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UPDATE: Tough night for independents in New West politics

The New Westminster and District Labour Council-endorsed Team Cote swept to power again, with one Progressive and one independent squeaking onto school board

It’s pretty tough to be an independent in New Westminster politics.

That, at least, seems to be the conclusion of the night, after the New Westminster and District Labour Council-endorsed Team Cote swept to victory across the board.

Incumbent school trustee Mary Lalji was the only independent candidate to crack any of the elected seats on Saturday.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Lalji told the Record on Tuesday. “I really thought this was a turning point, that we would have more of a balanced board, and it’s not. As an independent, you always hope for balance versus a majority vote. You want aspects from all sides, not just one group of people or one political party, and that’s what we have.”

The school board race was dominated by Team Cote, with newcomers Anita Ansari, Dee Beattie and Gurveen Dhaliwal claiming the first three spots and incumbent Mark Gifford taking the fourth, followed by the final Team Cote member, newcomer Maya Russell.

The remaining two spots on school board went to Lalji and the New West Progressives’ Danielle Connelly.

The rest of the school board standings saw the Progressives’ Cyrus Sy and Lisa Falbo in eighth and ninth, respectively, with J.P. LeBerg in 13th.

Independents made up the rest of the finishers: Alejandro Diaz in 10th, former trustee Lisa Graham in 11th, Doug Woodward in 12th, Cathy McCallum in 14th, Scott McIntosh in 15th and Steve Tsonev in 16th.

While Team Cote holds the balance of power at the school board, Lalji is optimistic the new batch of trustees will leave politics out when it comes to making decisions for the school district.

“I always hope that with new people, new ideas that they’re going to put students first, and when they sit down at that board table and we have our first meeting that they’re very student-driven, like myself. That’s what I want,” Lalji said.

Independents shut out at city hall

As expected, Mayor Jonathan Cote cruised to victory by a more-than-comfortable margin, garnering 73 per cent of the votes. Independent challengers Nikki Binns, at 13 per cent, and Harm Woldring, at 10.5 per cent, plus Jimmie Bell, at 3.6 per cent, were never within striking distance.

The dominance continued at city hall, where the six council spots also went to Team Cote candidates: newcomer Nadine Nakagawa, followed by incumbents Patrick Johnstone, Mary Trentadue and Jaimie McEvoy, then newcomer Chinu Das and incumbent Chuck Puchmayr.

The New West Progressives attempted to find a chink in the Team Cote armour but couldn’t do it, as Daniel Fontaine remained steadily in seventh place throughout the night. He was followed by the rest of his Progressives teammates: Ellen Vaillancourt, Paul McNamara and Bryn Ward.

Independent candidates sat at the bottom of the results list: Mike Ireland, Angela Sealy, Troy Hunter and Benny Ogden, in 11th through 14th spots, respectively.