Two mayors and a commissioner
Being Liberal in West Vancouver-Garibaldi can lead in many directions
By Bob Barnett
On Sunday at the Sea to Sky Hotel in Squamish Brenda Broughton, mayor of Lions Bay, officially became the NDP candidate for West Vancouver-Garibaldi. More importantly, the meeting signalled the race to be the MLA for West Vancouver-Garibaldi was officially on.
Broughton, who was acclaimed, may be a serious challenger to Whistler Mayor Ted Nebbeling, the Liberal party candidate in the undeclared provincial election that is now in full swing. The two mayors have worked together on the Sea to Sky Highway Committee and the committee that developed the "Mayor’s Option" for the Soo Timber Supply Area. They both come from small, rather well-off towns within a generally prosperous riding, and they are both somewhat hesitant to acknowledge each other, at least in the initial stages of this campaign, preferring to espouse their party’s policies.
There are other candidates in the riding — Mike Becker, a Capilano Highways employee is the Socred nominee, Peggy Stortz of Horseshoe Bay is the Green Party candidate and Jim Mercier is the lone candidate for the Reform nomination to date, although there are rumblings he may be challenged. A Progressive-Democratic Alliance candidate may also be nominated.
But most observers feel any race in the riding will be between Nebbeling and Broughton, although many contend the Liberal nominee sewed up the riding on Feb. 8 when independent MLA David Mitchell announced he would not seek re-election.
Mitchell, the historian and author who was elected in 1991 as a Liberal then left the party after a year to sit as an independent, is a factor in the West Vancouver-Garibaldi election even though he is not in it. His comments for this story were solicited Tuesday, just hours before he was named interim Conflict of Interest Commissioner.
Mitchell is the only representative West Vancouver-Garibaldi has had. The riding, which previously included all of West Vancouver, was re-drawn prior to the last election in 1991. It includes part of West Vancouver, Howe Sound, Lions Bay, Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and D’Arcy. Although it has been called a microcosm of B.C. — with Squamish and Pemberton representing the forestry sector of the provincial economy, Whistler representing the growing tourism sector, Howe Sound reflecting some aspects of the coastal economy and West Vancouver being the southern urban influence on the riding, just as Greater Vancouver is an urban influence on the province — about half the votes in the riding are in West Vancouver.
Prior to Mitchell’s decision not to run again many had been anticipating a bloody battle between the former Liberal and the present Liberal. Nebbeling and Mitchell are not on friendly terms, but just who was the favourite is open to interpretation. Last year the Vancouver Sun included Nebbeling in a series on B.C.’s next power brokers and said Mitchell didn’t stand much of a chance against him in the next election. Last fall the North Shore News said Nebbeling was still an unknown in West Vancouver and suggested Mitchell would be an easy winner.
Nebbeling was acclaimed as the Liberal nominee a year-and-a-half ago and has been campaigning quietly ever since. He said this week he doesn’t take anything for granted, but "the polls in our riding show people recognize me, they like what we’ve done in Whistler and they respect my 10 years on council."
He dismisses a recent poll conducted by the North Shore News that suggests 56 per cent of North Shore residents don’t know who they will vote for. That phone survey was based on 377 respondents and is considered accurate +/- 4 per cent 19 times out of 20. Nebbeling says the Liberal party’s own polling, based on 11,000 phone calls, shows 56 per cent support for the party, compared to 17 per cent for the NDP and Reform.
Although West Vancouver, and West Vancouver-Garibaldi, are considered conservative territory, voters in 1991 embraced Mitchell and turned their back on the Social Credit party — which they had traditionally voted for — and candidate Rodney Glynn-Morris. The NDP’s Brian Giles was second, albeit a distant second, to Mitchell.
That factor, plus Mitchell’s relatively high profile as an independent MLA, are encouraging factors for the NDP. Premier Glen Clark’s steady stream of positive announcements in the last month hasn’t hurt either. But the most encouraging sign for the party is that Broughton has chosen them.
"She should be a star candidate for the NDP," Mitchell said this week.
"She’s not a traditional New Democrat. She has the prospect of doing better in this riding, probably, than any NDP candidate ever."
Broughton and Mitchell are friends and have worked together in the past. Broughton readily admits Mitchell’s decision not to see re-election influenced her decision to run.
"I want to continue the tradition of representing the riding with the openness, diligence and candour that he has brought to us in the last few years," she says.
Broughton, like Mitchell, has a history with the Liberal party, although she worked hard to be a non-partisan mayor. Broughton’s family has ties to the Liberal party and she went to the national unity rally in Montreal last fall as a Liberal. (Nebbeling was a Socred before joining the Liberal party).
However, it has been as mayor of Lions Bay that Broughton says she has had an opportunity to observe first hand how the NDP government works, and she has been impressed.
"There is so much good legislation that has come from this government," she said last week. "I have been impressed by their approach and the philosophy that has guided them. I believe in leadership that is collaborative, non-confrontational and dedicated to achieving effective results."
A counsellor and director of the Employee Assistance Group, a branch of Family Services of Greater Vancouver which provides counselling, mediation and crisis debriefing services to organizations, Broughton consulted friends who were successful in business about her decision to run for the NDP. She was surprised by the support the party was getting from business people.
Broughton says the government’s "creative round-table method of forging workable solutions, amid competing interests" will be a major theme in her campaign.
The round-table approach isn’t unique to the NDP. Nebbeling says Gordon Campbell’s efforts several years ago, as head of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, to get all the mayors in the province to present a united front to the provincial government, rather than compete with each other for government funds, was what convinced him to join the Liberal team.
While Mitchell concedes on a personality basis the race is between Nebbeling and Broughton, he doesn’t rule out the Reform party candidate.
"As an independent MLA I’ve encouraged people to look at the best candidates for the job. Old party lines don’t mean too much anymore. I think people are going to vote for the best candidate," Mitchell said.
Nebbeling, while welcoming an NDP candidate, thinks Broughton lacks a strong business background.
"I don’t think business will support her. The NDP labour legislation has undermined small business," he said.
"The NDP doesn’t have strong support in this riding. Even Squamish wants jobs."
Conventional thinking suggests that an NDP candidate doesn’t stand a chance in the riding, but conventional thinking wouldn’t have led Broughton to seek the NDP nomination.
Whether she can create a race in West Vancouver-Garibaldi will become evident in the next few weeks — and then we’ll know just how liberal the riding really is.