The New Westminster & District Labour Council (NWDLC), which is based in Burnaby, voted Wednesday evening to endorse Mike Hurley for mayor of Burnaby.
The endorsement is a striking break from tradition, as the NWDLC has traditionally supported Derek Corrigan and his fellow Burnaby Citizens Association (BCA) members for council. The NWDLC also declined to endorse any of Burnaby's sitting councillors, who are all members of the BCA. They did, however, endorse the BCA's Baljinder Narang, who hopes to make the jump from school board to council in October.
(All seven sitting councillors – Pietro Calendino, Dan Johnston, Sav Dhaliwal, Colleen Jordan, Paul McDonell, Nick Volkow and James Wang – plan to run for re-election. Narang is running to fill the seat left empty by now-MLA Anne Kang.)
“I am grateful for the endorsement of the New Westminster & District Labour Council. It means a great deal to have their support,” said Hurley, in a press release. “The decision by the council to endorse me adds a strong and considered voice to my candidacy to become mayor of Burnaby. It also confirms much of the input and comments I have heard that say it is time for a new mayor in Burnaby.”
Burnaby Firefighters Union president Jeff Clark said he was present for the vote, which he says was unanimous.
But Corrigan told the Now he did not seek the endorsement, despite having sought and received it in the past five elections.
Corrigan said Hurley "stacked the meeting with firefighters from all over the region" in order to earn the endorsement.
"I think Hurley right now is just playing as many games as he can," Corrigan said. "I'll rely on the fact I continue to have a broad base of support out there from union members and business people and folks all over the community."
NWDLC secretary treasurer Janet Andrews confirmed that Corrigan did not seek the endorsement this year. She said she could not confirm whether the vote for Hurley was unanimous.
She said NWDLC members considered endorsement applications from all seven sitting councillors and turned them down.
Andrews said she could not say whether voters considered endorsing the three other declared council candidates (independent Rudy Pospisil and Greens Rick McGowan and Carrie McLaren).
Andrews said she could not say why her members chose to spurn their longtime allies in the BCA, but she said she has heard many of her members are concerned about affordability and housing.
"We elect people who represent our values," she said.
NWDLC members will meet again on Aug. 22 to consider endorsing more candidates.
Hurley is a recently retired firefighter who was heavily involved with various levels of the International Association of Fire Fighters union, including serving as his local's president from 2001 to 2009. He announced his independent bid for the mayor's chair earlier this week.
Green Party mayoral candidate Joe Keithley said on Tuesday that he wasn't expecting to get the endorsement. He said he has long supported union rights as the frontman of punk group D.O.A.
"I'm really a pro-union guy," he said. "I just don't happen to have the unions behind me."