Two weeks before their debut in chambers, the majority of the next District of North Vancouver council were in the same room – toasting and being toasted as they celebrated Mike Little’s successful mayoralty bid.
Little, a former three-term councillor, won 59 per cent of the vote, besting Building Bridges candidate Ash Amlani by more than 8,000 votes.
Speaking to a packed crowd at Canlan Ice Sports on Mount Seymour Parkway, Little focused on the imminent demolition and demovictions at Emery Place. That redevelopment forced the community to define what it was, and to “figure out what we wanted to become,” he said.
Little singled out Emery Village mother Kelly Bond for uniting returning incumbent Coun. Lisa Muri, himself, and newly elected councillors Betty Forbes and Megan Curren.
“Your efforts this spring brought us all together,” he told Bond. “You now have a new council to work with.”
That new council also includes incumbents Jim Hanson and Building Bridges member Mathew Bond as well as Jordan Back, who squeaked by Barry Forward by 101 votes to earn the last spot on council.
Coun. Lisa Muri continued to be the most popular councillor among district voters, finishing with more than 12,000 votes – 2,300 ballots more than runner-up and frequent ally Hanson.
“I had faith that my community was still here,” an ecstatic Muri said. “We have a majority now.”
“It’s been a lonely, lonely four years,” she said, explaining her contention that the implementation of the district’s official community plan had been accelerated by a frequently inflexible council.
After finding herself on the short end of a series of 4-3 council votes, Muri celebrated the election of new Mayor Mike Little along with potential council allies Jim Hanson, Betty Forbes, and Megan Curren.
The night was a vindication of both her stubbornness and love for her community, Muri said.
District voters also seemed keen on amalgamation, with 79 per cent of voters favouring a $100,000 study on reunification with the City of North Vancouver.
District residents also voted yes – albeit by a razor-thin margin – to spend a maximum of $150 million to create at least 1,000 units of non-market housing by 2029. The final poll listed 51.64 per cent of voters in favour and 48.36 per cent opposed.
In his victory speech, Little singled out his “very principled friend,” Megan Curren, who, “against all advice,” decided not to erect a single plastic campaign sign.
A staunch environmentalist, Curren promised to view every council issue: “through the lens of climate crisis.”
Noting her priority to massively cut greenhouse gas emissions, Curren listed transportation and building as “the top two offenders.”
“I’m ready,” she said following her win. “Shocked and ready.”
It was a disappointing night for longtime councillor Robin Hicks, who was voted off council after finishing with 5,926 votes – 1,024 votes fewer than in 2014.
One of the first crucial votes awaiting Little as mayor is the Maplewood Innovation District, a massive project including 680 rental units, 220 units for Capilano University students, and an employment hub estimated to generate 4,500 jobs. Council elected to deal with the proposal after the election.
“The community is not prepared for a massive planned community of that scale in that area,” Little said, suggesting he would sit down with the developer to determine “something more modest.”
In a reflective moment, Little recalled first running for council in 2002 at the age of 26. Little described moving his three signs from neighbourhood to neighbourhood each day in the hopes enough district voters would see them. It didn’t produce a “winning result,” Little said. But it led to his joining community groups, eventually winning a spot on council and finally becoming district mayor.
Stepping away from a packed table at a Pemberton Avenue restaurant, Amlani was meditative in defeat, having finished with 22 per cent of the vote.
“I was hoping for better,” she said. “But I think we got a lot of people engaged that were not paying attention and of that I’m really proud.”
While she wasn’t certain that election night marked the beginning of a political career, Amlani said it likely marked “the beginning of a political movement.”
Amlani was tentative about making another run for the mayor’s chair but promised to stay engaged in municipal politics, highlighting the importance of a potential OCP review.
“The district definitely needs a more progressive voice, a united voice that is speaking to the needs of young professionals, that is speaking to the needs of people of diverse backgrounds in this community.”
The result countered stereotypes about disengaged youth and lazy millennials, according to Amlani. “We’re a credible threat to the status quo and I think that’s something we should all be proud of,” she said. “Most of our volunteer workforce was under the age of 40, which is amazing for a community that lost most of its middle generation.”
Back at Canlan Ice Sports, Emery Village mother Kelly Bond literally and figuratively embraced the new council.
While acknowledging the bittersweet feeling of having the council she wants only days before likely getting an eviction notice, Bond said she was thrilled with the result. “We’re going to work together to get some affordable housing back in the community.”
Voter turnout in the district was 36.5 per cent, a huge spike from the 24 per cent four years ago or 17.1 per cent in 2008.
Former Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn ran for council in his new community of Qualicum Beach but fell 214 votes shy of a council seat.
For the full election results, visit our election page North Shore Votes 2018 at nsnews.com.