Langley City councillor challenges mayor in this October's elections

·3 min read
Langley City Coun. Nathan Pachal, left, is challenging Mayor Val van den Broek, right, in this October's municipal elections.  (CBC News - image credit)
Langley City Coun. Nathan Pachal, left, is challenging Mayor Val van den Broek, right, in this October's municipal elections. (CBC News - image credit)

Ask the two candidates for mayor of Langley City the direction the municipality should be heading, and you'll get similar answers.

"We're the new New Westminster," says Mayor Val van den Broek, asserting the city is on the cusp of change with construction on the SkyTrain extension from Surrey expected to begin in the next couple of years.

"We want to be building … so we can get rid of the cars, get rid of the congestion. When people are commuting three hours to go to a job or to UBC and then three hours back, that's six hours of time they're missing with their families. So we need to do something."

Coun. Nathan Pachal, who announced Monday he would be challenging van den Broek for the city's top job, said much the same.
"I'm really proud of the work that the City of North Vancouver has done, and New Westminster has done," he said.

"I think there's an opportunity as, I guess I'll call it a middle power kind of community, we're not Surrey, we're not Vancouver, but we can bring people together."

Langley City has less than half of the population of North Vancouver or New West, but they have similar profiles when it comes to size, percentage of renters and percentage of apartments.

The aspirations of two mayoral challengers are attainable, even if there aren't large policy differences between them.

But that doesn't mean there aren't big disagreements.

Ministry of Transportation
Ministry of Transportation

Conflicts on council

For the past two years, van den Broek — elected mayor in 2018 over former mayor and B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Peter Fassbender — has been in a series of disputes with the rest of council over her conduct, with many of the details only discussed behind closed doors.

In 2020, she was removed from her appointment to the Metro Vancouver board amid multiple investigations launched by council into a gala organized by the mayor where RCMP officers worked overtime.

Last month, she was censured by council and removed from several internal committees and posts after allegedly bullying and threatening a city employee.

Van den Broek denies the allegations and said she is "looking into options" but says she doesn't want to make the dispute with council a focus of her campaign.

"I knew I was going to be in this position when I ran for mayor in the first place and who I ran against," she said.

"And if you look at what we've done in the city, whether we've had these arguments or not, things have gotten done. And there's a reason for that."

Pachal doesn't want to discuss the conflicts the city council has had with van den Broek, citing privacy issues and the nature of internal investigations.

But he did imply several times that he would be a better fit as mayor because of his ability to collaborate, citing his work and advocacy on several transportation and housing issues south of the Fraser.

"I think as we get SkyTrain into our community, as we look for affordable housing funding from the province and the federal government, we just need to come to the table as a unified voice," he said.

"And that's something that I look forward to doing if I'm elected."

Whether Langley voters are served by having much of the subtext of the election underpinned by allegations that aren't made public is an open question.

But the tensions and inability of split councils to work together is a common theme across Metro Vancouver.

Langley City is another place where those disputes will be resolved one way or another in October.

"I think they've seen results, and that's a good thing," said van den Broek.

"They wanted a fresh new face last term. That's what they got. I got things done. So I would hope they would give me another chance to keep doing what they're asking me to do."

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