Delta voters will have three mayoralty options on the ballot for the upcoming municipal election.
First elected in 2018, Mayor George Harvie, the former longtime city manager, is facing independent challengers Peter van der Velden and Joginder Randhawa.
Harvie has a full slate of six candidates for city council as well as seven for school board trustee all running under the Achieving for Delta banner.
Saying his team has already knocked on thousands of doors since he announced his slate a few months ago, Harvie told the Optimist he’s proud of what he’s been able to accomplish, despite the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit mid-way through his first term.
Noting his experience as city manager helped Delta in being able to quickly adapt to the pandemic, Harvie admitted it was a difficult time, even for him personally.
He said he’s proud, among other things, with how the city quickly formed the Community Resilience and Economic Recovery Support Team (CRERST) to assist businesses trying to navigate the pandemic.
“We still managed to achieve a lot, like the new North Delta track replacement, turf field replacements at Winskill and Mackie parks, the track resurfacing at the South Delta park, the first cricket pitch ever at Delview (Park), and we proceeded with a number of dog parks and cycling lanes, and, working with the school district, we have those great beach volleyball courts in Ladner that are used extensively,” he added.
“What we learned from COVID is that people want to be active. They need to get out of their homes and out of their daily routines, so what we have is very progressive plans to upgrade our parks and recreation and will also be adding more cycling and dog parks.”
Saying they take notes after each household they have contacted so far during the election campaign, Harvie said the reception they’ve received has generally been very positive and people are happy living in Delta.
He said residents have conveyed concerns about the need for more housing, the loss of police officers to the new Surrey force and reducing speeds on neighbourhood streets.
“I think politicians getting into the neighbourhoods and knocking on doors and talking to people face-to-face is important. I really enjoy it. Overall, I’m very proud of being the mayor and people know me and the best thing we can do is go to people’s doors and talk to them,” Harvie added. “For me to do my job, to make my vision and keep my promises, I’ll be working extremely hard, and we need our entire Delta team elected to reach my goals.”
Having run for the Green Party in South Delta in the last provincial election, van der Velden said he decided to join the mayoralty race, in part, because he didn’t want to see an acclamation, nor one group dominate council.
“It does bother me because we have issues on the table and Delta seems motivated to move forward, but the concern, of course, is there should be a dialogue on these issues. As a politician, you’re bound to make sound decisions for your community, but in order to do that you need to look at all sides of the argument,” said van der Velden.
The city’s refusal to take a stand on the LNG expansion proposals in Tilbury, while the cities of Vancouver and Richmond have already conveyed opposition, is an important issue requiring debate in the community, he said.
“I’m really concerned about many issues around it, like safety and the environment, obviously. We’ve had the heat dome and weather bombs and this spring we’ve had floods. These are problems large groups of people attribute to climate change. In order to address that, 67 per cent of the population feels the government needs to do more,” he said.
van der Velden said one of his top priorities will also be to freeze property taxes for the first two years of his term. He would also put a quarter of the mayor’s salary back into the community.
Housing is another issue that needs more action by the city, he said, noting the creation of more market housing appears to be the only solution put forward and not for low- and middle-income earners.
“We need a council that’s more responsive to the people’s needs. There’s a ton of issues facing Delta. I don’t know just how much the vote depends on issues in civic elections but when I talk to people, the issues are pretty much consistent and people are unhappy, to some degree, with the current council. I want to look at all of that and see how we can direct council to be a little more responsive to those needs,” he said.
Randhawa said there are many issues that the city has been simply too slow to deal with, including housing, made all the worse by a lengthy approval process that needs an overhaul.
“Things need to be approved earlier, expedited quickly. Our zoning is out of date. These delays have done a lot of harm. We have an affordable housing problem but have the ability to add more affordable houses more quickly. Builders want to build more apartments and townhouses, but things take too long. These are things builders and people have been telling me,” he said.
Randhawa also said the business community needs more support, something evident along the Scott Road corridor in North Delta.
The city should also be doing more when it comes to advocating for rapid transit, especially between Delta’s three communities, while road and other transportation concerns need more action, he said.
One of the biggest problems for Delta is that its communities are so disjointed, he added.
“We should not be living in three silos. We need to be connected better. We’re supposed to be one Delta but it doesn’t feel that way,” said Randhawa.
The election will be held Oct. 15.