‘Mild’ surprises in Langley election results

Some notable changes at both council tables

On a night of many surprising civic election results across the region, there were a few mild surprises in Langley as well.

Peter Fassbender failed in his attempt to become Langley City mayor again. While many expected a closer race, incumbent councillor Val van den Broek won the mayor’s chair by a healthy margin. She beat the former three-term mayor and one-term MLA by 206 votes.

Also surprising in the City was the defeat of longtime councillor Jack Arnold, who has been a fixture on council for more than two decades. He finished 11th out of the 16 candidates seeking election to the six councillors’ seats. Former councillors Rosemary Wallace and Teri James join the other four incumbents to form the next council.

A third surprise was the second defeat in a row for former school trustee Candy Ashdown. She finished third out of five candidates for the two Langley City positions on the board of education. Newcomer Tony Ward topped the polls, and incumbent trustee Shelley Coburn also won. Ashdown finished 61 votes behind Coburn.

Increased voter turnout in the City is a good thing. Turnout is often low in Langley City and was less than 23 per cent in 2014. The number of voters, based on preliminary reports, appears to have jumped by almost 650, from 4,187 in 2014 to 4,832 this year. The race for mayor was likely the biggest factor in boosting turnout.

There were also surprises in Langley Township. Many issues came up during the campaign, but no major ones seemed to stick in voters’ minds as voting day approaches. Seven of eight councillors were running again and it seemed unlikely that any would lose, although two former councillors were also in the race. There were 23 candidates and thus voters had many potential choices.

However, two incumbent councillors lost their seats. One-term councillor Angie Quaale came close, finishing ninth, 103 votes behind newcomer Margaret Kunst. Two-term councillor Michelle Sparrow finished 11th, almost 500 votes behind Quaale.

Of the newcomers, Eric Woodward had the most impressive finish – coming second in the polls, just 429 votes behind perennial poll-topper David Davis. He waged a very vigorous campaign and his profile was high even before the election. Clearly, it was a good decision for both Woodward and incumbent Kim Richter to abandon campaigns for mayor and seek council seats.

Richter finished third, with 10,007 votes.

The third change on council is the return of Steve Ferguson, who lost his seat in 2014 but has served on and off council since 1987. He too waged a vigorous campaign.

Voter turnout was up but, in percentage terms, is probably similar to 2014’s 30 per cent. About 2,400 more voters took part in the election, but the Township population has grown significantly in four years.

Township council will likely have some interesting debates in the new term, as Woodward has concerns about how development plans are treated by staff and council. Richter will also challenge conventional wisdom, and Petrina Arnason will not be afraid to speak up. Mayor Jack Froese, who was easily re-elected, will have to do a lot of moderating.

He and van den Broek will play key roles at the regional level – particularly at the Mayors’ Council, where the future of rapid transit in Surrey will be a hot topic. Surrey mayor-elect Doug McCallum wants a SkyTrain line down Fraser Highway to be the first priority south of the Fraser – something almost every Langley politician agrees with.

Froese will be one of the very few experienced mayors at the regional level. Of the 21 Metro Vancouver mayors, 16 are new. His experience in regional matters will be badly-needed.

Frank Bucholtz is a retired editor and blogger. His thoughts on matters related to the South Fraser region can be found on his Frankly Speaking blog at frankbucholtz.blogspot.com.

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