Lahti elected Port Moody mayor; Stuart leading Lubik in nailbiter for last council seat

Meghan Lahti reacts to the Port Moody election results at her campaign office in Port Moody, B.C. on Oct. 15. She is the first female mayor-elect in the city’s history. Photo by Marissa Tiel

Port Moody will have its first female mayor.

Meghan Lahti won approximately 55 percent of the vote during the Oct. 15 municipal election, beating out fellow councillor Steve Milani by nearly 1,000 votes.

But she was on pins and needles as the results came in.

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“Nervous as hell,” she said as one wave of polls reported. “I’m shaking.”

Lahti spent most of the night pacing and fidgeting as more than a dozen of her supporters gathered at her campaign office in the 7-11 plaza on St Johns Street to watch the polls.

This election is the first time in Lahti’s lengthy political career that she watched the votes live. In the past she’s led Girl Guide trips; one year she went to an opera in Vancouver.

It wasn’t until she had a healthy margin of victory that she let her emotions out, crying and celebrating with her supporters. She would go on to win all 10 Port Moody polls.

  • Mayor:
  • Meghan Lahti
  • Councillors:
  • Callan Morrison
  • Incumbent Diana Dilworth
  • Samantha Agtarap
  • Kyla Knowles
  • Haven Lurbiecki
  • David Stuart (leading incumbent Amy Lubik by two votes at press time)
Incumbent councillor Diana Dilworth celebrates Meghan Lahti’s victory at Lahti’s campaign office in Port Moody, B.C. on Oct. 15, 2022. Lahti is the first female mayor-elect in the city’s history. Photo by Marissa Tiel

On the other side of town, mayoral candidate Steve Milani sat with outgoing Mayor Rob Vagramov in the corner of Inlet Theatre to watch the votes roll in.

photo Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Hopeful excitement quickly turned to disappointment. From the first poll counted, Lahti notched a sizable lead that did not decrease.

“The campaign went well, we worked hard,” Milani said, just before exiting the building on Saturday. “The electorate has spoken. There goes our small-town charm.”

Milani was more reflective Sunday morning, offering his congratulations to Lahti and the city’s new council.

“I would like to thank the residents of Port Moody for their support in allowing me to serve this term on Council, it has been an honour and a privilege,” Milani wrote. “To the newly elected mayor and council, I offer my congratulations and wish them success in moving the community’s vision forward over the next term while maintaining Port Moody’s incredible quality of life as the city grows.”

A seat hanging by a thread

Newcomer Callan Morrison topped vote-getters among council candidates with 4,742 votes. Former District of North Vancouver chief administrative officer David Stuart is leading the race for the sixth spot on council with 3,596 votes – just two ballots ahead of incumbent Amy Lubik.

Two votes separate Lubik and Stuart. photos supplied

The election may cause a shift in the direction of the city regarding development, as Vagramov, Milani, Madsen and Lubik sometimes formed a voting block.

Morrison said he’s happy the community chose a council they believe can work together.

During his campaign, he said he heard many times that voters wanted a council that was collaborative.

“You can have different perspectives and talk about that at the council table,” he said. “But if you’re not willing to listen to each other and talk to each other and communicate, you’re never going to find the best solutions.”

Newly-elected councillor Haven Lurbiecki and Stuart both highlighted that their campaigns did not accept contributions from developers.

The campaign team for Milani, along with many fellow candidates, watched the results come in at the Kaffi Espresso Bar. The mood was glum following the results.

Some expressed concern over future development projects and whether the new council can handle growth responsibly.

Others expressed anger over the toxic discourse on social media in the lead up to the election, which they felt was not fair or balanced. The mayoral campaign was, at times, dirty.

Drawing lines

The two sides were divided by their policies, with Lahti running on a pro-development platform, while Milani—who was seen as Mayor Vagramov’s heir apparent—often touted “moderate growth.”

In a parody video released prior to the election, Vagramov re-edited a Lahti campaign video, dubbing his own voice in place of Lahti’s. Vagramov defended the video as: “focusing strictly on platform vs voting record, not taking any personal jabs.”

“My goal was to run a clean campaign,” Lahti said on election night. “All I talked about was what I could bring to the table. I never ever referred to my opponent in a negative way. Our campaign was designed that way, it was about what I can bring.”

Port Moody mayor-elect Meghan Lahti celebrates her victory with a supporter at her campaign office. Photo by Marissa Tiel

Lahti said voters aligned themselves with her platform around building near transit, rather than an urban sprawl.

“The idea that we need to build up around the transit areas,” she said. “There was a lot of talk about, you know, it’s going to be 20 towers or what have you, but that’s never been something that I’ve envisioned for there.”

Following the election, Vagramov wrote: “Well – the people have spoken, and towers it is! I look forward to seeing how the new council will live up to their promises of “moderate growth.”

Developing consensus

In contrast to the current council, Lahti said voters chose a council they believe can work together over the next four years.

“People really wanted to see something different than what we’ve had,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of dysfunction and we’ve had a lot of negative, divisive behaviour and it’s gone. It’s not going to happen anymore.”

Lahti pledged to be collaborative and “consensus driven.”

Photo by Marissa Tiel

“There’s not going to be the same sort of digging in of heels around certain platforms or certain agendas like that’s gone out the door, not happening anymore,” she said. “We’re here to listen to the community and to do what the community tells us to do. . . . We can’t try and manipulate it and try and craft that input so that it steers it in a certain direction.”

With the nerves gone, she said she’s ready to start fresh with council.

“I’m not interested in what happened before. I’m interested in what’s going to happen tomorrow,” she said. “Tomorrow we’re going to start afresh, anew and rebuild relationships and bring the community together.”

Voter turnout is estimated to be 36.2 percent.

Election results are unofficial until certified.

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