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Coquitlam mayor voices frustration at Victoria at city town hall

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart apologized twice for his "rants" directed at the provincial government, during the town hall meeting on Tuesday night, April 30.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart at a news conference at Garden Court co-op on Feb. 8, 2024, with Premier David Eby in the background.

It was Game 5 of the Canucks versus Predators’ playoff action Tuesday night, April 30.

But that didn’t stop a handful of Coquitlam residents from making their way to city hall for the spring town hall meeting with council and senior staff.

A couple of speakers sported their jerseys to cheer on the Vancouver hockey team away from their television screens and Mayor Richard Stewart even slipped on his “lucky” Canucks slippers for the event; they never lost when he wore them, he said.

In-person and online participants to the town hall raised common themes during the two-hour meeting — largely focusing on climate change, wildfires, traffic, construction, short-term rentals and the loss of Place Maillardville.

For the most part, elected officials in attendance (Couns. Trish Mandewo and Dennis Marsden sent regrets) were silent as residents spoke and senior managers offered explanations behind city policies and procedures, as well as ways for improvement.

And, for a good chunk of the meeting, Stewart followed up with criticisms of the provincial government and its new legislation designed to ease the housing crisis that, he said, has created confusion, headaches for civic planners and a silence on public hearings if rezoning applications already meet the Official Community Plan guidelines.

When asked via email about the length of time to process a development permit at city hall, Stewart chimed in about how “staff are now working overtime” to reach Victoria’s deadlines on new housing rules. “We’re working as hard as we can,” the mayor said.

On another email about how new multi-family home developments and monster homes are making streets unsafe to play for kids, Stewart again voiced his frustration about the province no longer requiring parking in new builds close to transit stations and lines.

“It’s not going to work. It’s not going to be a great community if we’re going to get parking wars,” he said, later apologizing to the crowd. “Sorry, you got me on a rant.”

Further in the meeting, the mayor described the new housing rules as “foolhardy.”

Vanessa Wideski, co-executive director of Low Entropy Foundation, asked the city to borrow land to build a community hub for the homeless, which Stewart dismissed as a provincial responsibility while also targeting Victoria for what he says has been a failure to address mental health and addictions during another provincial crisis: toxic drugs.

Before ending, Stewart again apologized for his fiery comments, saying his family has been affected by mental health and is upset with the lack of resources. “There are some real gaps in this province and I wish the province…,” he said without finishing.

Town hall speakers also inquired about two-hour restrictions for public Level 2 electric vehicle chargers, the tennis court conversion to pickleball near Bramblewood Elementary and transforming major roads in Coquitlam to include separated bike lanes.

Most of those speaking before council were past council candidates or leading groups.

As for the new ban on public hearings imposed by the province, Coun. Teri Towner said Coquitlam council doesn’t support that policy and encouraged residents to reach out.

“Our number one priority is serving the residents of Coquitlam,” Towner said.