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Mayors' race in Coquitlam is underway

The mayor
The mayor's race in Coquitlam is off to an early start, as both Richard Stewart, the incumbent mayor, and Lou Sekora, a councillor and former mayor, have announced they will run in the Nov. 15 civic election.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS

The campaign for mayor of Coquitlam in this fall's civic election is now underway with  announcements from two long-serving incumbents.

Last Friday, Lou Sekora, a Coquitlam councillor who last was mayor 17 years ago told The Tri-City News he wants the big job back,

And today Tuesday, Mayor Richard Stewart said he is also running again for the mayor's seat in the Nov. 15 civic election.

Coquitlam's next mayor will serve four years, not three, under changes brought about by provincial election reform — meaning his or her term will last until 2018.

Leadership, taxes and city spending are among the issues Stewart and Sekora are expected to tackle.

The mayor said it will be a few weeks before he announces his campaign platform but said he has about 100 volunteers in place and a strong record of accomplishments, including helping to bring the Evergreen Line to the city.

"We achieved, it and I want to be there on opening day, which is less than two years from now," Stewart said.

LEADERSHIP AT ISSUE — SEKORA

Sekora, the 82-year-old former Liberal MP, made no bones about his feelings toward Mayor Richard Stewart. "I can't sit with Richard for another four years because there's no leadership," he said.

Sekora also took aim at Stewart and council on budgeting, saying, "I know I can cut $5- to $10-million out of that budget very easy."

That comment is similar to statements Sekora made in the last election campaign and during the most recent council term; he did not offer specific ideas how those cuts would be made.

Sekora said when he was considering whether to run again, his options were to run for mayor or not at all.

Stewart acknowledged that his leadership style differs from Sekora's but said he prefers a more collaborative style where councillors are empowered to be part of the decision making process and staff are enabled to make their own hiring decisions.

"I'm proud of we have developed that discipline and that spirit of working together," he said. "These are different folks and [have] a wide range of backgrounds."

He added that, for the most, part councillors are able to put aside their partisan differences to work together.

"It allows people to work together on a better bylaw rather than working separately on a bylaw that opposes," he said.

If elected, Sekora said he wants to lower taxes by reining in municipal spending. But he also wants to build more sports facilities, hire more Mounties and rebuild Place Maillardville community centre.

NO QUICK FIX — STEWART

Stewart said he prefers to see budgets developed from long-term plans that take into consideration the needs of various departments but also demands of citizens, many of whom attend town hall meetings asking for more services.

"There is no question I could knock $5 million out of the budget if we wanted to be irresponsible and just stop maintaining [roads and facilities], that's easy to do. It would be completely wrong," he said. "I wouldn't do that to my children or yours."

With terms now four years instead of three, both incumbents were asked how they could manage the longer term commitment and workload.

Asked whether, at the age of 82, he could handle the time and work required of the mayor, Sekora said, "You know what? That was the way it was. I was working 80 hours a week. Can I still do it? Of course. I'm doing it now, trying to clean up the mess [Stewart] is leaving behind."

Sekora didn't say who is backing his mayoralty campaign but said he hoped to gain support from "contractors, builders, private people, business people — an awful lot of business people." He also claimed "unions and the volunteer firefighters are 100% behind me."

Asked who is getting donations from, Sekora said, "To me, frankly, if I get funding, it's fine. If I don't, it's fine, too."

Stewart meanwhile said he can see value in the longer term because it promotes better planning and foresight, especially on the part of politicians, and he has no problem clearing the deck for the next four years to focus on his job as mayor.

"There's no question the workload has changed," Stewart said. "We're a big city now."

BACKGROUND

First elected to Coquitlam council in 1972, Lou Sekora was mayor from 1983 to 1997, when he resigned to run for the MP's position for the Liberals after then Reform MP Sharon Hayes quit. Sekora lost his federal job in 2000 to Conservative MP James Moore but was soon appointed a part-time citizenship judge by prime minister Jean Chretien.

In the November 2011 general election, Sekora placed fourth in council voting after Selina Robinson, Craig Hodge and Linda Reimer.

In the mayor's race that year, Richard Stewart won with 10,050 votes, well ahead of then councillor Barrie Lynch, who collected 7,591.

Richard Stewart was an MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville from 2001 to 2005, appointed MLA Responsible for Francophone Affairs, member of the Government Caucus Committee on the Economy, and chair of the Select Standing Committee on Education. He was elected to Coquitlam council in 2005 and was elected mayor in 2008, and has served two terms in that post.

jwarren@tricitynews.com

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

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