Mayor Mike Morden trying to set a respectful tone at council. (THE NEWS/Files)

Mayor Mike Morden trying to set a respectful tone at council. (THE NEWS/Files)

Better relationship starts with mayors

Heads of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows carpooling, working on airport

During the last term, the councils of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows went through what some politicians labelled a divorce.

Early in this 2018-2021 term, the new mayors of these cities are on their way to reconciliation. It could lead to renewed cooperation.

Bill Dingwall of Pitt Meadows and Mike Morden of Maple Ridge had already met informally before they had even been sworn in after the Oct. 20 local elections.

A month later, they have been carpooling to Metro Vancouver Regional District and TransLink Mayors Council, and sitting beside each other at the meetings. They discuss issues of mutual interest, such as the proposed North Lougheed Connector.

And they have met several times at meetings, notably the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.

As Pitt Meadows heard a consultant’s less-than-flattering review of the city’s committee structures at Tuesday night’s meeting, there was Morden and Maple Ridge CAO Paul Gill in the audience to hear the report.

“I was really happy to see them in the audience,” said Dingwall. “We are joint on a number of committees, and we are joint owners of the of the airport.”

It’s a stark change from last term, when the two councils split from their historic partnerships in parks and recreation, arts and culture and tourism.

In 2015, Maple Ridge announced it would terminate the joint parks and leisure services agreement between the cities, because it was costing Maple Ridge $200,000 per year more than operating on its own.

Then on Dec. 31 of that year, the Visitor Centre on Harris Road closed, and Tourism Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows ceased to exist.

In December 2016, Pitt Meadows denied a request for $10,000 from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Arts Council, ending a 45-year relationship with the arts council.

“We just need to get on with a made-in-Pitt Meadows leadership for arts, culture and heritage,” former mayor John Becker said then.

Pitt Meadows council also asked Maple Ridge to walk away from the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport, but then-mayor Nicole Read refused.

“There seems to be an appetite in Pitt Meadows to take over the airport and there’s no appetite for that in Maple Ridge,” Read said at the time.

Now, it appears developing the airport will bring the two city administrations closer together.

“The most immediate cooperation will be around the airport,” said Dingwall, but could not yet reveal new developments at the facility.

“We’re really trying to cooperate,” said Dingwall. “There’s more value in a relationship than in going in the opposite direction.”

He does not see Pitt Meadows dismantling its newly minted recreation department, but said there could be opportunities to partner with Maple Ridge in areas such as field maintenance.

“There is really an effort to make sure we cooperate as much as we can, and have a great relationship between the two cities,” he said.

“We share in policing, we share in the hospital, we share in the diking system, and there is more we could share in.”

Dingwall said it will be important to have a supportive voice from Maple Ridge, as his city approaches senior government to fund Lougheed Highway upgrades and other transportation improvements that will benefit both cities.

Morden said the two mayors have gotten off on the right foot.

“Bill and I both campaigned on a theme of respect among council members, with staff and the public,” he said.

He said politicians can disagree, but it should not get in the way of beneficial partnerships.

“That’s how we get stuff done in government.”

He said having allies at the table during a TransLink Mayor’s Council meeting is invaluable because Surrey and Vancouver hold the balance of power. Mayors north of the Fraser need to present a united front, he said.

“It’s the only way to we’re going to get our needs met.”

What’s more, Morden said people simply like seeing politicians cooperate.

“People want to up the civil discourse,” he said.

”They’re sick and tired of the fighting.”

 

Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall said he values the relationship with Maple Ridge. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall said he values the relationship with Maple Ridge. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)