How long a leash will Burnaby's mayor get from voters?

Chris Campbell

The Burnaby civic election took place a little more than two months ago.

Taking into account that new Mayor Mike Hurley needed a few weeks to be sworn in, set up his new office and get accustomed to all of the city staff, he really hasn’t been on the job too long.

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And part of that time included the Christmas break.

So, the question I’m pondering is this: Is it too early to hold Hurley accountable for anything?

I ask this because as I peruse comments online I’ve noticed some people taking shots here and there over certain issues.

One came after the city allowed a bunch of old growth trees to be cut down in Central Park to make way for a pedestrian-cycling path. Hurley had barely taken office and a few people were calling him out online.

After a little research, I discovered a few of the comments came from people who clearly backed ex-mayor Derek Corrigan. Others are from seemingly random Burnaby citizens.

It’s ridiculous, of course, to blame Hurley for something that was clearly out of his control at that point, or to expect any substantial changes so soon after an election. But it begs the question about how long a leash will Hurley have from voters.

It’s something I always wonder when a new leader or government is voted into office.

What is a fair honeymoon period for a newly elected politician?

There are two main ways of looking at this.

One is with votes on actual policies. If someone campaigned on a certain issue and then flip-flops when the first vote comes up, then I say there should be no expectation of a grace period. A vote is a vote.

The second view comes from new policies or proposals put forward that will affect change in a community.

That’s a difficult one. Take, for instance, the housing file – the most important issue Burnaby faces. Expecting huge changes on this issue this fast is unfair. Solutions to this one will take complex, long-term planning to execute.

Hurley has taken action with his committee looking into the issue of demovictions. This has, effectively, stalled most major new residential developments until the committee completes its report in June. It’s to the point that real estate agent David Goodman told the NOW in December that the course set by Hurley is adding uncertainty into Burnaby’s investment market.

“We find what’s going on with the City of Burnaby to be mysterious, convoluted and, frankly, confusing as hell,” Goodman said. “Burnaby is an area we just don’t want to touch.”

You might disagree with this direction, but you can’t say that he hasn’t taken action.

Same with the homelessness issue. Hurley spearheaded action to get four warming centres set up in fast. The centres aren’t pretty, but they’re being well-used and are getting the job done. Now the province has said it will fund a 24-hour shelter in Burnaby, although the exact details are quite sketchy.

It’s only been a few weeks, but Hurley has already done more on this file than the previous administration ever did.

Corrigan supporters will obviously be ready to pounce on anything they can, but for the rest of voters, how long will the honeymoon last?

One issue that will be interesting in 2019 is what happens when the National Energy Board wraps up its hearings. As that process comes to a close, emotions will come to a head as the various sides try and spin things. If Hurley isn’t seen as being vocal against the pipeline – and so far he hasn’t been - I’m curious if Trans Mountain opponents will seize on that. Pipeline opponents have a habit of excoriating anyone who isn’t crusading against the project. Or maybe it will amount to nothing.

Politics is such a fickle game. People can love a politician one day and turn on them the next with the slightest wrong phrasing.

As for Hurley’s relationship with the other members of council, that seems to be running smoothly. If anything, some members of the Burnaby Citizens Association seem to be struggling to get along while trying asserting themselves without the iron fist of Corrigan pushing down on them. In particular, the issue of loosening regulations on basements to allow more secondary suites has pitted councillors Colleen Jordan and Pietro Calendino.

Hurley is such an unassuming figure compared to Corrigan, who could be quite the back-patter. When I interviewed Hurley at the opening of one of the warming centres, he deflected all credit onto the city staff for getting things done. It felt genuine.

For now, Burnaby politics are pretty quiet after a stormy 2018. But with Hurley’s recent announcement of a 2.7-per-cent property tax increase, we’ll see how local homeowners react.

Follow Chris Campbell @shinebox44 on Twitter and Instagram.






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