A Sorry Chapter Indeed

By December 24, 2014Hot Topic

By Mike Archer. While most of the world complains that the media reports too much, by which we usually mean bad stuff we didn’t want to hear about, I’m always fascinated when some reporters just seem to know that they should leave some things out of their reporting.

Whether because they fear their editor wouldn’t like a particular kind of truth to reach their readers’ eyes or because they want to protect members of the power structure from criticism, it has never been clear to me why so much self-censorship goes on in the reporting of community news.

I refer specifically to the prepared speech given by the second most powerful politician in BC, Rich Coleman, at the announcement on Monday that the province will be funding both the construction and the operational costs of the controversial supportive housing project the Banman adminstration passed on – albeit in a new, less functional, more difficult, more expensive and certainly more intrusive location if one was actually worried about the Mom and Pop businesses of the downtown business association.

Rich Coleman, the man responsible for throwing more than $15 million at this community, not once, but twice, had put a lot of thought into his speech and he meant for the people of Abbotsford to hear it. Especially, I would venture to guess, those who, like Bruce Banman, John Smith, Les Barkman and Bill MacGregor, had looked the proverbial $15 million dollar gift horse in the mouth and refused to accept the project last February, because, as Banman so eloquently and emotionally told a stunned audience when he killed the first project, the Mom and Pop businesses of downtown Abbotsford needed to be protected from a project which would help destitute men who suffer from alcohol dependence get off the streets and begin re-building their lives.

After killing the proposal to build the shelter as far away from those Mom and Pop stores as possible, Banman, with the help of his biggest downtown supporter, ‘No Permit’ Paul MacLeod, held a rushed public hearing just prior to the election in order to set aside some land only a block away from the Moms and Pops on Gladys Avenue he had so staunchly defended mere months before.

Commenting on the Banman council’s decision, Coleman referred to the difficult, sad and winding road the community had taken to get to this small starting point in dealing with its homeless crisis.

He described it as a sorry chapter in Abbotsford’s history – not the kind of thing communities brag about.

He was even honest and contrite admitting that he himself may have reacted in anger at Banman and his council by musing that, after the way Banman and the minority of his council had reacted, it would be a long time before Abbotsford ever received any housing assistance from his government.

Then he told the assembled political class in the foyer of Matsqui Centenniel Auditorium that he referred to this project as the ‘Jennifer Project.’

“I do that because of a new employee in our office at the time all this was happening who commented that it was the people we were trying to help who mattered most in all of this,” he said.

“And she was right. They are what matters most. What got us here today is the fact that those who believed in the need for this project for the sake of those people never gave up,” he added.

It was a powerful, meaningful and emotional speech in which a politician broke all the rules and spoke from the heart to a community about a difficult topic.

It was a good speech and he had worked hard on it. It’s remains a mystery why the local newspaper left Coleman’s heartfelt and important words out of their coverage of the event.

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