Bing clings to council seat
The MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows will stay on city council despite previous promises to resign his seat in the New Year.
B.C. Liberal Doug Bing has set no deadline for when he’ll vacate his council seat, but plans to keep it for two votes that have split Pitt Meadows council – the city’s budget for 2014 and the next step towards developing the North Lougheed corridor.
“If we end up with a three-three tie, it’s defeated and they would have to start over again,” said Bing.
“We have to get the budget through. The North Lougheed has to go to Metro Vancouver, so we have to get that on the agenda and to the next step.”
Of the 24 new MLAs elected to B.C.’s legislature last year, Bing was among 12 who were members of a municipal council.
He won a tight race, garnering 10,824 votes compared to New Democrat Elizabeth Rosenau’s 10,204.
Bing initially sought a leave of absence from council until January, which was denied by his council colleagues. He then decided to stay on till January to avoid triggering a byelection.
With a budget that’s yet to pass and council split on the North Lougheed corridor, Bing says Pitt Meadows’ mayor asked him to hang around a little longer.
He is not worried about a perceived conflict of interest when it comes to the North Lougheed corridor – a development that requires support from the province for an interchange at Harris Road and Lougheed Highway.
“The Municipal Act says there shouldn’t be an pecuniary interests and there wouldn’t be any to myself, certainly,” Bing added, noting it is too early to get the province involved.
“It hasn’t even passed Metro Vancouver yet. Unless they see something solid happening there, I don’t think they are going to be getting involved.”
Bing hasn’t been receiving a salary from the city or billing them for expenses since he was elected MLA.
Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters welcomed Bing’s decision, and stressed that the request for him to remain on council was made when he was first elected MLA.
“At the end of the day, our citizens voted seven people to council and it is their right as citizens to have the seven people sitting at the table,” Walters said.
“For anyone to argue that it’s not their right, I think that’s a mistake. We have some huge issues coming up this year that affect the future of our community, so I think its important that every member of council be present for those decisions, whether you agree with them or not.”
Walters believes Bing is staying on to fulfill his responsibilities as a councillor.
“He takes his provincial hat off when he comes to the table,” she said. “There are other people at the table who belong to different political parties, we hear their opinions. That’s democracy. That’s democracy at its finest, actually.”
Coun. Tracy Miyashita had not heard that Bing had changed his mind when contacted Tuesday.
“But I think it’s a good thing. Up till now he’s been able to participate whenever he could. It is difficult to only have six members of council,” she said.
“It’s good of him to stay since he hasn’t been receiving any compensation. I appreciate that he’s doing that. I’m speculating but I know it was probably a tough decision for him. I know he is torn because he cares so much about the community.”
Not all of Bing colleagues, however, are pleased about his decision to stay.
Coun. Bruce Bell only learned about Bing’s change of stance from the media.
“It wasn’t transparent,” Bell said.
Coun. Janis Elkerton, meanwhile, is concerned that controversial items such as the budget and North Lougheed development are being pushed through.
“What serves the best interests of Pitt Meadows taxpayers?” she asks.
“A split vote is a poor vote.”
Bell, Elkerton and Coun. Dave Murray have cast the three opposing votes against the budget and development plans for the North Lougheed corridor.
“Given the fact that there are a lot of contentious things that we have to look at, Mayor Walters must see the value in having that extra vote. I think there was a lot of influence from her,” said Murray.
“I am surprised and disappointed with the tactics that are going on right now at council.”
Bing’s decision has drawn the ire of the NDP opposition’s local government critic.
Selena Robinson was among the newly elected MLAs to hold a council seat in Coquitlam, but stepped down.
She said the NDP asked their candidates to resign their municipal seats as soon as possible.
“There’s a lot to learn so to serve two masters could potentially be conflicting and overwhelming. The Liberals have been all over the place,” Robinson added, noting that Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo resigned his council seat because he couldn’t do two jobs, while Surrey city councillor Marvin Hunt is refusing to step down.
“[Bing] gave his word last fall that he would resign. Either you are a man of your word or not, and it looks like he’s not. So how could anyone trust him?”