Skip to content

BUCHOLTZ: What lies next for Delta after George Harvie’s dethroning?

Motions introduced at the May 6 Delta council meeting have shone a light on divisions at that council table. (Submitted photos)

Frank Bucholtz, columnist

The very strange dethroning of Delta Mayor George Harvie last week continues to reverberate, with many of the effects still to be uncovered.

Harvie, while still mayor, has been virtually stripped of all authority except that of chairing council meetings. Five of his six councillors passed a series of motions on May 6 ensuring that he can hardly do anything without the agreement of council.

One of the motions took away his seat on Metro Vancouver’s board, which he happens to chair. This is unprecedented — no chair of the largest and most meaningful regional district in B.C. has ever been taken off the board mid-term by the local council he or she was part of.

For once, Surrey council was out of the news, albeit briefly.

Delta council’s actions, of course, attracted plenty of attention outside Delta, although it took several days for the news about Metro Vancouver to sink in outside the city. Harvie will stay on the board until the end of June, but only after he asked his council for that small bit of grace. Council at first even questioned that modest request.

One of the biggest questions is why did all this happen. Harvie has said little publicly, but four of the councillors did issue a statement clarifying why they took the decision.

Coun. Dylan Kruger said that Harvie simply ignored councillors most of the time, taking initiative on his own. One example given was commissioning a report on policing at Deltaport, which Kruger said council was unaware of.

There are several relevant factors that likely helped bring about this situation. Harvie was the longtime CAO (chief administrative officer) in Delta until he decided to retire. At this time of his retirement in May 2018, he announced he was running for mayor. He had the support of outgoing longtime mayor Lois Jackson, who ran and won a council seat in the same October 2018 election.

Being part of a council is a very different role than doing council’s bidding as CAO. Others have done the same, notably Wayne Baldwin in White Rock. Such a transition isn’t smooth or easy. A mayor who is former CAO of the same city has unparalleled knowledge and experience but has not had to deal directly with the capriciousness and political expediency of council members who come from many different backgrounds and hold widely varying views.

This is even true when they are part of the same slate. All seven members of Delta council were elected as part of the Achieving For Delta slate, with little opposition, in 2022. Every one of them received 55 per cent or more of the vote, with Harvie gaining more than 75 per cent.

Another likely factor is the relative inexperience of most of the council members. Kruger and Coun. Alicia Guichon are the only two elected before 2022.

There are also some suggestions that the deposing of Harvie was done with an eye on the 2026 election. Council is not quite halfway through its two-year term, and most politicians think regularly about the next election.

Delta is facing many significant challenges. It is on the province’s list of municipalities that are required to build much more housing and is still figuring out how best to do that. It doesn’t help that the Housing Minister, Ravi Kahlon, is a Delta MLA, and a provincial election is just a few months away.

The never-ending saga of the Massey Tunnel replacement is also a major issue in the community. Other issues include the pending retirement of Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord, traffic congestion and the changing nature of residential neighbourhoods. Affordable housing, of course, is an issue, as it is in most part of B.C.

The next few months will be critical in seeing how Delta council functions after this coup d’etat.

Frank Bucholtz writes every second week for Black Press Media publications.