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PoCo Mayor Brad West dismisses, questions report on leading right-wing merger

UBC political scientist says the popular mayor operates in an 'open space' free of party politics that has resulted in a broad spectrum of interest.
Brad West
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West was acclaimed mayor in 2022 after no one ran against him in the community of roughly 65,000 residents.

Port Coquitlam's mayor has dismissed a media report citing anonymous sources claiming he is “considering” leading a merger between the centre-right BC United and right-wing BC Conservative parties ahead of October’s provincial election.

Brad West told Glacier Media Thursday he didn't think “considering” was the right way to articulate his recent conversations with “fairly big name” business leaders, who he said want him to take the reins of a centre-right merger.

“I don’t know who approached Global, but I get approached by a lot of people from different walks of life,” said West, who was unwilling to name those who he says recently approached him, “out of respect.”

“You know, whenever I've been approached, I'm always polite and respectful to people... I'm not going to be rude. It's complimentary and I'm just trying to be a decent human being about it. But, again, I will reiterate the answer for me was, regardless of this party or that party, provincial or federal, the answer was always ‘no,’” said West of the recruitment efforts.

West said there have long been attempts to recruit him for the NDP on the part of labour leaders. Rumours swirled around him when former NDP premier John Horgan resigned in fall 2022.

But, West said he remains committed to completing his term as Port Coquitlam's mayor, which comes to an end in fall 2026.

“My intention and plan is to run for re-election in ‘PoCo.’ That’s what I plan to do,” said West, adding running for senior level of government is not something he’s ruled out.

“Not to be cliché about it but it’s one of those things you never say never,” added West, noting he is turning 39 years old this year and is largely committed to raising his two sons, ages three and seven.

West suggested what may be drawing a broad spectrum of political intrigue from others is his “independent” mind.

“I don’t fit nicely into one political box or the other. But in that regard I don’t think I am any different than the vast majority of British Columbians,” said West, who was acclaimed mayor in 2022 after no one ran against him in the community of roughly 65,000 residents.

“It’s only the kind of ultra-partisans in all the parties who think their party is infallible and adhere to this kind of strict orthodoxy; I also don't find the political culture right across the board to be a very healthy one, because it doesn't seem to allow for much independent thought,” said West.

Analyzing the politics of Brad West

West often touts keeping taxes low and chairs Metro Vancouver’s finance committee; at a regional level, he is supportive of building more industrial job spaces even at the cost of green space. Recently, he led a vocal resistance to the NDP’s decriminalization program, largely on grounds that it allowed legal drug use in community sports fields. In those respects, he acknowledges he aligns with a typical conservative brand.

“With respect to the NDP, I've disagreed with them over drug decriminalization, I've disagreed with them over some public safety issues and crime and disagreed with them on the carbon tax,” he said.

And this month, speaking to the Vancouver Sun, he was critical of the identity politics he says the NDP has employed at the expense of “dividing people.”

But, West is also socially progressive on key human rights issues — a proponent of female reproductive rights, for instance, as well as improving workers’ wages, which have been stagnating in Canada. He’s also opposed to the use of temporary foreign workers, which have been employed by centre and centre-right parties.

West said he doesn’t take kindly to “political footballs” such as abortion: “Those issues don’t pay people’s bills. They don’t provide a better standard of living.”

Meanwhile, “on the other side,” said West, “I don’t think you can find the more vocal critic of the former [BC Liberal] government turning a blind eye to money laundering, use of temporary foreign workers, tearing up collective agreements.”

Although largely touting himself to be focused on local matters, West has waded into higher-level politics that he has argued impact his community.

West also made headlines in 2019 when he opposed a partnership between the Union of BC Municipalities and the Chinese government. He’s been a vocal critic of foreign interference and influence campaigns by the People’s Republic of China. Were he to join the BC United party he would be joining a party that supports China’s Belt and Road Initiative and has signalled to reopen more trade offices in the authoritarian state.

Last year, West was part of a small municipal delegation to meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on cross-border policing of organized crime. West also supports re-establishing a police unit at B.C.'s unpoliced ports.

This month, he took on the NDP government for allowing criminals to change their names — a matter that led to legislative changes.

University of B.C. political scientist Stewart Prest said West’s popularity stems from his ability to operate in an “open space” and not be restricted by a political party.

“I think he is a good example of the kind of politics that can — it doesn't always — but can emerge at the municipal level, when you have a political system where parties can emerge, or different ideas can emerge, different leaders can emerge at the municipal level that are not squarely in one camp or another, at the more structured provincial or federal level.

“So,” said Prest, “someone like Mr. West can come along and be supportive of workers’ rights and the position of labour within the province, but also be skeptical of the NDP on what you might call these cultural issues.”

West, said Prest, is in a position to appeal to those who are “tired of the highly polarized, rhetorical debate” while not being worried about whether it crosses a distinct party line.

“I think if he were to jump into provincial politics, whether it was on one side of the political aisle or another, he would feel additional pressures and it might be difficult to maintain that position over the long haul, because there's such a need to differentiate yourself against that other team,” said Prest.

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