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 project. In 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|
|TOTAL||93 FOR||31 AGAINST|
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|
|North Vancouver City|
|North Vancouver District|
|Tsawwassen First Nation|
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