Mayoral candidates take centre stage at Evergreen Cultural Centre

file photo Jeremy Shepherd

Coquitlam’s three candidates for mayor talked housing, taxes and leadership in tightly timed 60-second bursts during an all-candidates meeting Thursday night at Evergreen Cultural Centre.

The housing crisis remains a top priority, according to Mayor Richard Stewart, who discussed both the accomplishments of Coquitlam council and the limitations of city government.

“We’re generating more rental housing and more affordable rental housing and more below-market rental housing than any other community, per capita,” he said.

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However, the city faces numerous pressures, Stewart said, referring to the fact that B.C.’s net migration reached a record of 100,797 in 2021.

“The province built enough housing for two-thirds of them. That didn’t help, obviously,” Stewart said.

Challenger Adel Gamar focused his remarks on what he called: “the Inspirational power of politics.”

Coquitlam needs a mayor that puts people and neighbourhoods first, Gamar said.

“When it comes to leadership at city hall, we want to make that we’re hearing the concerns and the stories of people,” he said. “I hope that you will join me and together we will build the city for everyone.”

Challenger Mark Mahovlich said the country had been sold out and suggested much of the blame for the housing crisis fell to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The real estate market and the housing market is absolutely out of control and Justin Trudeau has caused it. It’s a trickle-down effect,” he said. There are homeless people everywhere now that we never had 10 years ago.”

Mahovlich discussed his work as a journeyman carpenter and hockey referee, as well as the author of a conspiracy book.

Gamar discussed his work as Douglas College board chair, noting new housing at Douglas College’s New Westminster location.

That housing is a result of collaboration, Gamar told the crowd, adding that he went to Victoria and met with provincial ministers to advocate for the project.

Following Gamar’s remarks, Stewart noted a B.C.-owned parcel of land near Douglas College’s Coquitlam campus.

“We’ve been at Douglas College board probably seven times over the last decade urging them to build some rental housing for students on campus,” Stewart said. “The housing that was just announced in New Westminster is what we need in Coquitlam.”

Mahovlich emphasized the need to cap property taxes and to protect the environment.

“Taxes should be lower and you should take care of the environment better,” he said, criticizing the city’s decision to cut down trees in Mundy Park.

Gamar said Coquitlam needed to do more for both seniors and young people.

“We are not a designated age-friendly city,” Gamar said. “We have neglected our youth for far too long. . . . We have not created spaces for young people to feel like they belong so they can stop looking at their screens and look up and connect into other people’s eyes.”

Stewart discussed council’s ability to build consensus on a range of issues over the past four years. If elected for another term, Stewart said he’d like to focus on mental health.

“I want to continue to work on that enormous issue, partly because of our own personal experience but partly because it affects each one of us.”

The meeting was organized by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce.

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