Election 2014: ‘Team’ running together in Pitt Meadows

Mayoralty candidate John Becker says his group is not a ‘true slate’

Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters is not happy to see slate politics come to her city.

“There appears to be a slate running, and I’ve never been in favour of slates,” she said Tuesday.

Candidates had to file their nomination papers by last Friday.

Walters said, in her nine years on council, there have not been official slates, and she feels that party politics have no place at the municipal level.

Walters, who is not running again, worries that politicians who are part of a slate will vote for the “party line,” rather than voting individually or for their representatives.

“If you’re on a slate, you’re not representing the entire community,” she asserted.

But John Becker, the mayoralty candidate who heads the group that is running together, said it is a “team,” not a true slate.

Becker was on council for nine years before losing his seat at the table after Walters beat him in the 2011 election’s mayoralty race.

In his bid to return, he is supported by three incumbent councillors on the team – Bruce Bell, Janis Elkerton and David Murray.

“We’re running as a team, because we hold certain values,” explained Becker.

One of those is rebuilding the cooperative relationship between councillors.

“It was, to a large extent, destroyed in the last three years,” said Becker, adding that council also needs to show more respect for city hall staff, and for residents.

He said the key issue is the leadership of the mayor, and criticized Walters for a “bullying” style.

“We will have a respectful working environment,” said Becker, adding issues will still be thoroughly debated in public.

Other key issues for the team are transportation, transparency at city hall, and a one-year freeze on taxes.

Common messaging of the four candidates is what makes them a team, said Becker.

A slate, he added, is typically made up of people who are either on the left or right of the political spectrum. They are is often defined as either pro- or anti-development, and either want to preserve the Agricultural Land Reserve or allow building on it.

“It’s not a slate; it’s a coalition of people who share the same values,” he said.

“They are all strong people. We are going to go our different ways on many issues.”

Becker also said that the approach taken by the four might actually serve as a barrier to the introduction of true slate politics.

“People who call it a slate just want to throw dirt on it.”

The team does not have a name, such as Vision Vancouver or the Non-Partisan Association, which is also in that city, or Surrey First. Becker said there are generally six people who meet to discuss the team’s election strategy, and he has nicknamed them the “Six Pack.”

Becker will be opposed by Michael Hayes and Gary Paller for the mayor’s chair.

In addition to the three named, other incumbents are Tracy Miyashita and Gwen O’Connell.

Bill Dingwall, Scott Magri, Andrena Raymond, Mike Stark and Andrew Thompson are newcomers who will run for council.

Walters announced in August that she would not be running again.

“I’ve decided it’s not a good time for me, personally,” she said.

Her husband Len will be retiring soon, and Walters does not want to have to wear the mayor’s chain of office during that phase of their lives, she added.

Asked whether she might enter provincial or federal politics, Walters offered, “No comment.”