A question about how the mayor could work collaboratively with council sparked a passionate answer from incumbent Mayor Val van den Broek at Wednesday night’s all candidates debate.
The debate was organized by the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, and saw chamber CEO Cory Redekop ask van den Broek and challenger Councillor Nathan Pachal questions about taxes, parks, development, and homelessness, among other issues.
“It’s been a challenging four years, I’m not going to lie,” van den Broek said when Redekop asked about collaborating with fellow council members.
She noted that collaboration issues was one reason she was endorsing a group of new candidates.
“I have tried and I have tried and I have tried,” van den Broek said of her strained relationship with the current council.
She described sending out emails to councillors and receiving no replies back.
“I have been constantly on the defensive with this council,” she asid.
She said that reviews of her have shown she has done nothing wrong, “and yet this council continues to call me a thief and a stealer,” van den Broek said.
Pachal had answered the question first, and did not reference the mayor’s censuring or accusations that have flown of bullying by and against van den Broek.
He said if he is elected mayor, Pachal will take all the council members’ views seriously, talk to each councillor about what their important issues are, and work on issues where there is consensus first.
Making time for regular one-on-one check ins is something Pachal says he does in his current job, and he would apply that to working with councillors as mayor as well.
The City council voted to censure van den Broek during this term, and in the spring released a statement saying that the mayor had made “false statements” about the circumstances of the censuring.
A third-party investigation found the mayor’s behaviour “amounted to bullying and harassment,” the council said in a statement.
“In particular, following the investigation, council concluded that the mayor misused her power as mayor to target, intimidate and threaten an employee of the City, including by making unjustified and false statements about the employee.”
In July, van den Broek claimed she had been bullied and harassed by unnamed members of council, suffering “name calling, intimidation, personal attacks and facial mocking and mimicking during council meetings, events and community meetings.”
Other questions saw the candidates focus on issues like crime, development, and transportation.
“We definitely don’t want to repeat the mistakes of other municipalities,” said Pachal on how much density should be added to Langley City.
The most density should be placed within an easy walk of the two SkyTrain stations coming to Langley by 2028, he said, and noted his motion for a moratorium on redevelopment south of 50th Avenue, which was adopted, until there’s been local consultation.
Van den Broek agreed with density being near SkyTrain and the importance of getting people out of their cars. She said getting students to bike to school was also important.
On affordable housing, van den Broek said working with other levels of government on subsidized housing was key. She also said the province is likely to intervene soon.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to see changes coming to our housing model throughout the region,” she said, noting a new head of BC Housing and provincial discussions about housing policy.
Pachal noted the Langley Lions housing complex’s ongoing expansion from about 400 to 900 units, and talked about working with non-profits, churches, and BC Housing to get “rent-geared income” housing and subsidized units built.
Eliminating fees for low-income housing and fast-laning those projects could also help, he said.
A recently-introduced tenant relocation policy needs tweaking, but is a step in the right direction, said Pachal.
The City council candidates also took questions in a separate segment of the meeting. Several dozen people attended the event, at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Langley auditorium.
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