Mayor's Office

Mayor Patrick Johnstone

Phone: 604-527-4522

Executive Assistant to the Mayor
Sophie Schreder


  • First elected in 2014, Patrick Johnstone served two terms on New Westminster City Council before being elected as Mayor in 2022. Born and raised in the Kootenays, he has resided in New Westminster with his partner Antigone since 2006.

    Patrick is a Professional Geoscientist, having studied Geography and Earth Sciences at SFU, and worked in a variety of geology jobs, primarily in the field of Environmental Geoscience. He served as the President of the Environmental Managers Association of BC and on the board of the Contaminated Sites Approved Professionals Society.

    His interest in local government arose from his advocacy on environmental and active transportation issues, his many volunteer connections in New Westminster, and his interest in leading community conversations about urbanism and the opportunities present in an exciting, dense, historic and growing community like New West.

    Since first being elected, Patrick has served on the Lower Mainland LGA (First Vice President), the Community Energy Association (Board Chair), the New Westminster Electrical Commission, and a variety of task forces and advisory committees at the City. 

    Patrick continues to curl at the Royal City Curling Club and ride bikes with the Fraser River Fuggitivi, when he finds the time.


    *Click the CC button above to read closed captions on the video. 

    Questions and Answers from the live Q&A on May 7, 2024. 


    Several people submitted questions to the Q&A session at the State of the City event, and I answered some of these there. We didn’t have time to get to them all, so I thought I would write a short response to each here, including those that didn’t get on stage at the event. I have re-arranged the order a bit to follow themes. As always, good to remember the answers here are short, while full answers would likely be much longer. They are also written by me with a little support from staff, and probably have some opinion in them, and should not be interpreted as representing the views of City Staff, Council or anyone else.

    Q1: What is your stance on the rest of the country adopting the Alberta model which is an evidenced based recovery oriented response to substance use, while BC is focusing on more funding of safe supply and more harm reduction?

    Health policy is outside of my specialty, but my understanding is that the “Alberta Model” is a half-measure that ultimately is proving no more effective at reducing the death rate than half-measures in other provinces. I support a compassionate, data-driven and all-hands-on-deck approach. This means support for recovery-based approaches (emphasized in Alberta) and efforts to keep people alive both within and outside of recovery, housing and medical support, and addressing the increasingly dangerous unregulated supply problem. This is a crisis where 7 BC residents are dying every day, and emphasizing one approach over any other doesn’t make sense to me.

    As a City, we are supporting our recovery partners, we are supporting harm reduction, we are equipping our first responders to provide the best care possible and tools for follow-up support, while supporting the provincial government and non-profit operators in coordinating their efforts to reach people who are suffering and help align them with the services available to them. 

    Q2: Knowing Drug addiction, homelessness, mental illness and availability of resources to support these, are interconnected, what are the plans to implement more 360 wrap-around of services? Also called the pillars by the Purpose Society.

    This is health policy, not something the City does directly as it falls within provincial jurisdiction. What we can do as a City is advocate for more provincial funding (which we have been doing relentlessly) and be there to support the various provincial agencies and non-profit service providers doing this work (as we have never stopped doing). At the centre of our Three Crises Response Pilot is boosting City resources to help with this coordination and advocacy.

    Q3: How has the crisis response PACT project been going, to provide stigma-free help for mental health emergencies?

    There is a report coming out soon, but short version is it is going well. Fully staffed for their current hours, with expansion in hours anticipated with new funding. Meanwhile hundreds of calls have been diverted (going form ~25 a month at start to closer to 100 a month as the service gets established), with fewer than a handful a month requiring re-direction to police. We will be reporting on outcomes along with our service partners as the pilot continues to operate.

    Q4: As a Quayside resident, I'm concerned about the homeless person living under the

    Boardwalk along the river, and if they are okay and what support are they getting from the various services in our City?

    At last count (2023), there are at least 57 people living unsheltered in New Westminster, and another ~140 living in precarious shelter, though this is likely an undercount. There are several organizations who connect with folks who are living rough to assure they are kept aware of what types of supports are available to them, from where to get a meal to where to get a shower or healthcare support, to how to connect with organizations providing shelter or housing. One of the goals of the Three Crises Response Pilot is to better coordinate this kind of outreach and build more of a relationship-based case management capacity to assure people have access to the care that exists for them.

    Q5: In your recent meeting with the Housing Minister, was funding through BCHousing discussed and how more can be provided to fulfil the needs of the multiple local affordable housing projects that still wait for funding? Did funding land purchases come up in conversation?

    I wish that I had such a meeting with the Minister, but he has so far declined to meet. I have been in correspondence with his staff, and have some ideas I would love to share with him about how we can better collaborate and hold ourselves accountable on this. At the same time, we continue to work with BC Housing on several affordable housing projects, and continue to call on the Province and Feds to increase funding for supportive housing. This includes evaluating opportunities to buy land through the Rental Protection Fund. 

    Q6: You touched base on housing and the need for more affordable housing. With this growth that we are seeing on the Quay and elsewhere, how are we ensuring we have schools and community facilities available to these new residents?

    The City is meeting its assessed needs for market housing growth, while we are calling on the province to better fund the shelter, supportive, and affordable housing where our community need is not being met. I feel we are keeping our half of the bargain up, but I continue to be disappointed in the province not providing the schools and childcare that our community needs. They ask us to build more housing while our schools fill to the point where their playing fields and parking lots are filling up with modular buildings. We are working in collaboration with School District 40 to push the Provincial Government to do the things only they have the power to do (and this isn’t complicated): buy some land, and build some schools.

    Q7: Does the city would like to see a population increasing by offering more housing to the city? Just like City of Vancouver passed policies to convert single homes to multi-plex. How can we maintain the community cohesion that makes New West so special, as we absorb rapid population growth?

    The City doesn’t approve the building of more housing to encourage or attract population growth; instead, we try to get sufficient housing built to accommodate the growth we are already seeing. The provincial rate of population growth is going up faster than new housing is, and as a result the region is under-housed.

    The multi-plex regulations came from the Province under Bill44, requiring Cities to permit 4-plexes (or in some cases 6-plexes) on all single family lots. The City of New West already permits 3 units on most lots (A main home, a secondary suite, and an accessory dwelling), so the shift in this type of housing will not move the needle as effectively or efficiently as shifting to larger-density forms. Which is why the City is putting more of its limited resources assuring the Transit Oriented Development aspects of Bill 47 are implemented quickly.

    I think “community cohesion” is where the Connection and Belonging aspect of our Council Strategic Plan comes in, and it is about supporting the organizations that already do this work in the community, from sports to arts, social service and business support. 

    Q8: What is happening with the Columbia Square Plaza redevelopment? Is it still moving forward and what is the timeline?

    I cannot give you a timeline, as that is the prerogative of the property owner. They are working on a rezoning application, which I anticipate Council seeing before the end of the year.

    Q9:Is there a timeline to refine and build high density around skytrain terminals?

    The areas around three of our Skytrain stations are already zoned for more density than the new Provincial Regulations under Bill 47 envision, but 22nd Street and Braid are still works in progress. The Sapperton Green development around Braid is obviously stalled, and I don’t have any updates there as it is in the landowner’s court to decide when and how they wish to proceed. The area around 22nd is not the property of a single developer, and there has been mixed interest in seeing land assembly and development there, so the City is leading a visioning process to provide some more certainty to the community around the shape and nature of development. Ultimately, the City is not a developer, it is a regulator, so it is hard for me to predict when the development community will decide to break ground and build.

    Q10: Are there incentives or subsidies for commercial developers as opposed to fees and barriers to build in New Westminster?

    This question runs us right up against Section 25 of the Community Charter, which says we cannot legally provide subsidies or supports to a business, and that includes developers. 

    Q11: What plans does the City have to address the growing pains that our downtown core is experiencing balancing housing needs with supporting local businesses?

    The downtown businesses I talk to are excited about the opening of new homes downtown, these are thousands of customers that will soon be beating paths by their doors. I do also hear about construction fatigue, and the combined impacts of COVID, the large construction project on the waterfront, and the ongoing sewer and road upgrades occurring. We work closely with the BIA and businesses to address challenges as they arise. There is more construction coming – there are a few empty lots downtown – and the new provincial transit oriented development rules (“Bill 47”) may limit some of the things the City can do to mitigate impacts, but most builders want to be good neighbours while working in a constrained urban environment, so communication is the key.

    Q12:  Any plans for parking for downtown New West. Large public parking complexes and lots have closed. Without parking new west becomes a pass through and could be a pit stop.

    There are no plans for the City to build new parking structures, as the existing structure on the waterfront is not used near capacity. Parking policy is an area I can go on at mind-numbing length about, but I am a proponent of the “Shoup school” and the best practice of using pricing to provide the best balance of parking affordability and parking availability. I also don’t think becoming a “pit stop” is the best economic strategy for a dense fast-growing community, where our competitive advantage is serving that fast growing local population better.

    Q13: While dentists are an important service. Is there anything being done to limit them from all taking ground level street front locations? ie not within 100m of another dental office. This will help create a better variety of store fronts.

    This is an ongoing conversation! This has come up at Council recently, and the tools available to us are not always obvious, nor do we have a good idea of the unintended consequences. Councillor Nakagawa brought a motion to Council back in April asking staff to report back to us with policy options to “review and refresh current policies relating to ground level retail to ensure that they are responsive to current market forces; and… are built to prioritize community-supporting businesses and organizations in alignment with the retail strategy”. The majority of Council supported this, so I will say: work in progress!

    Q14: Consistently, business complain about the high property tax and the high parking rates around their stores. Commercial businesses are saying they do not feel welcome. How can the city build a strong business community? What advice would you give to biz that are struggling right now? Especially those that are considering moving outside of NW or closing their doors entirely?

    These are two questions merged, but they are on the same theme. I already talked about parking, and I am hearing more about lease rates skyrocketing (30% to 300% in some instances) more than concern about 5-7% tax increases. We also have business opening in town much faster than they are closing. That said, I hear stress in a lot of businesses as there is a lot of economic uncertainty now around inflation and the COVID hangover, and I always recommend that they work together – join the Chamber, get active in your BIA or other local business association, and connect yourself with the great EcDev staff at the City to find out what supports are available to you.

    Q15: You spoke about our economic development and it is so nice to see new businesses coming. There has been some recent buzz about rental controls to address skyrocketing commercial lease rates - can you give us an update on that?

    It’s over to the Province now. Councillor Henderson’s resolution to ask the province to give cities the legal authority to implement this was endorsed by the membership of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association at our meeting in early May. I don’t expect the province to make legislative changes prior to the fall election, but we will continue to advocate, while also doing our work to understand the best local approach if given this power.

    Q16: What is the city doing to attract business startups involved in the artificial intelligence space?

    This was a tough question, in part because I wonder sometimes where the city’s specific role is in supporting a specific industrial sector. I mumbled a bit about BridgeNet providing businesses access to affordable and niche bandwidth product that the big telecoms may not provide. I had a brief chat with the question asker after, and am looking forward to more conversation about how the City can support shared office and cluster space to build the skill network locally.

    Q17: AI can do DP approvals. The tech exists. Would the City review this as a strategy to shorten project approval timelines?

    This is emergent tech moving really fast, though the challenge will be where the liability falls if it fails to deliver as promised, largely because the City’s role in DP is as a regulator. Because of that role, Cities are conservative in adoption of things that are relevant to critical life safety, and there are parts of DP review that fall under this category. Time will tell if this works, and whether the cost/benefit is worth it, especially if DP review isn’t a critical path to getting housing built faster.

    Q18: What are the plans to make our community more able to withstand extreme weather?

    There is a lot here. The two extremes we are most vulnerable to now are inland floods due to “atmospheric River” like storms, and “Heat Dome” heat events. On the first, our recently-adopted Sewerage and Drainage Asset Management Plan is helping us prioritize infrastructure upgrades and improvements. On the latter, we have a comprehensive heat response plan including many departments in the City working in coordination. We are also making long-term investments in our urban forest canopy, which will help us with both of these extremes. We also cannot talk about new weather extremes without talking about Climate Action, and the leadership our City is showing in addressing the root cause of climate disruption. And on that I can go on at length…

    Q19: What plans is the City developing to better prepare for expected yearly droughts as we continue to experience climate change?

    The long-term planning of our water supply is managed by Metro Vancouver, and we recently received a report on short-and medium-term planning, and included local climate projections to 2100. It’s not good news, if you like tree-covered north shore mountains. But specifically dealing with drought, watering restrictions are part of our ongoing future, and we can anticipate region-wide metering of all water in the near future. Metro is increasing supply by adding extra capacity at the Coquitlam reservoir which will see us well into the 2050s, and conversations will be ongoing about (very expensive) future reservoir upgrades, but that conversation is still a decade or more off.

    Q20: When will the walkway between Pier Park and the Quay be reopened?

    This summer. I don’t have a date yet beyond that. 

    Q21: What do you think we have done well this year and what could we have done better?

    My speech was all about the work we got done – from the completion of təməsew̓txʷ to our new Community Advisory Assembly. When I think about the work we need to do better, it has to be about getting affordable housing and supportive housing projects from plans to completion. So many of our challenges centre on people not having secure housing. We are also as a region and a province falling short on addressing the poisoned drug supply crisis (see above and “all hands on deck”). I also feel our progress on our climate action plans is a bit stalled mostly related to staff shortages that we are filling now.

    Q22: What goals do you have for the coming year. When we sit down here again next year what do you most hope you can say was accomplished?

    Our Three Crises Pilot Project will start to show measureable results, more people seeing a path out of the spiral of homelessness, and the business and residents of downtown feeling like they have been heard and see progress on addressing the impacts they see. We need a confident path forward on our school capacity crisis, and though that is not something the City has control over, I hope our work with the School District and Province sees the next couple of school sites funded and with confident timelines. I hope to launch a Vision Zero approach to road safety, along with a few other things.

    Q23: What is the City’s biggest opportunity for a prosperous 2024?

    From a business perspective, we need some more consumer confidence. Our local economy doesn’t exist separate from global economic forces. The promise of lower interest rates puts people in a more confident position to invest, and shifts the long-term economics of building in the City so we can get housing built across the spectrum. With the Provincial election coming in the fall, I hope to see commitments to renewed investment in affordable housing along with addictions and mental health supports, as these challenges are not going away.