2011 Council Election—”Running Again” Friends for Council

Six Friends of Garden City who have previously served on Richmond council have returned to try again as candidates in the 2011 local election. In the coalition survey, all of those candidates expressed a commitment “to steward the Garden City Lands in the ALR for agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community benefit.

Ken Johnston

Ken Johnston made a huge difference for the “Save Garden City” cause in the 2008 election. He was the first Richmond First candidate to come out in favour of conserving the Garden City Lands in the ALR. Support for the goal has obviously crossed all political boundaries at the federal and provincial levels, and Ken’s clear support meant that it was crossing all political boundaries at the city level too. Ken’s Richmond First teammates began modifying their stance, and two of them were elected with Ken. When it was time to be counted in a key vote in December 2008, they all voted in a way that turned the tide from a “Pave Garden City” future for the lands to a probable “Save Garden City” future. We’re not there yet, and Ken can help the progress to continue.

Cynthia Chen

When Cynthia Chen was on council in her 2005–2008 term, she cautiously stayed on the side that was working toward getting the Garden City Lands out of the ALR for development. However, I could see that she was genuinely open to other views, and I therefore anticipated that she would come over to the Save Garden City side sooner or later. After the November 2008 election, when Cynthia narrowly missed getting enough votes, a meeting was called for the purpose of voting for an agreement to revive an old Garden City Lands agreement that was about to expire and also to try to impress the Agricultural Land Commission by means of some de facto rezoning in the McLelland Area that supposedly would have a benefit for agriculture. The old council’s term had not ended. The vote was postponed, so Cynthia didn’t get to vote on the matter after all, but the important point is that Cynthia was going to vote against the resolutions, which means that she was going to vote to save the lands. I was told that by a reliable source (another council member), and Cynthia confirmed that when I asked her. Cynthia has remained fully committed to stewarding the lands in the ALR in appropriate ways. The Garden City Lands Coalition motivation includes respect for nature as a fundamental aspect, and Cynthia is a very respectful person in every way in my experience. I noticed that during the time when Cynthia was a councillor and again at a recent all-candidates meeting when another candidate made a low-blow comment about her and she handled it with dignity, rather than (for example) an angry outburst against the offender.


Harold Steves

A longtime defender of the Agricultural Land Reserve, Harold Steves had a crucial early role in keeping the Garden City Lands in the ALR, as he was the only council member to vote against the 2005 agreement that would have put high-density development on the lands. He has continued to vote in a way that is consistent with that. Harold apparently wants to make the eastern 60% of the lands an annex to the Richmond Nature Park that is half a mile to the east and to consider bringing in topsoil for the rest.

Linda Barnes

The first councillor to join Harold Steves in working to keep the Garden City Lands in the ALR was Linda Barnes. She has continued to vote in a way that is consistent with that. Her support, along with that of Sue Halsey-Brandt (who has announced her upcoming retirement from council), was crucial in a positive way. They built confidence and held the fort until the cavalry arrived. (The cavalry was Ken Johnston, Bill McNulty and Derek Dang.)

Bill McNulty

Bill McNulty is a member of the Garden City Lands Coalition Society. He and Derek Dang had a crucial positive effect when they sided with “Save Garden City” advocates Linda Barnes Sue Halsey-Brandt, Ken Johnston and Harold Steves in a December 2008 vote. Together the six councillors defeated a proposal to extend a key development agreement past its final deadline, and at the same time they defeated another proposal that amounted to a de facto rezoning of part of the McLennan area (apparently because staff thought that the step might look good to the Agricultural Land Commission). I think that was a wise decision for a number of reasons, including the unprecedented and draconian effect of the McLennan proposal, but in this context it was wise for the future of the Garden City Lands. Bill is the councillor who has been advancing the sports fields proposal that the coalition society board has difficulty seeing as an ALR use of any kind, but he has affirmed that he supports the coalition goal of stewarding the Garden City Lands for agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community benefit. Naturally I’m pleased.

Derek Dang

The above points about Bill McNulty generally apply also to Derek Dang. As it happens, though, Derek is not a member of the Garden City Lands Coalition society. Also, if I recall correctly, Derek spoke in favour of an “Agricultural” designation in the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy instead of the “Conservation and Recreation” one. The coalition members I heard from (and it was quite a few) all favoured the “Agricultural” designation because it was less open to confused attempts at uses of the lands that would not be allowed under the Agricultural Land Commission Act, which takes precedence, as the Metro document explicitly and correctly states. I think the council members all eventually decided to agree on what the majority wanted, but it was good that Derek and one or two others  spoke up for the alternative.


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