A rendering of the BCGEU's proposed rental development at Palm Ave. Colleen Jordan believes a dispute over this project led to the labour council revoking her endorsement. (City of Burnaby)

Labour council retracts endorsement of former BCA councillor Colleen Jordan

Jordan believes it stems from a dispute over a BCGEU housing proposal

By Dustin Godfrey | May 17, 2022 |5:00 am

An independent city councillor in Burnaby has lost the endorsement of an influential labour organization.

The New Westminster and District Labour Council, which represents labour organizations in numerous cities, from Burnaby to Langley, officially retracted its endorsement of Coun Colleen Jordan, a former longtime member of the Burnaby Citizens’ Association, late last month.

“Alignment of values between local government leaders and working people on issues is important to our endorsement process,” reads an email NWDLC secretary-treasurer Janet Andrews sent Jordan recently.

“Concerns were brought to delegates at our April 27, 2022, regular meeting, and I am writing to inform you that delegates voted to revoke our endorsement of you, effective immediately.”

Jordan joked in an interview that she’s been “excommunicated” from the labour council.

“As a former Catholic, it rings a bell with me,” she said.

Andrews sent a brief emailed statement in response to several questions from the Beacon.

“Our endorsement process is internal and transparent to our affiliates and delegates,” she said. “Generally, where concerns are brought forward by an affiliate between elections, they are heard and action may be taken, including revoking an endorsement.”

As of Monday, Jordan’s long-time ally on council, Dan Johnston, has yet to receive any notice of having his endorsement revoked.

The NWDLC has long endorsed members of the labour-friendly BCA, which requires members to hold a membership with the NDP, but in 2018, they took the unusual step of endorsing BCA council candidates but not incumbent BCA mayor Derek Corrigan.

Corrigan ultimately lost to current Mayor Mike Hurley, and a rift in the party began to show in short order. In early 2020, councillors Jordan, Johnston, and Paul McDonell parted ways with the BCA, saying the rest of the slate had diverged from its election platform to align with Hurley.

Since then, the division on council has largely left Jordan and Johnston opposing the rest of council on some major issues, with McDonell being more moderate up to his death in summer 2020.

In 2020, a disagreement over a BC General Employees Union-proposed housing project caused the division to boil over. That housing proposal sought to build higher-density housing on the Royal Oak plan area than was prescribed by the official community plan.

As a result of the location of the proposal—in the Royal Oak area, rather than in the Metrotown area, where more density is permitted—Jordan noted the land was far less expensive.

Jordan and Johnston both opposed the proposal, with Jordan suggesting the mayor was giving a sweetheart deal to a union that endorsed Hurley and not the BCA.

In fact, it’s that proposal that Jordan believes caused the NWDLC to revoke its endorsement of her.

Asked whether she had been informed in the past of any indication the NWDLC was considering revoking its endorsement of her, Jordan said it came up in 2020 when the BCGEU proposal was first making its way through council.

“We did have a Zoom [meeting] with two executive members of the labour council, without the GEU present, because we said we wouldn’t meet with them,” Jordan said.

“I explained our position about the community plan and all that sort of stuff, and tried to give them some understanding of why we were opposing this, and then nothing, heard nothing.”

The public hearing for the BCGEU proposal was held in March, and council voted to advance the zoning amendment on April 25. The vote is effectively considered to be the final hurdle for the project, with any remaining votes considered to be more of a formality.

Jordan noted the timing of that vote—April 25—compared to the timing of the NWDLC’s meeting in which it revoked its endorsement of her—April 27.

“I supported that we should have only government cannabis stores, which is GEU employees. I was the deciding vote to have the casino early on, which is 1,000 GEU members,” Jordan said.

“So I don’t know what else I did to make them not happy.”

She said the revocation of her endorsement is motivation to run again in the upcoming local government elections.

“I’m not going to get bullied into this,” she said, adding that she still hasn’t decided on whether she’ll run.

Whether she runs depends on how the field of candidates is looking come election time, she said. And she said there has been a change in the dynamics on council, with four BCA members and four non-BCA members on council, along with an independent mayor.

While Hurley, the BCA, and the Burnaby Greens councillor, Joe Keithley, have largely worked together, Hurley has also voted against the majority.

“I think having independent voices is a good thing. Will one of those be mine? I guess we’ll see whether people say they will vote for me,” Jordan said.

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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