Every member of Mayor John Becker’s team was successful in getting elected to Pitt Meadows council, and all five members agreed it is an effective way to campaign.
The team was not a true slate, like Vision Vancouver or Surrey First, and there was nothing on the ballot to designate the members of the team for voters as they made their mark.
But the team was often called a slate by other council candidates, who said councillors should be independent and not “beholden” to a group.
Becker explained that the team is based on a shared set of values, rather than a political ideology. They will not be on the same side of every issue that comes to council, nor are they expected to be.
“We are going to fight like cats and dogs,” he predicted.
“As a value-based team, and given the months we’ve worked together, we know how to work together,” Becker said. “And we know how to disagree together, which is more important.”
The three incumbents on the team are Janis Elkerton, Bruce Bell and David Murray, and the newcomer is Michael Stark.
Becker said the team approach did not provide a shortcut, and its success came from coordinated work.
“I just shut down the business for a few weeks and door-knocked,” said the local lawyer.
He explained that the team made door-knocking a full-time job. They would meet at 9:30 a.m., then from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. would “hit the doors.” At 1:30 p.m., they would reconvene for a snack, and then hit the streets again from 2-4:30 p.m., and finally review what they had heard from voters.
“What did we hear, what did we know, how were the issues percolating – which allowed us to develop the four Ts approach – taxation, transportation, transparency and teamwork.”
“This is the first time I’ve ever run with a team,” said Elkerton. “The team is very diverse – it’s two left wing, two middle of the road and one right wing.”
She said taxation was a huge issue with voters, and the team’s zero tax increase approach won its members a lot of votes.
“We’ll be able to deliver it,” she promised. “That was a real key message that was out there.”
And she said the team will not be cutting staff, but rather looking at studies, legal fees, parks and other expenses.
“There’s lots of areas to cut without cutting staff,” said Elkerton.
She said the team represented change to voters, and the election results should send a message to the new council.
“It does say to everyone, ‘You are elected to serve the people,’ and that’s what you have to do – represent their will at the council table,” said Elkerton. “Otherwise, why don’t we just have staff run the municipalities. Why even have a council if you’re not having your views represented at the council table.”
Bell said that of the four Ts that the team identified as issues, teamwork is “the most exciting one.”
The outgoing council had become dysfunctional. Elkerton, Bell and Murray were aligned on several key issues, such as the zero budget increase, and opposition to the North Lougheed Corridor plan. Once Doug Bing left to become a provincial MLA, council was left in a stalemate, with those three opposed by the trio of Mayor Deb Walters and councillors Gwen O’Connell and Tracy Miyashita.
With O’Connell losing her seat, and newcomer Bill Dingwall taking his place on council, the members of the team were excited about the new dynamics.
“I think that’s a really good group that’s on council,” Bell said. “You need a council that works together.”
Murray said being part of the team allowed everyone to campaign more effectively.
“I’m a big sports guy – a basketball coach for 30 years – and I really like team stuff,” he said. “Because we had a team, we were able to get our message out, and I think that really helped us at the end of the day.”
“I’m happy the team got in, happy John is our new mayor, and I think, moving forward ,we will be able to get a lot of things done for our city,” Murray added. “It looks like a great council.”