Tally of Metro Vancouver Director votes on Southlands development: Delta Mayor Jackson, Burnaby Mayor Corrigan had enormous influence on outcome

Google Earth Southlands in region earth view(Updated, revised)

On May 23, 2014 the GVRD Board of Directors reviewed agenda item G.1.1 Corporation of Delta Proposed Amendment to Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping our Future for Southlands.

OUTCOME: The amendment passed, with 93 weighted votes FOR and 31 AGAINST. Below is our analysis and commentary. Looking at the flow of the meeting, the bottom line is that Delta Mayor Lois Jackson and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan together had a major role in the final vote turning out as it did. The public should demand to know exactly what was discussed during forty minutes in secret at the start of the meeting. It seems that that discussion was pivotal.

Processes and voting at Metro Vancouver can be hard to track. The Southlands is an important test case (1) as an important issue for the entire region (for the many reasons articulated in the Staff report), (2) for the Regional Growth Strategy, which is supposed to guide development for the next thirty years, (3) for transparency of Director voting, and (4) for municipal processes as they affect the governance of Metro Vancouver.

What processes lead to each municipality’s votes? (Council meetings? Caucus meetings? Informal discussions? Is there even a connection between the will of citizens/elected Councils and their Directors’ voting?) Can citizens actually find out how their own Metro Directors vote on all important policies and decisions? These questions are all the more important in 2014, a civic election year, with this election being for even higher stakes than usual — as the Provincial government has quietly changed legislation from the current three years to four year terms, so the next election will be in 2018.

Soon after the start of the May 23 Metro Board meeting agenda item on the Southlands development, Coquitlam Councilor Mae Reid (this is a correction; we had originally indicated it was Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, but since the meeting videos are not archived their was no easy way to confirm) abruptly requested that the meeting be closed for “legal advice.” The public had to leave the room, for about forty minutes. Upon resumption of the meeting, Delta Major Lois Jackson spoke first, reading from a written statement that sounded almost like a developer’s own words. Did she represent the wishes of Delta residents?

Immediately next came Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, who, at the end of five minutes, revealed that he had this very morning reversed his position, and now was in favour of Southlands.

A handful of Directors then gave their views. Vancouver Directors tried to make a motion to revert the topic back to a new public hearing, but it was rejected. Then came the vote. The final vote was 93 weighted votes in favour, and 31 against the amendment of the RGS to make way for the Southlands development.

Going into the meeting, Southlands was in a weak position. The Metro Vancouver staff report to the Board clearly and strongly recommended that the Board reject the development due to the risk of setting precedents for deal-making at the expense of agricultural land, and numerous conflicts with the Regional Growth Strategy. See “Reject Delta’s Southlands proposal, Metro staff report says: Development breaches regional growth strategy, puts farmland at risk: report” (Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun, 21 May 2014).

The City of Burnaby had even sent a letter (dated 22-April) to Metro Vancouver, part of the agenda package, stating on record that it did NOT support the development.

Burnaby’s Mayor Corrigan, as Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee, and Chair of Metro’s Public Hearing on Southlands, had an exceedingly influential role in setting the tone of discussions. He also happens to have been a primary architect of the Regional Growth Strategy leading up to its ratification in 2011. (He played a pivotal role blocking public input to that process as well.) His sudden and unexplained reversal of opinion on May 23, and the timing of his intervention — just after the in-camera session — probably also had a major signalling effect to other Directors.

An amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy, as was being requested by Delta, requires a two-thirds majority, and it must be by recorded votes (unlike simple majority votes at Metro Vancouver, which are just by show of hands and are not even recorded). Total weighted votes were 129, so a two-thirds majority would be 86 votes. Thus, if only 85 votes were FOR the amendment, the Southlands proposal would have been rejected. This means that a mere 8 weighted votes (between 93 actual and 85 minimum required to pass) made all the difference in the life and death of the Southlands projectIn other words, this project was very nearly defeated.

Burnaby has three Directors (Mayor and two City Councillors), with 4 votes each. If even two of them had voted against Southlands, the project would have been rejected. Surrey also has a big block of votes — all voted to support Southlands (four Directors with five votes and one Director with one vote). Three of Surrey’s five Directors were NOT present, but their Alternate Directors were present and voted for them. The public has a right to know exactly what process was followed for them to determine the 24 votes of Surrey. Likewise for every municipality that voted.

But Burnaby deserves special attention. As mentioned, during this Board meeting, Mayor Corrigan suddenly changed sides. In effect, he and the Burnaby votes made all the difference. Again, had Burnaby voted according to its prior official position, the Southlands proposal would have been defeated. People may wish to examine Burnaby’s letter to Metro, and try to identify exactly what changes happened subsequently that may allow that city’s Directors to justify a change of position. Let the court of public opinion be the judge.

Note that one Director (Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson) was absent when his name was called, so his five votes were not counted. (He had left the room shortly before his turn, leaving no explanation, but leaving his coat on the chair.)

Below is our tally of votes based on an audio recording. We will confirm actual numbers with Metro Vancouver as soon as possible.

Director Tally of FOR votes Tally of  AGAINST votes
Anmore: Mayor Heather Anderson, voted by Alternate Coun Kerri Palmer Isaak 1
Belcarra: Mayor Ralph Drew 1
Bowen Island: Councillor Andrew Stone 1
Burnaby: Mayor Derek Corrigan 4
Councillor Sav Dhaliwal 4
Councillor Colleen Jordan 4
Coquitlam: Councillor Mae Reid 3
Mayor Richard Stewart 4
Delta: Mayor Lois Jackson 5
Electoral Area A: Director Maria Harris 1
Langley City: Councillor Gayle Martin 2
Langley Township: Mayor Jack Froese, voted by Alternate Coun. Bob Long 3
Councillor Steve Ferguson 3
Lions Bay: Mayor Brenda Broughton 1
Maple Ridge: Mayor Ernie Daykin 4
New Westminster: Mayor Wayne Wright 4
North Vancouver City: Mayor Darrell Mussatto 3
North Vancouver District: Mayor Richard Walton 5
Pitt Meadows: Mayor Deb Walters 1
Port Coquitlam: Mayor Greg Moore 3
Port Moody: Mayor Mike Clay 2
Richmond: Mayor Malcolm Brodie 5
Councillor Harold Steves 5
Surrey: Councillor Barinder Rasode 5
Councillor Linda Hepner, voted by Alternate Coun. B. Hayne 5
Councillor Judy Villeneuve, voted by Alternate Coun. Mary Martin 5
Mayor Dianne Watts, voted by Alternate Coun. Tom Gill 5
Councillor Barbara Steele 4
Tsawwassen: Chief Bryce Williams 1
Vancouver: Councillor Kerry Jang 4
Councillor Heather Deal 4
Councillor Raymond Louie 5
Councillor Geoff Meggs 4
Councillor Andrea Reimer 5
Mayor Gregor Robertson ABSENT JUST BEFORE THE VOTE (5 votes not counted)
Councillor Tim Stevenson 4
West Vancouver: Mayor Michael Smith 3
White Rock: Mayor Wayne Baldwin 1

Some municipal Councils may follow a formal and public process (e.g., Council debate and vote) resulting in a clear indication being given to their Director(s) regarding how to vote on specific policies or decisions of the Board. Others appear not to have any such process, so it is not clear on what basis their Director(s) have voted.

At the time of actual voting in GVRD Board meetings that require a simple majority (over 50%), the Chair’s call for a vote results in a show of hands “for,” “opposed,” or “abstentions.” From past meetings, typically no record is kept of who voted how, no hands are actually counted, and the entire process is over in a matter of seconds.

Combined with the fact that Board meetings are held during working hours on a week day and only streamed by live web video (not archived for later review), these conditions make it difficult for citizens of each municipality and of the entire Metro region to know how their governments are acting and how their elected officials are voting at the regional level.

The table below is to be completed based on further research. Its purpose is to better understand the processes behind the votes of each individual Director or Alternate who voted.

Municipality and number of votes, by name of Director Municipal Process (council decision, no process, personal vote, etc) Actual vote (for, against, abstain) Notes
Bowen Island
 Langley City
 Langley Township
 Lions Bay
 Maple Ridge
 New Westminster
 North Vancouver City
 North Vancouver District
 Pitt Meadows
 Port Moody
 Tsawwassen First Nation
 West Vancouver
 White Rock

Here is a link to the names of all Board Directors, and the number of votes each Director has for his/her municipality.  http://metrovancouver.org/boards/Pages/directors.aspx

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14 Responses to Tally of Metro Vancouver Director votes on Southlands development: Delta Mayor Jackson, Burnaby Mayor Corrigan had enormous influence on outcome

  1. northvancityvoices says:

    Apr 28 City of North Van Council vote:
    16. Proposed Amendment to the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth
    Strategy Land Use Designation Map and the Urban Containment
    boundary by the Corporation of Delta – File: 0400-60 MV-02
    Report: Deputy Director, Community Development, April 22, 2014
    Attachment 1 Attachment 2
    Moved by Councillor Keating, seconded by Councillor Clark

    PURSUANT to the report of the Deputy Director, Community Development,
    dated April 22, 2014, entitled, “Proposed Amendment to the Metro Vancouver
    Regional Growth Strategy Land Use Designation Map and the Urban
    Containment Boundary by the Corporation of Delta”:

    THAT the City of North Vancouver does not identify any direct impacts from
    the proposed amendment and supports the referral to a regional public

  2. DeltaDebbie says:

    It is interesting to note that the City of North Vancouver didnt identify any direct impacts from the Delta request for an amendment to remove agricultural land to comprehensive development. While its true any direct impact will only be suffered by residents of Tsawwassen, I wouldn’t say North Vancouver residents will not be directly impacted. 78% of Delta residents have consistently rejected this development proposal. Residents of North Vancouver should watch their Council’s actions very carefully. If they are willing to support a project that has been rejected by Delta residents, the very same actions could be copied by North Vancouver.
    Delta has a big democratic deficit. Mayor Jackson and the majority of Delta Councillors ignore the very clear wishes of Delta residents. Others in Metro Vancouver who will support this type of governance are quite likely to ignore the wishes of their own electorate.
    This vote is extremely important as a land use issue but also as a guide as to how different member communities listen to their electorate.

    • Jean Wightman says:

      Since any direct impact will only be affected by residents of Tsawwassen, why weren’t our majority views used in making the final decision?
      Mayor Jackson got elected by a majority of voters, right. Did she ignore this and not take her seat? Majority counts at one level but not other? Democracy has gone out the window, so far as I can see.
      What a sham. this whole process has been and what a waste of taxpayers dollars!
      Jean Wightman

  3. northvancityvoices says:

    Reblogged this on North Van City Voices.

  4. Pam Bookham says:

    Voting to allow the matter to go to a public hearing puts the decision in the hands of the Delta Mayor and Councillors who are the directly elected representatives of the people of Delta, but I agree it weakens one of the main principles of the Regional Growth Strategy to contain urban development, as did the recent Langley legal decision. The downside is that these decisions weaken the commitment to preserving agricultural land. The upside is that the directly elected municipal Councils have more legitimacy in the opinion of the court than the Metro Board.
    Another factor that may have played a part in this decision is that critical decisions are being made about funding and priorities for transportation and sewage treatment plants. It would not surprise me if there was some horse trading going on in the lead up to this vote.

    • Jean Wightman says:

      There’s no doubt in mind that there was some ‘horse trading’ going on in the lead up to this vote. Otherwise, it would never have ended up the way it did, especially since Metro Vancouver itself recommend that the application be denied.
      I challenged everyone on Metro board to take the bus out to southlands on a weekend in particular. I doubt anyone did. Unless one has visited the area, one has no idea of what people are trying to preserve and no one can understand the inaccessibility to the area by bus! Even our Mayor never comes here..it’s too far from North Delta!
      Beats me why in the world we even have a Metro Board of Directors in view of the way this turned out.
      Why wasn’t Gregor Robertson in attendance?
      Jean Wightman

  5. Danielle Kaufhold says:

    Metro staff report was sound and solid, the one hope shone brightly to defeat the proposal and soon to be extinguished because of one person’s flip flop affecting the vote of Burnaby directors determining our fate in South Delta? And this is how the Southlands go down, by this sort of half hazard, last minute change of hearts that jeopardised the thoughtful, intelligent report by Metro staff? A crushing heart stopping defeat, inconsistent with the strong analysis from Metro staff. It is so disaponting, I have no word, no more words… Danielle Kaufhold

  6. Director Reid asked for the recess for the legal opinion I believe

  7. Danielle Kaufhold says:

    There is such a dissonance between Metro’s staff report ‘s expertise and resulting assessment of the proposal’s merit – which was to reject it, unequivocally – and the process, the vote by the Metro Board of Directors, by-passing the report and approving the application, instead, that one is left dumfounded and profoundly at a loss to understand how this process can be what determines the fate of the Southland’s, making a farce of all the accumulated evidence against it. It is shamelul, and devastating to witness this agricultural land not being protected and be grabbed, by none but business interests, surely, invalidating the time, sweat and blood that went into experts opinion, recommending again and again to vote against it, as did Metro staff report. Is there no real accountability here for the right decision to be made? And for honoring the will of the majority of people of South Delta, who stand to be ultimately the most affected by this plan? When we become aware that a decision is the erroneous one, can it not be redressed?
    Danielle Kaufhold

  8. Mark Offley says:

    With at least the past 5 years of painfully collected data consistently representing 75 % + during this process leading up to the same MINIMUM conclusions that Metro Vancouver Staff also came to in their very well presented 10 page summary, it is now time for us to seek legal advice to begin the immediate process to overturn and reverse this extremely dubious outcome based on weak flip flop motives and reasons with even one abstaining from voting at the last minute.

    From this very weak position and immediate and ongoing community outrage, their chances of this issue merely going away and for us to accept it and move happily forward are very remote. Many people are now joining in with the plan for a legal challenge to expose the whole process for this application backdating to the many anomalies that got it this far and even towards individuals that have manipulated the system to the detriment of common sense and long term justification.

    Mark Offley

  9. Brad says:

    Abbotsford is not listed – 7 votes. That, with the Vancouver mayor’s absence makes up the 12 missing votes. Why is Abbotsford not included in the count?

    • Jean Wightman says:

      would these ‘missing’ votes have made a difference – for those who are and have always been opposed to the development (the majority of those residing in Tsw.)

    • markoffley says:

      Well, knowing that delta Council and others did everything to get the vote through “no matter what” I wouldn’t be at all surprised that this constant undemocratic process is similar to the recent voting in Syria. I think it is time to get some legal investigation into the “voting” re Abbotsford and Gregor Robertson etc. as I am sure we will find that the outcome should have been much like 75 % + of the public that corresponded including The Burnaby Planning Department, Ministry of AGRICULTURE, Translink and an Environmental Law Firm as well as the Metro Vancouver Staff came to the conclusion to DECLINE the proposal ! Many in the community have not given up yet as indicated in the Delta Optimist from letters to the editor and other social media. Mark Offley

    • urbanizta says:

      Hey Brad, well spotted. Good question. We should have explained a bit more. In this vote, our understanding that Abbotsford was NOT able to vote. Abbotsford is indeed a member of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD, branded as Metro Vancouver), but as noted on the Board of Directors list, “Abbotsford is a member of the GVRD for the parks function only.” Since the Southlands vote was not for the parks function, it was not invited to vote in this case. All clear? Reference: http://metrovancouver.org/boards/Pages/directors.aspx

      So Abbotsford couldn’t affect this decision. But if you look at all of the votes in support, if there had been just 8 fewer votes, Southlands would have been rejected. It could have been any combination adding up to 8.

      Bottom line is that when it comes to significant votes like this, municipalities can engage in horse-trading to get what they want. Who knows what processes are used for Directors to decided on their votes. We wrote to every single mayor and councillor in Metro Vancouver before this vote. We got a few acknowledgements of receipt. But NOT ONE SINGLE official gave any meaningful explanation of how the votes were decided for their municipality.

      But former Metro employee AND City of Vancouver Councillor David Cadman explains how horsetrading for votes can work, in compelling terms:

      The public is forced to trust Metro Vancouver as a bureaucracy. But in return for that trust, we have no way to verify that processes had integrity. Same goes for this Southlands decision. Our conclusion is that a MUCH higher level of scrutiny is needed of Metro Vancouver. A first step is to have live and archived video online of ALL Board and Committee meetings. Immediately. This should be an election issue in 2014, challenging every candidate for a response and personal commitment. MetroVanWatch

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