White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin addressed those calling for his resignation at city council Monday, saying he has “absolutely no reason to resign.”
A petition with 77 signatures calling on the mayor to step down was formally submitted to the city prior to Monday’s meeting. The petition centres on a letter Baldwin wrote to Peace Arch News in August stating that population projections laid out in Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy were legally binding.
“We believe that Wayne Baldwin attempted to have the public believe this incorrect statement to attempt to numb the public to the many non-OCP-compliant development proposals that he and the coalition have endorsed,” the petition states, adding that Baldwin “does not have the best interests at heart for the overall good of the community.”
Reading from a prepared statement, Baldwin said he rejects the premise of the petition, and that it “has no basis in fact.”
“The petition to ask for my resignation is based on misinformation and misleading statements, as well as the fundamental failure to understand the law around regional growth,” he said, adding that emails circulated by the petition’s creators were “defamatory.”
Discontent among many White Rock residents has been growing since Baldwin’s letter was published Aug. 28.
Prior to a council meeting Sept. 15, more than 90 residents rallied on the lawn of city hall, holding signs calling for the mayor’s resignation. According to emails and social-media posts, a second rally calling for Baldwin’s resignation is being planned for tonight (Wednesday) prior to the mayor’s state-of-the-city address at White Rock Community Centre.
At the Sept. 15 meeting, council heard from Metro Vancouver staff who explained that not only were the growth projections just guidelines, the numbers had been halved, as noted in meetings the mayor and director of planning attended in July.
The issue is not the only one that residents have been critical of in recent weeks. At a public meeting last week regarding a Marine Drive development, RCMP officers were called to council chambers after former councillor Margaret Woods didn’t heed Baldwin’s order to leave, after what the mayor deemed “disrespectful behaviour” on Woods’ part.
That incident was the subject of a meeting Friday between the White Rock RCMP and city officials, according to Staff Sgt. Lesli Roseberry, who said the two sides met to ensure they were “on the same page,” and “understanding their proper authorities.”
Roseberry pointed to a section under the Community Charter that gives the mayor authority to give an order to expel someone from a meeting, and subsequently for peace officers to enforce that order should that person not comply.
“In terms of last week, from my officers’ perspective, we were unsure whether or not a formal order by the mayor had been made,” Roseberry said. “There’s a bit of a formal process with that, and I think my officers did the best they could to deal with the situation and to make sure that the meeting continued peacefully, and that was that.”
When asked Tuesday morning to elaborate on what defamatory comments were made about him, Baldwin said he has been accused of lying and behaving in a “duplicitous” manner, and had been subject to personal attacks on social media.
Baldwin admitted that the August letter – which he said he wrote after PAN’s editor suggested in an earlier meeting that he do so if he felt the paper hadn’t provided adequate coverage on something – had “touched a tender nerve” among the public.
The mayor referred to the legal advice he received which indicated his letter was correct, noting the lawyer’s explanation of the issue was “five pages long.”
“That’s a bit too much to put into a letter to the editor,” he said.
When asked if the lawyer’s explanation – which was requested by PAN in an email to city manager Dan Bottrill Sept. 16 – would be subject to an FOI request if the public wanted to see it, Baldwin said he attempted unsuccessfully to make it public at Monday’s meeting.
“I tried to actually get it out last night, and have it go public, but council didn’t vote for that,” he said. “At this stage of the game, you could FOI it, but I don’t know, since it’s privileged information, if it would come out. It might.”
Baldwin repeated earlier comments that he “probably” could have done a better job writing the letter, if he had more space with which to work.
Referring to the topic of RGS projections as “complicated,” Baldwin explained the correlation between the RGS and the city’s Regional Context Statement.
“The numbers are in essence guidelines,” he said. “What we have to do is show how we would accommodate that number. That’s where the regional context statement comes in.”
Baldwin noted the development proposals around town that “are causing the most angst” are still in the early planning stages and have not come to council for consideration or approval.
“That’s a great shame, it just heightens the concerns that are out there, and they’re totally invalid,” he said.