Spotlight on Betty Dubé, Centennial Mayor

1973.  Betty Dubé served as mayor 1974-1974, as Maple Ridge celebrated its hundredth birthday and the town was struggling to cope with rapid development.  Seen here with her children.  P02368.

Betty Dubé was Maple Ridge’s first female mayor, serving during the symbolic 1974-1975 centenary term.  She was first elected to Council as an alderwoman under Mayor Peter Jenewein in 1969.  She served 1969-1970 and 1972-1973, and was elected as mayor at the end of 1973.  Since the tenure of Solomon Mussallem, Maple Ridge had grown from a rural community into an urban one, faced with dramatically different and more complex problems.  The crucial issue during Dubé’s tenure was no less than the government’s ability to exercise control over its land base.  At the same time, the year – “Century 74” – was celebrated with frequent events and exercises in costume, almost belying the changes to the community that had only accelerated during the 1960s.

Addressing Council at its inaugural meeting on January 7, 1974, Dubé, wearing full Victorian costume in heavy taffeta, spoke plainly about the accomplishment of the district’s first sewage treatment plant, the completion of street lighting in central Haney, the adjustment of the tax burden, planning for the “south Haney bypass”, and the orderly development of “Area No. 1”, a wide swath of central Maple Ridge north of Lougheed Highway and west of Laity Street.  In Dubé’s first week as mayor, she visited Victoria to follow up on initiatives made by the outgoing council, including the controversial routing of a new highway to the south of the Haney townsite and the release of lands from the (newly-created) Agricultural Land Reserve for an industrial park.  Neither initiative would see ground break during her tenure.

A running issue was the municipality’s ability to enforce its own soils bylaw, which assessed royalties against people who removed gravel for profit from private lands.  In was revealed that many removals were occurring without oversight or compensation to the district after Dubé’s council commissioned an aerial survey of suspect sites that was capable of estimating the volume of earth on the move.  Landowners were incensed that the gravel pit on the Kwantlen First Nation land at Whonnock was not subject to the soils bylaw.  Dubé communicated with federal Indian Affairs Minister Jean Chrétien on the issue but nothing could change the fact that the municipality had no jurisdiction on federal reserve lands.  Another unfortunate event concerned access to water.  In still rural areas like Albion, some residents were dependent on hauling water – for free – from a municipal station on 240th Street.  Service was being abused by residents who would take water and sell it to residents in Mission, and Dubé’s council acted to shut down the water station and replace it with deliveries or a paid-access station on Dewdney Trunk Road.  The price was to be $6 per 500 gallons, but outrage in the neighbourhood led to an alternative, whereby water would remain free but regulated by a permit and key-controlled access system.

At the time of Dubé’s mayoralty, the character of Maple Ridge had shifted and continued to do so.  Surveys and plans had earmarked the land between Haney and Hammond for urban development, and the rezoning of small-lot farmland met local resistance at times.  Bad feelings about development were soon to boil over: the municipality, running on a hamstring budget in the absence of tax adjustments, couldn’t afford enough building inspectors to adequately police the quality of new housing subdivisions.  In July 1974, residents of the newly-built “Tantus Estates” in “Development Area No. 1” protested outside their homes over poor build quality, citing frequent leaks and foundation issues.  Some of their neighbours, evidently concerned about the value of their own homes, made counter statements to the press.  Dubé took the matter before council to add pressure for new hires under the chief building inspector.  The department was in disarray following the September resignation of Chief Inspector Erne Neale, but by the end of 1975 three additional staff were hired.

Highlights of Dubé’s mayoralty were undoubtedly the multiple celebrations of the district’s first 100 years.  Gala events and sports tournaments were met with quirky proposals like the Fraser River Raft Race, on which participants sailed the Fraser in period costume from the Mission Bridge to the Port Haney wharf.  The municipality donated its flag to fly in September at the provincial legislature as well as to the city of Winnipeg, which shared Maple Ridge’s centennial year.  Following the election of 1975, Dubé served as a school trustee and worked for the public service of the city and the province. 

Born 1926 in Montreal, Dubé arrived in British Columbia in 1951 to visit an aunt and decided to stay.  Widowed and with one child, she married a veteran and built a home with him in Whonnock.  Together they adopted three children after becoming foster parents.  It was a lifelong commitment for Dubé, who fostered over 200 children.  Widowed in 1968, she appeared alone with her children in campaign materials. Dubé died at age 65 in 1991, after being recognized by BC Lieutenant-Governor David Lam for her outstanding reputation in the foster care system.