LAUTENS: The upcoming election in West Vancouver could be a wild ride

I was waiting at the bus stop one wet morning 25-odd years ago when a car braked fast and the driver shouted “Wanna  ride?” Sure, thanks.

We hadn’t gone far when the car stopped again. The driver dashed out, grabbed a sizable branch that an overnight storm had deposited on the road, and cast it safely aside – making a cheerful mental note to inform the streets department.

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As my fondly remembered boss, the great Bruce Hutchison, said, only better: People seldom can understand an issue, but they rarely misjudge a person. That little vignette spoke clearer than a court’s verdict. The driver was the (once and future?) mayor of West Vancouver, Mark Sager.

Twenty-two years after he retired from politics (still in his 30s), the youngest councillor and youngest mayor in West Van history, Sager shocked our little town and rearranged the political scene when he became the third man in – as they say in hockey brawls – to what had been a straight-up fight between two attractive, savvy, and politics-hardened women.

Coun. Christine Cassidy confronts Coun. Mary-Ann Booth. A stylish lady with a stylish campaign, stylish being a near-synonym for well-funded, last week Booth held forth with a cheese-and-wine gathering at Gleneagles Golf Club, while Cassidy hosted a talk in the jauntily plebian Hollyburn Sailing Club.

Booth, backed by fine citizens Geoff Jopson and Jo-Ann Wood, allegedly set sights on the mayoralty several years ago. She didn’t respond when the undersigned quizzed her in April about her intentions, and, keeping her picture-perfect strategy close to her chest, fired the starting gun for the race in May and thus instantly took the lead.

Sager, beaming, peppy and puppy-dog friendly at 60, rises as the consensus candidate. He chuckles that as vice-chair of the GVRD (today’s Metro Vancouver) he chaired the budget and administration committee and brought left-wing Derek Corrigan and right-wing George Puil on side.

The upcoming municipal election in West Vancouver, which includes mayoral candidates Coun. Mary-Ann Booth, Coun. Christine Cassidy and former mayor Mark Sager and others, is slated to be an interesting one - photos supplied

Sager’s cat among these un-cooing pigeons instantly raised the speculation, as the Romans said: “Cui bono?” Who benefits? On the logical surface, so often wrong, Booth and Sager will split votes, the two lawyers rattling and confusing the pro-development moneyed elite that runs the town – though Sager is definitely cut from a different cloth. Read on.

Cassidy’s strength would be a big turnout of non-partisan, middle-middle voters angered by the reign of Mayor Michael Smith – whose blessing has been conferred on Sager. As some unkind persons might say, with blessings like that, who needs curses?

Interviewed by Jeremy Shepherd, as a parting shot, Smith – so a town hall source characterized it – “threw the whole council under a bus,” even for debating too long (when all that was necessary was for members to do his bidding, and be quick about it).

Sager has a proven record. He lists: Saving the Ferry Building. Negotiating BC Rail for the Seaview Walk. Putting services underground in Dundarave’s business block. Making Whytecliff Canada’s first ocean park (“thanks to Tony Holland” – Sager is super-generous with praise for others, like Steve Nichols, Doug Allan, Don Vaughan, and outstanding predecessor Peter Jones).

And how would he have handled the Grosvenor sale? No sale. “A 99-year lease on municipal land is, in my mind, a wise way to go. That is what we did at 320 Taylor Way – there will be a day when that land will come back to the municipality.” Note!

Nolan Strong and Rosa Jafari are what are sometimes dismissed as “nuisance candidates” – but their support, by the young and by immigrants respectively, could be decisive in a near-dead heat election where every vote may count.

Strong is 22, “a third-generation West Van boy” who had student employment this summer working for a shipping management company. His platform is a fine fit with some of Christine Cassidy’s, like small apartment buildings and maintaining view corridors. He states: “I will personally find ways to fix the poor transit service we get on the North Shore.” We could use a little youthful optimism, and where did Mark Sager begin?

Rosa Jafari, a 2002 immigrant, ran unsuccessfully in the 2016 by-election under a banner of “never give up!” As well as teaching, she’s “managed projects that are just about the size of a budget of the West Vancouver municipality.”

This election could be quite a ride.

• • •

David Marley, a handsome dog and ageless WV council-watcher, nudged a memory: The West Vancouver Citizens for Good Government hasn’t been heard from. Extinct?

For years, candidates humbly lined up to win the power-broking Weegies’ nod. And it didn’t come cheap. In the 2008 election Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones forked out $1,000 to buy the group’s endorsement for her re-election. Council candidates that WVCGG endorsed paid $900.

But newcomer Michael Lewis (campaign manager D. Marley) would have none of it. Lewis pioneered in refusing to kiss the sacred foot. He won a council seat for that election and two subsequent ones.

On Wednesday the late councillor was honoured with a tree-planting ceremony at town hall, an accolade well deserved.

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