The cracks in Burnaby's dominant political party have grown into canyons

Chris Campbell

The political slugfest that took place Monday night in the chambers of Burnaby council was truly extraordinary.

When Mike Hurley was elected mayor, I figured he was in for a tough time with the Burnaby Citizens Association councillors who had been re-elected.

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After all, BCA members like Dan Johnston has slung some pretty thick mud at Hurley during the campaign.

Little did I know that once council started up business after Oct. 20, 2018, that the mud being slung would be between BCA councillors.

Oh, it got ugly.

Rumblings of discontent were being heard a while back between Couns. Pietro Calendino and Colleen Jordan when they disagreed over some housing issues.

Listening to BCA members disagree on anything is pretty weird because that seemed relatively non-existent when Derek Corrigan was leading the party.

On Monday night, things went full Red Wedding as Jordan and Calendino sniped at each other like two exes mistakenly put together at the same table at their daughter’s wedding.

Jordan tried to amend a bylaw on making basements bigger that was up for second reading – an unusual move at that point of the process.

Calendino responded by saying that Jordan was being “obstructionist.”

“I’m kind of confused and I'm not sure why she's bringing this up other than for obstructionist purposes, so I'm speaking against the amendment,” he said. (Hurley raised a point of order over the word “obstructionist” – highlighting its harshness in a council setting.)

BCA Coun. Sav Dhaliwal chimed in about how it was unusual for Jordan to be trying to change a bylaw “on the fly.”

Jordan then picked up a flamethrower and went to work, accusing her colleagues of only pursuing the bylaw because it will boost home values and not the rental supply.

“The bylaw is not about the suite … never has been,” Jordan said. “It's just to allow bigger basements.”

That is a big allegation. It’s aimed squarely at the integrity of her colleagues.

After the meeting, Jordan told the NOW that there was an apparent “realignment of loyalties around the table,” adding that she didn’t know what this meant for the future of the BCA.

Then she added this piece of straight fire, accusing other BCA members of breaking campaign promises: “(It) doesn't look like you can count on what they promised to do when they were running for office, because they all signed off on it.” (Calendino denied the accusation.)

Like I said, extraordinary stuff.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What people hate about civic political parties – especially ones like the BCA that dominate nearly every seat on a council – is that everyone just agrees with each other and moves in lockstep, stifling original ideas and meaningful debate.

I think it’s healthy for council members to disagree and debate. The goal is that a healthy debate will lead to better policies.

The problem is that, right now, it doesn’t feel like healthy debate. It feels like members of the same family adjusting to a new reality now that the head of the family is gone.

The temperature will hopefully cool down a little soon, so we’re left with experienced politicians challenging each other to come up with the best policies possible.

That way everyone wins. Whether or not it happens remains to be seen.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44

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