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Race to watch: In City of Langley, will Peter Fassbender’s experience hinder or help?

Before serving as a B.C. Liberal cabinet minister from 2013 to 2017, the 71-year-old was the mayor of Langley from 2005 to 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Peter Fassbender says once he decided to re-enter municipal politics, he went out and knocked on practically every door in the City of Langley.

He said he met some potential voters who weren’t shy about reminding him of his time with the BC Liberals, where he served as the province’s education minister, municipal affairs minister and minister responsible for TransLink.

“I had some challenging portfolios,” he said.

“I’ve met some teachers when I’ve knocked on doors who didn’t like the process we had to go through, but I had a job to do. I make no apologies for that, but I know that there is always, especially in that portfolio, a lot of emotion that comes out. Some of it has hung on.”

Fassbender said he believes his deep roots in Langley, where he served as mayor from 2005 to 2013, will offset any baggage he may have from his time with the BC Liberals.

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Fassbender wants to replace retiring Mayor Ted Schaffer and says affordability, transportation, public safety and homelessness are the key issues in the City of Langley.

“I know that people want a simple answer to a very complex issue because it has many dimensions to it, but what we need to do and every community should be doing is working with the agencies who help those people in our community,” he said of the issue of homelessness.

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City councillor and mayoral candidate Val van den Broek said the city needs to secure more medical services for addiction and mental health.

“Our current council has advocated to the provincial government for more caseworkers and will continue to do until we get results,” she said.

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Fassbender has described Langley as a city “in redevelopment mode” that needs to “work with the development industry, with the provincial government and the federal government.”

“We don’t have a lot of raw land that we can develop,” he said. “So our issue is how do we protect the people who live here now, but also then provide opportunities for more diverse and affordable housing.”

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Public transportation has been a major issue in neighbouring Surrey, with the recent approval of a light rail transit system.

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Fassbender says building a SkyTrain line connecting Langley to Surrey is a top priority. Van den Broek, who has the support of retiring mayor Schaffer, believes more bus and ride-hailing services are critical issues in the short term.

The third mayoral candidate is Serena Oh, who took the city to court over the results of a 2016 byelection.

Fassbender says during his time going door-to-door he was occasionally asked if he will vacate the mayor’s chair in favour of returning to provincial politics or running in next year’s federal election.

“I’m making the commitment to be the mayor of this community and that is what I’m going to do for the full term,” he said.

— With files from Richard Zussman

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