MACNAIR: Acclamation is never ideal for democracy

It was on Friday after the nomination period ended that five-term Delta mayor Lois Jackson discovered that she will land the gig for a sixth (and final, according to her) term after nobody else submitted their papers to run in opposition.

The free ride surprised this reporter, who has been following Delta civic politics and council long enough to know that not all of Jackson’s decisions were popular.

"I’m absolutely gobsmacked, as the British say. I’m very surprised," Jackson told the Delta Optimist.

"On one hand, I’m very gratified how people support me, but on the other hand I say this is supposed to be a democratic society and everybody should be challenged."

She’s right, of course. The idea that anybody should be handed the chains of office without undergoing the democratic ritual of an election is one best left to theocratic monarchies and dictatorships.

It’s certainly not Jackson’s fault that nobody stepped into the ring to do battle with her. And few could be blamed for choosing not to take on a fight with Metro Vancouver’s version of Hazel McCallion, Mississauga’s longtime mayor. A political juggernaut who has been involved in Delta politics since councillors were called aldermen, an entire generation of voters weren’t even born when Jackson was first elected in 1972.

While she enjoys a great deal of popularity for her folksy charm and matter-of-fact speaking, I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to Delta residents to pretend the more controversial moments of the previous three years never happened.

Jackson presided over the Southlands public hearing last year around this time, spending five days listening to hundreds of speakers argue against building on agricultural land in Tsawwassen. On the final day, she ticked off more than a handful of people by suddenly ending the hearings when more were waiting to be heard. She won’t have to answer for that decision now.

That wasn’t the only controversial development she voted to approve. The highdensity final build-out in Marina Garden Estates went through despite overwhelming opposition; the location of the site is close to the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge that Jackson

pushed the province to approve. Residents could be more than forgiven for being a little miffed, since the bridge was never mentioned during the hearings.

And then there’s the question of whether Jackson has advocated enough on behalf of residents over concerns involving environmental issues beyond municipal authority. Whether it be coal trains running through North Delta to Fraser Surrey Docks, the application for development of a residential subdivision on peat moss near Burns Bog, or the imminent threat to avian species that is Terminal 2 expansion in Roberts Bank, the mayor will not have to defend her record on any of these topics.

And here’s the worst part. I’ll bet she’d love to talk about all of those things, and more, if only somebody had decided to ante up and join her at the debate table.

Nobody likes to win by forfeit. We wouldn’t have much to talk about around the coffee maker at work if the only team that showed up last night was the Vancouver Canucks.

It isn’t as though there aren’t potential candidates who could have challenged Jackson. Heather King, Krista Engelland and John Meech all ran against her in 2011, but lost by a wide margin. King is taking a more cautious approach this year in seeking one of six seats on council.

If it’s any consolation to concerned citizens, Jackson’s record may be indirectly challenged as a member of the DIVA party (Delta Independent Voters Association), a slate composed of herself, incumbent councillors Robert Campbell and Ian Paton, and newcomer Rod Binder. It is to be hoped that residents in Delta exhibit more interest in the election than they did the mayor’s chair.

Adrian MacNair is a staff reporter with the Now.

Email amacnair@thenownewspaper.com.

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