"If looks could kill, he killed me," mayoral candidate Richard Lee told the Richmond News, after a live TV debate with incumbent Malcolm Brodie.
Following the mayoral debate on Shaw Cable Wednesday evening, Richmond's mayor refused to shake Lee's hand as a sign of good will.
In fact, Brodie quickly left the stage, without initially acknowledging Shaw moderator Bianca Solterberg or Cliff Wei, an independent mayoral challenger.
"I don't want to say anything that would suggest why he wouldn't shake my hand," said Lee, who sounded at a loss for words when asked about the moment.
The News contacted Brodie to ask for his opinion on his feelings at the time.
"I don't want to comment on it," said Brodie.
On Tuesday, the News asked again for his thoughts. Brodie said he was frustrated at the format of the debate and said his concerns weren’t addressed by Shaw.
The snub can be seen on Shaw's YouTube channel.
The 45-minute debate discussed issues on the environment, growth, taxes, regional issues and foreign language on signs.
For the most part Brodie appeared on the defensive and it took until the 28-minute mark for him to ask Lee a question.
In the middle stages of the campaign, Lee has challenged Brodie on several issues.
Lee and Brodie differ on how to address signs with only foreign languages — such as Chinese — should the contentious issue not be resolved through broad public consultation.
Lee takes a more decided stance in favour of a sign bylaw, saying it would be a demonstrably justified limit on a business' freedom of expression.
Brodie believes consultation and education is sufficient and couldn't see a bylaw standing up to section one of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"I see it as another delaying tactic," said Lee, of Brodie's position.
City council had ignored citizen complaints on the issue until outgoing councillor Evelina Halsey-Brandt recently expressed regrets over not addressing it.
Brodie cites a staff report indicating only four per cent of new signs in Richmond since 2011 are Chinese-only.
"Mr.Lee knows full well that any attempt to regulate the language on signage would be struck down by section two of the Charter, and only after great evidence and study is done would there be able to be any kind of a Chinese sign bylaw."
Both men are lawyers.
The two also jostled over salaries for city workers.
After being asked by a panelist about Richmond's decision to raise wages 18 per cent in 2007, before the Olympics, Brodie replied:
"Yes it's always more than we'd like to pay but under the circumstances in a very hot economy it was the right thing to do."
"He led the way to failure. Because of that settlement we've had to have the high property taxes we've had."
Brodie noted Richmond's property taxes are average amongst Metro Vancouver municipalities.
Lee said a three per cent tax hike every year ought not to be automatic.
Brodie noted tax hikes (one per cent) fund reserves, which is important for long-term economic viability.
Lee noted city council wages have risen 72 per cent in the past eight years.
Next, Lee took aim at the City of Richmond's contract with Multi-Materials BC and the spike in utility rates.
"The projected award that we were going to get ….turned out not to be the case. And MMBC is dictating to us changes to the terms of the contract that we have no say about," said Lee.
Brodie said MMBC would still earn the city a projected $800,000.
"The increases have not been because of MMBC, the increases have been because of various other administrative costs that have gone up," said Brodie.
The candidates were also asked for their thoughts on a proposed waste incinerator for Metro Vancouver.
Brodie, a longtime member of the Metro board confidently replied to Lee’s suggestion that pollution “knows no municipal boundaries:”
"If you look at the science and don't just look to emotions and the idea of a black cloud the scientifically viable way to deal with the waste is through waste to energy," said Brodie.
At issue is how Metro Vancouver can handle its waste in an environmentally friendly manner.
Brodie has long championed waste diversion at the regional and city level.
The two also sparred, once again, over taking an airlines consortium to court for allegedly failing to consult the public properly on a jet fuel terminal on the Fraser River. Lee wants the city to join the VAPOR group, Brodie does not because he says the group doesn’t stand a chance at winning.
"We did everything we could but I am not going to be forced into a lawsuit unless there’s a good chance of real success"
Panelist Bob Mackin asked the candidates what could be done to improve citizen empowerment and engagement, citing term limits as an example.
"I believe we do have term limits in place. It's called an election," said Brodie.
Lee got creative.
"I will be self imposing a (two) term limit if I were to be lucky enough to earn the trust and the votes of the people of Richmond," said Lee.
Term limits are provincial jurisdiction and don't exist unless a candidate makes an unofficial declaration, which is still legally non-binding.
Lee said he is in favour of a lobby registry and favours charging developers more for development costs.
Brodie said developers already pay enough, and Richmond charges more than most any other municipality (the city has community amenity charges and an affordable housing strategy).
Brodie said if one examines various surveys "the complaint is that our development cost charges are too high and that we are asking too much of the development community in order to have new developments. So I'm just puzzled by the analysis that we're not charging enough when Richmond is reputed to be second to Vancouver and we get a lot of complaints from the (development) community."
To which Lee replied:
"As the mayor I'm not responsible for complaints from developers, I'm more responsible for complaints from my citizens, my constituents."
He further added that the city could, in fact, ask more for developers to pay for community amenities.
Rapid growth is among one of the concerns for Richmondites.