Will Mission’s council turnstile stop spinning?

No major Fraser Valley city goes through mayors and councillors quite like Mission. But there are signs the valley's most politically tumultuous municipality might be settling down.

By Tyler Olsen | October 12, 2022 |5:00 am

Find our Mission election hub here, with everything you need to know about the candidates, polling places, and issues. 

Polls close at 8pm on election day, Oct. 15. Watch the results come in live here to see who will lead Mission.


No major Fraser Valley city goes through mayors and councillors quite like Mission.

Over the last four election cycles, Mission has had five (yes, five) different mayors and 19 different councillors. On two consecutive occasions voters threw out the entire council, save one.

(On both occasions, the lone survivor was the indefatigable Jenny Stevens. Stevens left council in 2018 when, at the age of 81, she declined to run for a seventh term. She died last week.)

There are indications that Mission’s local politics may be stabilizing. In 2018, two of the three incumbents running for re-election won their seats back. And the five current councillors seeking re-election mark the highest number of incumbents who want their jobs back this decade. That suggests confidence on the part of incumbents and, at minimum, a degree of pleasure with a job that is markedly less fun when most of your constituents dislike you.

But not all is stable in Mission. The city’s new mayor elected in 2018—Pam Alexis—was voted in as an MLA just two years later and left the mayor’s sash behind. Her replacement, Paul Horn, is running for his first full term. And he’s facing a sharp challenge from one of the city’s largest landholders.

Are Mission’s voters finally ready to settle down? Or will they again seek to upturn the apple cart and look to new faces for new solutions? Tyler profiles Mission local election.

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The candidate field

Three men are running to be Mission’s mayor.

Horn is the incumbent and an old hand at local politics, having served as a councillor prior to his election as mayor in 2021.

Dustin Hiles is the youngest of the bunch. He grew up in the community, is a professional opera singer, and touts some community experience along with past involvement in provincial and city politics in BC and Ontario. (He claimed an endorsement from former BC Premier Christy Clark and his website points to work as a senior adviser for former Toronto mayor Rob Ford.)

And then there is H.S. Kenny Braich, who entered the race on an explicitly personal mission—to stop a recently adopted plan to reshape the city’s waterfront. Braich and his family owns a huge chunk of waterfront land next to the Abbotsford-Mission bridge and the plan affects what they can do with their land. Braich, who has boycotted Chamber of Commerce mayoral events, has also leveled a range of strong criticisms at how Mission city hall operates, going so far as to allege corruption and promising a range of suggestions to address his complaints.

If Mission voters revert to form, those complaints may find an audience.

Mayors, though, do not wield one-man- or one-woman-power in BC. Mission also has six councillors, and any mayor needs the support of at least three of them to get anything done.

Of the current councillors, all but Cal Crawford are running for their seats again. But Mission’s past suggests incumbency hasn’t been nearly the advantage it is in some other Fraser Valley communities.

There are 16 candidates running for the six council seats. Those candidates come with a range of backgrounds and experience levels. And Mission residents have shown a willingness to embrace new faces. Last election, for instance, Jag Gill became one of BC’s youngest councillors when he was elected at the age of 23. And Gill, the owner of a local pizza business, didn’t squeak in; he received 500 more votes than the next closest candidate.

But long-time Mission politicians are few and far between. Whether voters continue the city’s tradition of upsetting the apple cart, or whether consistency is finally seen as a virtue, will only be revealed on Oct. 15.

The challenges and issues

Mission needs a new plan for growth.

That was the broad consensus among candidates who took The Current’s survey.

That position, and a similar one suggesting the existing Official Community Plan needed significant fixing, was held both by the three incumbents who took the survey, mayoral candidates Horn and Hiles, and most of the other council candidates.

The deficiencies of the existing city-wide plan was highlighted last year when council rejected an apartment project that met all the criteria of its Official Community Plan.

The city is now working on a new OCP, along with a new growth strategy. And It will be up to the next council to shape those plans, officially endorse them, and then stick by them (or not).

That means that the next council’s vision for the future is likely to shape Mission’s future far beyond their term.

A key part of the OCP will include the incorporation of the city’s waterfront plan that has sparked such acrimonious opposition from Braich. (Hiles also has criticized it.)

The attitude of voters toward that plan is likely to be a determining factor in the election. (You can read about the plan here.)

Meanwhile, after years of moderate growth in comparison to its neighbours, the city has seen a recent building boom. Like Abbotsford, Langley, and Chilliwack, politicians are increasingly being called to boost amenities in their busy communities.

But Mission’s huge geographic footprint also presents politicians with challenges and decisions those in other communities don’t face. In particular, the city operates its own community forest and has huge tracts of recreation land used by people from across the Lower Mainland. Those lands bring in tourists and, in the case of the forest, significant resource revenue.

But the municipality must also deal with the challenges of policing and servicing large tracts of forests and land used by campers, off-roaders, hikers, boaters, and swimmers. As the region grows and more people flock to Mission for fun, the city must play whack-a-mole with the resulting challenges and issues that arise. From roads to parking to unauthorized tree-cutting, the next council will have to choose which moles to swing at.

Join more than 25,000 other Fraser Valley residents by subscribing to our newsletter. Every weekday morning you’ll get a new feature story and other stories, news, and events from Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Mission and the rest of the valley. See a recent newsletter here.

Get FV Current in your inbox.

Plug in to the news that matters in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and the rest of the Fraser Valley.

By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Fraser Valley Current. You can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

Having trouble with the form? Contact us at contact@fvcurrent.com.

Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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