Q&A with
Mary-Ann

Q : You recently cast the deciding vote to approve the construction of the West Vancouver Place for Sport, knowing that it is located on school board property and that costs had risen significantly.  Why did you champion this project?

Q: Many residents are upset that long standing racist covenants still remain on the title to their property.  Your Council has promised to do what you can to see them removed.  What progress can you report?

Q: Council’s strategic plan suggests that it was your intention to “significantly expand the diversity and supply of new housing”.  The deliverables for this goal identified the addition of an average of 250 new housing units each year, including 100 market or below market rentals.  What is preventing you from reaching this target?

Q: Why are you running for mayor of West Vancouver again?

A: As a long-time resident of West Vancouver, I am proud of its history and optimistic about its future.  I envision a more livable, vibrant and inclusive community.  My greatest challenge is to balance protecting the way of life that has been built here over many years with the changes that must be implemented if West Vancouver is to continue to thrive.  People who know me describe me as a collaborative, thoughtful leader who works tirelessly to improve her community.  I am proud of the progress Council has made on the priorities it set in its Strategic Plan during my term as Mayor, including:

 

  • The workforce housing and Adult Day Centre to be built at 2195 Gordon Avenue;

  • Securing regional support for rapid transit from Metrotown across Burrard Inlet to Park Royal;

  • Supporting local businesses during Covid, including expanding outdoor patio dining, introducing public consumption of alcohol in parks, and facilitating the opening of The Orchard restaurant in Gleneagles;

  • The new Harry Jerome Oval and all-weather field to be built at West Vancouver Secondary School; 

  • The greenest Building Code in Canada, and regulations to protect our waterfront from flooding, and our forests from wildfires; and

  • Financial measures (asset levy) put in place to ensure community infrastructure and facilities will be properly maintained over the next 20 years.  

 

But there is still work to do to see many of these initiatives to fruition, as well as ones still in the works:  

  • Approving the development plan for Cypress Village, to create a compact sustainable urban community and preserve as park 262 acres of land in Eagleridge; 

  • Replacing the aging Inglewood Care Home with a modern, long-term care facility and affordable housing for our seniors; and 

  • Initiating the Ambleside Local Area Plan to support the businesses we rely on every day with updated premises, an increased customer base, and better mobility options.

Q:  What is your relationship with developers?

A:  I have no relationship with developers outside my work as Mayor.  It is well known that my husband, John Sampson, is a real estate lawyer, and that he acts as legal counsel for Grosvenor.  During my first term as a Councillor I recused myself from the decision regarding the sale of the 1300 Block Marine Drive as my participation in that decision would have placed me in a potential conflict of interest.  However, as I announced in the 2014 election, John has decided that he will not work on any future development projects in West Vancouver.  Trust and honesty are at the heart of good governance, and I take this responsibility very seriously.  I fully appreciate the community sensitivity to new development, and frequently meet with individual applicants on site to ask questions, so that I have the best information available to make a decision at the Council table.  In addition, at times I have strongly conveyed my expectations to developers, as was the case when I proposed the Local’s First Program to Westbank after learning that the Sewell’s Landing project had been marketed in Hong Kong before the matter had gone to a public hearing. This Program was not only adopted by Westbank, it has been widely copied by other developers and communities.  

Q: Are you in favour of development?

A: We live in a unique community, one that we are all proud of, and I will continue to be focused on preserving what is best about West Vancouver - our parks, our prized facilities such as the Memorial Library, the Seniors Centre, and our two Community Centres. But I also understand that in order for this community to thrive in the years ahead we will need to revitalize our villages, particularly Ambleside, and that we must encourage more diverse forms of housing. I have supported several developments over the past 11 years on Council where I felt the specific project, as well as the associated community benefits, outweighed the potential drawbacks - projects that provided more affordable housing options, such as smaller units and rental units; opportunities for seniors to age in place; for locals to buy first (a program I championed); a place for WV dementia patients to stay in their community; supportive housing for people with disabilities; child care; and expanded retail offerings. I will support what might best be called "gentle" densification - development proposals that are innovative, and that meet our changing needs without compromising the look and feel of this community.

Q:  Are you running with a slate or party?

 

A: No, we don't run a party system in this community.  I like to think that I can work successfully with all elected councillors, and I don't believe that the mayoral candidates should bring a slate to the electorate.  

 

I have been mentoring a number of new candidates for Council.  It takes a lot of courage to run for public office, and I want to help bring as many diverse voices to the Council table as I can.

Q: We heard that West Vancouver’s organic waste is currently being trucked from the transfer station in North Vancouver to Princeton, where it is not processed, but instead, dumped in a copper mine.  Is this true?

A: We understand that there have been questions related to the processing of the District of West Vancouver’s residentially collected yard trimmings and food scraps (organics). The District of West Vancouver - along with Bowen Island, Lions Bay, the District of North Vancouver and City of North Vancouver - all deliver curbside collected organics to the North Shore Recycling and Waste Centre. Metro Vancouver has two contracts in place to manage the organics from the North Shore Recycling and Waste Centre. 

 

Arrow Transportation Systems

In April 2021, the GVS&DD Board approved the award of a contract to Arrow Transportation Systems to compost organics from the North Shore Recycling and Waste Centre at their composting facility in Princeton. The Arrow proposal offered the overall best value for the following reasons:

1.       The Arrow facility produces class A compost and is authorized under the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy’s composting facility authorization process.

2.       Compost from the facility is used for general landscaping/horticulture, commercial farm operations and mine reclamation.

3.       Arrow demonstrated substantial community support, providing letters from the Town of Princeton and the Upper Similkameen Indian Band.

4.       Arrow provides 100% backhaul, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and traffic, as copper concentrate from Princeton was already being delivered to a marine terminal in North Vancouver. 

5.       The Arrow contract resulted in approximately $7.5 million or 30% savings over the life of the contract, compared to the previous contracts.

 

Sea to Sky Soils

In July 2021, the GVS&DD Board was advised that a second organics processing contract was established with Sea to Sky Soils to process organics from Langley and Maple Ridge recycling and waste centres, as well as some of the organics from the North Shore Recycling and Waste Centre. The contract was cost neutral compared to the previous contracting approach. Sea to Sky Soils provides many benefits, including:

1.       The Sea to Sky Soils facility in Pemberton produces class A compost and is authorized under the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy’s composting facility permitting process.

2.       Compost from the Sea to Sky Soils facility is used for landscaping and horticulture in the Sea to Sky corridor. Compost from Sea to Sky Soils is also available for purchase locally in North Vancouver. 

3.       Sea to Sky Soils has strong community support with the majority of staff from the Li’wat First Nation. 

4.       During the flood emergency in the fall of 2021, access to the Arrow Princeton composting facility was lost for an extended period of time. By having two organics processing contracts, Metro Vancouver was able to shift material to Sea to Sky Soils, providing continuous organics management to the North Shore municipalities as well as other Metro Vancouver recycling and waste centre customers. 

 

In 2022, the GVS&DD Board approved an amendment to the Sea to Sky contract to process organics from the Central Surrey Recycling and Waste Centre, which opened on September 9, 2022.

 

Q:What are you going to do about traffic?

A: This is a complex question, and there is no quick or easy solution.  With declining or stagnant population growth in West Vancouver over the last 10 years, traffic has only worsened.  So contrary to popular belief, it’s not development that’s causing the traffic congestion.  It’s a combination of things: all of the people that used to be able to live and work in West Van, our teachers, fire and police personnel, and doctors and nurses, are now commuting to work on the Upper Levels Highway from Squamish, Vancouver Island and the rest of Lower Mainland because they can’t find or can’t afford to buy or rent here.  Further, traffic from the Horseshoe Bay ferries, the Sea-to-Sky corridor, and Whistler goes through our main intersection at Marine and Taylor Way onto the Lions Gate Bridge on their way to Vancouver and beyond. Traffic patterns have also been changing because many in our community have retired so the morning and evening commutes to jobs downtown have actually improved. I agree that other times of day can be bad because folks are going downtown for social and children’s activities, restaurants  and events, and to visit friends over-town.  I am in regular contact with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in whose jurisdiction these major road networks fall.  Also as Chair of North Shore Connects, the integrated transportation planning partnership of the three municipalities and two First Nations on the North Shore, I made an announcement last year of our commitment to bring rapid transit to the North Shore as soon as possible, and this has gained support across the region at the TransLink Mayors Council table, because everyone has recognized that our congestion is the worse.  This will allow workers in the service industry to get here more quickly and conveniently. This is just one of thirteen initiatives that North Shore Connects has prioritized over the near, mid and long-term.  For more information please visit northshoreconnects.ca

Q: How does lack of more affordable and diverse housing impact traffic and our community?

A:  A good transportation plan is a good land use plan.  And we must add and diversify housing options so that residents can live near transit and the amenities that they visit everyday.  The new rental apartments at Park Royal were approved by Council because that’s the location of our best busing across the North Shore and downtown, it’s near restaurants and retail, and we need a place for our workers, young professionals and families to live.  I’ve always said that the people that live at that intersection are the least likely to drive through the intersection because of their easy access to restaurants, stores, transit, cycling infrastructure, and a welcoming pedestrian realm.  And young people who can barely afford housing or childcare, are certainly not buying cars like the generation before, so we reduced the parking space requirements in the apartments.  Finally, our lack of housing diversity in WV, with 60% expensive single family homes, 25% aging apartments, and not nearly enough “ missing middle” townhouses, coach houses, and newer apartments and condominiums has kept prices high forcing downsizers and seniors out of West Vancouver, and preventing our children and grandchildren from returning to the community in which they grew up.  Expensive and limited housing options has also resulted in hollowing out of our businesses, schools, and neighbourhoods because houses that used to be home to families, are no longer affordable and speculators have purchased residential real-estate as an attractive investment commodity and leaving up to 1700 homes – 10% of our housing stock empty.  The Speculation and Vacancy Tax as reduced that number as many are now rented out to avoid the tax.

Q:Do you support the proposed $38 million Arts Centre?

A: While we have a vibrant arts community, we have three unsuitable and failing arts facilities – the Art Museum, Silk Purse and Music Box – all repurposed houses.  We must be proactive in planning for their replacements before they deteriorate beyond repair, as did the former Police Station, Youth Centre, and Klee Wyck house .  That’s why we are currently engaging with the community on its vision and concept for a new space for all those who find joy in the creative arts.  Staff will be collating the results of this consultation and reporting to Council with a capital funding strategy that doesn’t rely on taxpayers, as well as a governance model which brings together the diverse arts and culture user groups.  While a citizen-led working group reviewed many sites in Ambleside, no site has been chosen.  There will be plenty of opportunities for public input before any decision is made.

Q: Why did you “recuse” yourself from the decision regarding the sale and development of the 1300 Block Marine Drive?

A: Because it was the right thing to do. My husband, John Sampson, acts as legal counsel for Grosvenor, the developer of the property. Trust and honesty are at the heart of good governance, and as my participation in that decision would have placed me in a conflict of interest, it was clear to me that I should not vote on the matter. However, as I announced in 2014, John has decided that he will not work on any future development projects in West Vancouver, so I will be able to fully engage in debate.

Q: Do you support further high rise development in Ambleside and Dundarave?

A: No. These "villages" should be just that - charming seaside places where people can live, shop, walk, and dine. They should be closely connected to the ocean and full of sunlight. Ambleside does need redevelopment, but I am not inclined to support any new high rises in this area. Many attractive European villages thrive with low level development, and we could do the same.

Q: Now that Council has unanimously passed the new Official Community Plan (“OCP”), will we see rapid development in West Vancouver?

A: No. The OCP provides high level, strategic guidance to Council and staff. The specific policies and plans that flow from it will provide many opportunities for community consultation and input going forward. The projections in the OCP are quite conservative and intended to strike a balance between preserving the District's quality of life while adding needed housing options for the community. West Vancouver is the only municipality in the Metro region that actually lost population between 2011 and 2016; and it has grown by only 3.9% since then, well below the regional average. The estimates in the OCP - to add 10,000 people (and 5,000 units) over the next 25 years - amount to adding about 400 people per year (or 200 housing units) across the municipality. This is an annual growth rate of 0.74%, while the rest of Metro is projected to grow by almost 5%. Local Area Plans (including height, density, built form, and design of development) have been completed for Marine Drive and Taylor Way, and Horseshoe Bay; leaving Ambleside Town Centre, Cypress Village, and the Taylor Way Corridor to be completed.

Q: Are you still practicing law?

A: No. I graduated from the University of British Columbia with degrees in business and law. After teaching commercial law at U.B.C.’s Sauder School of Business, I practiced for more than ten years, including positions as a provincial crown prosecutor and in-house corporate counsel. My husband, John Sampson, and I raised our two daughters in West Vancouver, where they attended public schools. Now that our two daughters are grown, I devote my time fully to my role as Mayor.

Q:  What experience do you have in the business world?

A:  Prior to my election to Council, as a School Trustee I managed a $60 million budget, kept schools open and staff working during a period of unprecedented financial restraint, and put $2 million in the bank in my last year as Chair of the Board.

I grew up in the hotel business - starting as a chamber maid at the age of thirteen, and ultimately putting myself through university working part-time in almost every aspect of hotel operations.  Ironically, my final position as a lawyer was as corporate counsel for a regional hotel chain.  

I have a business degree from U.B.C., and after law school I taught commercial law for six years in the Sauder School; during which I also designed, produced and marketed professional development courses in its Executive Education department.  

Q:  The recent Fraser Institute Report found that of 17 municipalities in the region, West Vancouver had the highest spending per capita at $3,267, how do you explain that?

 

The reason West Vancouver’s per capita spending is higher than elsewhere in the Lower Mainland is that a low density municipality has fewer people to pay for its roads, police, fire and other services, so the amount per capita goes up.  Density in West Vancouver has gone down over the last 20 years.  As children have grown and left the community and fewer young families have moved in, houses where once three, four, or more people lived, are now occupied by only one or two people.  However, the roads still require the same maintenance, the fire coverage requirements are unchanged, and the use of some services, such as recreational services and the seniors centre has actually gone up as people living in the municipality have more leisure time.

 

Also houses that are completely empty, of which West Van has many, still absorb municipal services.  Indeed they require extra attention from services such as police, as they unfortunately attract vandalism and burglary.  Further our municipality is spread across a large, hilled area of single-family homes (high infrastructure costs for pipes and roads); we have no industry to compensate (unlike the two North Vans), we have our own police force, and we have 144 parks to maintain and service (the highest hectare per person in the region). We also pay a “North Shore Premium” of up to 30% for contractors and services to the North Shore because of difficulty in getting here.  Finally, municipalities like Surrey and Burnaby, where ongoing development is common are getting a lot of their older infrastructure replaced by developers. Older municipalities like Vancouver, New Westminster and West Vancouver have to bear all the costs of maintenance and replacement for aging infrastructure “in house”, and our budgets and tax rates reflect that.

Please visit this page regularly as questions and answers will be added throughout the campaign.