The last election in Surrey wasn’t very competitive. Surrey First won the mayor’s chair and every seat on council. But it might have been a lot closer if the voters knew what these politicians were planning for after the voting was done.

Linda Hepner was elected mayor by promising to continue Dianne Watts’ legacy and a platform of hiring more police (100 new officers), expanding transit and building more recreational infrastructure. What the platform didn’t mention was tax hikes.

But now the election is over and tax hikes are at the top of Surrey First’s agenda.

For the average home, combined taxes could go up by $162 a year. Equivalent to a 10% increase.

Of course, Surrey First will claim that this isn’t all “property taxes” because it includes a proposed $100 “cultural and recreational” levy. It’s a flat fee that will be charged equally on every home in Surrey. That means the rich pay the same as the poor, and people who never use cultural or recreational facilities pay the same as people who use them all the time.

In Surrey First’s election platform, Coun. Tom Gill is quoted as saying, “Our city finances are in terrific shape, and that makes a big difference when you want to build parks, rec centres, soccer fields and swimming pools.” Funny how the finances were “terrific” before election day, but now they need a big tax grab to pay for all those parks and rec centres.

In fact, last week Gill was quoted as describing the coming budget as “unique.” It sure is unique – it’s the first budget right after an election. That means the politicians are counting that the voters in Surrey will have forgotten about it by the time the next election rolls around in 2018.

For most people, surprises in December are limited to what sort of presents are wrapped under the Christmas trees, but Surrey First has dropped a different sort of surprise on Surrey’s taxpayers.

Surrey First has dominated city hall for the last nine years, but this sort of betrayal is how dynasties begin to fall.

It’s a cliché that politicians say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. But the reason it is a cliché is that it happens all too often. For some reason we fall for it every time. But if it happens too often, voters do remember and Surrey First could learn a valuable lesson in what happens when politicians take the voters for granted.

Well, that didn’t take long.

The very same day that Mayor Gregor Robertson was sworn in for his third term he started talking about raising salaries for Vancouver civic politicians.

I don’t remember Robertson and his Vision council candidates running in the election on promises of raising their salaries. But that was before the people of Vancouver voted, and apparently it’s a whole new world after the voting is done.

Robertson says that they need to review how much municipal politicians are paid because the job has changed and councillors have more responsibilities than they used to. Apparently the time it takes to manage social media accounts and listening to the community more now requires councillors to earn more, according to Robertson.

However, if anything, social media makes a politician’s job easier, not harder. They can tweet from anywhere and connect with their constituents without leaving the comfort of their homes.

Traditionally, being a city councillor has been a part-time job. Sure, there are weekly council meetings, committee meetings, lots of community events and running a Twitter feed, but it’s not like working 9-to-5 for 40 hours a week.

Councillors are pretty well paid right now for this part-time job: $67,994. That’s the best part-time job I’ve ever heard of. But apparently that’s not enough.

To put it in context, the average full-time salary for people living in Vancouver is $64,420.

Of course, if councillors get a pay raise, so will the mayor. Right now under the current system, the mayor gets paid $154,347, which is more than a provincial cabinet minister.

Politicians wonder why people don’t trust them.

When they pull stuff like this, it should be pretty easy to figure out why. Robertson and Vision spent months talking about subway lines, ending homelessness, making Vancouver the greenest city, but it turns out that their actual top priority was giving themselves a raise.

With a four-year term, they figure we’ll all have forgotten about this by the time the next elections rolls around. They think they can get away with it.

So don’t let them.

If you are as outraged about this as I am, do something about it. Tell the mayor what you think of his thoughts on jacking salaries for him and his friends. Send him an email at

Public anger has stopped politicians from raising their salaries before. But it will only happen if politicians know how we feel. So let’s see if we can change this story by telling them how we all feel and making them back down in shame.

Next Tuesday Vancouver’s new city council will meet for the first time.

For a political geek like me, a new term is sort of like the first day of school.

Everyone turns out in their Sunday best and makes bold announcements about how this year will be different. But quickly, the same old patterns emerge.

Despite the millions of dollars spent and some new faces on council, the dynamic hasn’t really changed. Gregor Robertson is still the mayor, and his six Vision Vancouver teammates still control a working majority on council.

Which means that Robertson’s vision for Vancouver will continue unabated. But that could be a problem for him.

Robertson has always been elected as someone with big ides – like making Vancouver the Greenest City, or ending street homelessness. His party is even called “Vision.”

He’s been in power for six years and in many ways has taken the big steps necessary to meet his goals, but with mixed success. The next four years will be about managing the city, not about grand vision statements or big ideas to alter our city.

I’m not convinced that Robertson is as good at managing as he is at the “vision thing.”

Management decisions have a tendency to make some folks angry, and it is harder to keep a coalition together when you are not all marching towards some large unifying goal.

Just look at what happened on the Park Board, where poor management of the community centres file led to a backlash that cost Vision all but one of their seats. That’s the sort of thing that Robertson needs to avoid on council.

What will make this more complicated is that something else starts next week as well. The race to be the next mayor of Vancouver. At the time of the next election, Robertson will have been mayor for a decade, and there is a good chance he won’t run again.

Which means that Vision councillors who have been good team players for so long will start jockeying for profile throughout this term. If they want to run for mayor, they need to be known for something other than being one of Robertson’s trained seals.

The NPA will smell an opportunity. With a popular mayor not running again they will see the next election wide open. This means they will be more strident in their opposition, and if they are smart, they will try to force Vision councillors to side with Robertson on unpopular issues.

It’s going to be a wild four years at Vancouver City Hall.

Mayors aren’t kings.

But you wouldn’t know that listening to Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

He’s basically declared war on the separation of powers between the different levels of government.

Corrigan and his allies on Burnaby City Council have by-laws to stop Kinder Morgan from expanding their pipeline. But municipal by-laws don’t trump federal law in areas of federal jurisdiction.

Big pipeline projects like Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government’s National Energy Board.

The other day Corrigan was quoted by the Province, “How much can the federal government impose its will on local governments and the ability of people to make local decisions?”

He won’t like the answer.

The constitution lays out what activities are provincial jurisdiction and which ones are federal. Cities, like Burnaby, don’t even get a mention – because they are creations of the provinces.

All this means that mayors, even popular ones like Corrigan, don’t have absolute control of everything that happens within their city limits. Senior governments can, and do, impose their rights.

True, Corrigan’s on a high after easily winning re-election and his left-wing Burnaby Citizens Alliance swept every election position in the city again, but that doesn’t mean the constitution doesn’t apply to Burnaby.

Which leads us to the weird situation of Burnaby RCMP arresting protesters on Burnaby Mountain over the last week. Protestors have been getting arrested for trying to get in the way of Kinder Morgan drilling two six-inch wide test holes.

The Burnaby RCMP, whose salaries are paid by the City of Burnaby, are enforcing a court order obtained by Kinder Morgan at the same time that the City of Burnaby is fighting Kinder Morgan in court.

This is the inevitable result of the trend we’ve been seeing for years of city councils trying to get involved in areas in which they have no jurisdiction.

Remember the old “Welcome to Vancouver, a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone” signs that appear at the edges of the city in the 80’s and 90’s? The idea that a city council resolution could have stop a ship carrying nuclear weapons coming into the harbour is laughable, as both defense issues and the port fall under federal control.

Mayors should stick to their knitting. Cities face lots of real issues, under their jurisdiction, from policing and emergency services to transit and road maintenance. When everything at city hall is working perfectly, then maybe bored mayors can weigh in on federal and provincial issues.

Derek Corrigan has been elected mayor of Burnaby five times, but that doesn’t make him a king.

In the weeks following an election, political parties spend time pouring over the results and analyzing what went wrong – or what went right.

Not knowing why you won an election can be just as bad as failing to identify why you lost.

Gregor Robertson was re-elected – but it wasn’t because he ran a spectacular campaign or because voters were enthralled with his platform. He hung on to his coveted third term because of the failures of his challengers.

Vision Vancouver was partially saved by hard-left candidate Meena Wong’s weak showing at the polls. Her party, COPE, took only 10% of the vote. The much-talked-about left-wing vote split between Vision and COPE was never realized. Had Wong and COPE done a little better, the mayor’s third term could have been toast.

Vision owes the most to the Non-Partisan Association, whose campaign was a failure. Despite the late-game excitement that the election had developed into a real horse race, mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe only got 0.5% more support than NPA mayoral hopeful Suzanne Anton did back in 2011.

Ultimately, the NPA ran as a pale imitation of Vision and failed to distinguish themselves. The NPA’s policies and promises weren’t much different than what Vision had on the table. It’s difficult to ask voters to change government when you aren’t offering real change, so it’s no wonder the NPA didn’t gain any greater vote share.

While Vision carried the day, the NPA did enjoy one significant victory – the Park Board.

It has always been assumed that people generally vote for parks and school boards the same way they do for mayor and council, but that assumption is wrong and Saturday’s election proves it.

The NPA gained control of the Park Board from Vision, taking four seats while the Greens took two and Vision ended up with only one.

This is interesting because much of Vision’s weaknesses that have garnered them criticism in the last year have been the result of their actions with the Park Board. The controversy was heated over more central control over community centre boards, and Vision’s ban on dolphin and whale breeding at the aquarium.

Voters made the distinction that they were happy with Vision on council and in the mayor’s chair, but not running the Park Board. Vision paid a price for their antics and ideological agenda by losing control – something which cannot be ignored.

Hopefully Vision takes notice of this message sent to them by voters instead of breaking out the champagne.

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