Delta councilors dismiss Metro mayor, alleging ‘loss of trust’

“The president of Metro is really the de facto mayor of the region,” said Kennedy Stewart, a public policy professor and former mayor of Vancouver.

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An otherwise largely routine Delta city council meeting ended with a surprise Monday night, when councilors voted to strip Mayor George Harvie of his role on Metro Vancouver’s board of directors and reinforce controls over your office.

The Delta council’s decision has regional implications: Harvie serves as chairman of Metro’s board, so the council’s termination of his appointment will force a leadership change at the regional body, which is responsible for thousands of millions of taxpayer dollars and important decisions around infrastructure and regional planning.

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The councilors behind the surprise move cited a “loss of confidence” in the mayor’s ability to represent the city’s interests at the regional level, but for now are silent on the reasons for their actions.

A leadership change at Metro is “a big deal,” said Kennedy Stewart, a public policy professor at Simon Fraser University and former Vancouver mayor and Metro chief.

“It’s a big job,” Stewart said. “I believe that one has more power as president of Metro to make direct decisions than as mayor of a municipality. The president of Metro is really the de facto mayor of the region.”

Harvie’s removal as Delta’s representative to Metro was one of a series of motions tabled by the council, without public notice, at the end of its Monday night meeting.

At Monday’s Delta council meeting, Coun. Jennifer Johal introduced seven motions that appeared to limit the mayor’s power to take certain actions without council approval, including organizing events, sending official correspondence and changing meeting agendas.

There was no debate or discussion before council approved Johal’s motions, but a tense exchange followed the next topic of new business, when council. Daniel Boisvert proposed terminating Harvie’s appointment at Metro.

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Harvie said he would not object to the council’s decision to end his appointment at Metro, but asked if they would be willing to make it effective July 1 to facilitate a smooth transition period.

“His actions are removing the presidency of Metro Vancouver,” Harvie said. “I’m not opposed to council’s right to change appointments, I’m just asking for some decency as long as the presidency of Metro Vancouver is respected – there needs to be a transition period.”

Count. Dylan Kruger asked for more information about the president’s duties and responsibilities.

Harvie responded that he has talks planned with Metro leaders on a number of issues, as well as a previously scheduled trip with other Metro members to the Netherlands to review Amsterdam’s dike system.

“So you are asking for the opportunity to go to Amsterdam?” Kruger asked.

Harvie responded: “I am asking for the opportunity to join the board members in Amsterdam, which has been set for quite some time, just as you have been traveling to Phoenix… (and) back east with regarding TransLink. I mean, you’ve been traveling too.”

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“I haven’t been to Amsterdam,” Kruger responded.

Council then supported extending Harvie’s appointment until July 1.

After Monday’s meeting, four Delta councilors (Johal, Boisvert, Dylan Kruger and Rod Binder) issued a brief statement saying the changes were aimed at “improving governance and representation” and reflected “the council’s loss of confidence on the mayor’s ability to effectively represent the interests of the city. in Metro Vancouver.”

Harvie previously worked as Delta’s city manager from 2002 to 2018, when he was elected to his first term as mayor. He was re-elected in 2022, garnering 75 percent of the mayoral vote, more than four times as many votes as the runner-up. In that 2022 election, Harvie’s Achieving for Delta party won a large victory with all six council candidates elected, including the four councilors who signed Monday’s statement.

But those councilors refused to provide information about what led to this loss of trust.

When asked for an explanation about the council’s votes, Boisvert said Monday’s statement so far was “what the group stands by for now.”

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The change was motivated by Harvie’s performance representing Delta at the regional level, Boisvert said, and not related to his performance as Metro president.

Monday’s vote means Binder will replace Harvie as one of Delta’s two Metro directors, effective July 1. Kruger remains as Delta’s other Metro director.

Boisvert said, “We made the change because we felt it was in the best interest of the city of Delta, we felt we were better represented by those we appointed.”

Binder declined to discuss the matter Tuesday. Johal did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kruger was not available to speak Tuesday while he was in the hospital with his wife welcoming a new baby.

Harvie did not respond to a request for comment.

Metro’s board is made up of 41 directors elected by their respective councils, which include 21 municipalities, one electoral area and the Tsawwassen First Nation. Metro’s board can decide when to call a new election for president. If no election is held before Harvie’s term ends on June 30, then the vice-president, Anmore Mayor John McEwen, will fill the role on an interim basis until a new president is elected.

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In an emailed statement, McEwen said: “In the case of who the City of Delta chooses to represent them on the board, that is a discussion and decision for the City of Delta.

“George Harvie has been an excellent president and has demonstrated strong leadership through difficult decisions,” McEwen said. “We look forward to welcoming Rod Binder as a director of Metro Vancouver’s board of directors.”

The responsibilities of the president of Metro include acting as spokesperson for the region, as well as determining the structure and appointments of its members. standing committees and working groups. Metro directors receive a stipend of $525 or $1,050 per meeting they attend, depending on the length of the meeting. The Metro president position comes with an additional $105,039 per year, on top of what they earn as mayor or councilor of their own municipality.

In a separate ongoing matter involving the city of Delta, the municipality is being sued for unfair dismissal by a former employee of the Delta mayor’s office, Paramjit Singh Grewal.

Grewal previously worked as Delta’s general manager of economic development and stakeholder relations, earning an annual salary of $234,000 and a monthly vehicle allowance of $748, until he was fired “without cause and without notice,” according to a notice from lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. by Grewal’s attorney in April.

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Grewal’s suit seeks damages from the city for breach of his employment contract, and from Kruger, alleging the councilman defamed him with statements at a private meeting.

The claims in Grewal’s lawsuit have not been tested in court. Neither the city nor Kruger have filed responses.

Grewal ran unsuccessfully as a Delta council candidate in 2018 alongside Harvie on the Achieving for Delta ticket.

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