley. Of course without new funding, TransLink can’t afford to provide new service. While this may get Green some political brownie points, it won’t actually get better transit in the Township.

On development in the City, Schaffer noted that the City is indeed redeveloping, noted several multifamily projects under construction. Caine talked about the need to replace aging infrastructure in the City, and the need to redevelop Langley in a sustainable manner.

In the Township, Froese noted that his community has been growing at a steady 2% throughout its history. He said that the Township will have to accommodate more people and that “turning off” development is simply not an option. There was a question about if the Township would stop development until the School District built more schools. Froese said that the School District won’t build new schools until there was new development.

Green said that he won’t “turn off” development, but that he would review every single development plan in the Township. It seemed like he was trying to get more political brownie point as this review would be a costly, decades-long process, and likely wouldn’t accomplish much.

It was interesting to attend the mayors debate thought I didn’t hear anything out of step with what the mayoral candidates have already being talking about publicly.

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