By Walter Neufeld. Abbotsford Today published an anonymous letter recently by a writer who challenged the legitimacy of Ambroese Bierce’s ongoing critique of Abbotsford’s local government for, “…decisions we’ve made in building a city we like to think is based on Christian values.”
The writer, lets call him/her Terry, goes on to defend “good, old fashion” values like “hard work and the value of a job well done” all of which Terry believes have underpinned councils decisions to date. And Mayor Banman, “…doesn’t think people should be rewarded for making bad choices. He may be simple but that doesn’t make him wrong.”
Terry presents his/her perspective as balanced and reasoned.
Ambroese Bierce invited the “people of Abbotsford” to respond.
I’m responding because I think it’s important to publicly debate all significant issues openly. We have a better chance of making informed decisions through that process and are then more prone to accept the shared outcome as invested stakeholders (regardless whether the outcomes are good or bad). In other words, the responsibility of governance is more broadly shared because the community is meaningfully invested in the political process.
The course of events driving any city, province or country become exponentially more critical when they’re off-course by the smallest fractional degree, especially when those fractional deviations are left unchecked.
This leads to a simple question: does City of Abbotsford’s execution of governance embrace course corrections? Specifically, does our local government’s current expression of due process include people within the community who hold different values, or is it designed to create only the perception that due process is served?
If the City’s “due process” is more perceptual than real, what are the expressions of it? How far has it yawed off course? Finally, who is allowed to critique the City failures if not its constituents & reporters?
Abbotsford Today has become an important forum for community discourse because the City’s due process has been compromised and local reporting about has become derelict. Incredibly, Terry extols the virtues of those very failures by applauding such negligent “Ignorance is Bliss” reporting of it, this way:
“Yes our newspaper presents the views of solid and respectable organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, our churches and the Historic Abbotsford Downtown Business Association. So what. That’s its job.
Without a newspaper which speaks to the people of the community who may not understand what is going on and explain the decisions being made by the people who do know we would have chaos. Maybe that’s what you want but most of us prefer the kind of community our newspaper reflects.”
Terry’s rationale is breathtaking.
It suggests that the job of local news reporting is marketing the interests of the establishment, no matter what. Small wonder such news organizations are going out of business as readers are increasingly looking elsewhere for meaningful news reports.
Terry goes on to question the legitimacy of the critiques that have publicized his friends’ and associates’ failures even though those critiques, in the interest of the greater public good, pointed out the sever damage caused by the City Council’s decision makers via their monumental fiscal, environmental and social blunders (I will not recite them here but can advise that they are legion, well documented and the veracity of the critiques remain unchallenged). Most damming is the fact that these critiques were made available before, during and after Council made its numerous ill-advised decisions.
Put differently, the community repeatedly attempted to engage the City’s due process but was repeatedly rebuffed by a Council that ignored the evidence made available to it so that it might make more informed decisions based on the facts. Instead of due process, community critics witnessed approvals based on rubber stamped forgone conclusions. When that cycle got repeated time and again, reasonable people began to conclude that the “perception of due process” had over-run the real thing. That in turn struck at the heart of the legitimacy of our governance. Taxpayers/constituents were systematically elbowed out of the process but were expected to accept the costs of those rubber-stamped decisions no matter how odious the liabilities became. Under that guise of due process, closed-loop decisions were being made by Council for benefit a select few while the community was frequently made liable for the off-set costs.
It’s important to remember that many of those people with special interests are by now heavily invested in this corruption of due process. They stand to loose more than their reputations if healthier versions of democracy were to be implemented.
The preceding contextual backgrounder may help make sense of Terry’s next statement:
“You regularly attack people like John Smith and Dave Loewen just because they made decisions you disagree with and cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars. Well, maybe it takes guts to risk what you snidely call ‘their friends and neighbours money’. Maybe they were visionaries and maybe they would have done things differently if they had known it wasn’t going to work out.
Maybe you would have made the same mistakes – except, wait a minute, maybe you wouldn’t have dared take the risk.
Fine … mistakes were made. Get over it and be part of the solution instead of destroying the reputations of the people who had the courage to risk their reputation by making the decisions you object to.”
Incredibly, Terry anticipates that the reader should accept the disastrous outcome of such bad decisions, and, not remind the offenders of it, and, continue supporting the system that perpetuates more of the same.
Terry goes on to praise the hard work/”christian” values ethos, but those threadbare “values” are now seen for what they are: highly leveraged subsidized entitlements won at the expense of others as shown by his/her disdain for Abbotsford’s homeless:
“Some of us don’t believe in the treatments you praise like giving free drugs to drug addicts or rewarding bad decisions with free housing. That doesn’t make us bad … it just makes us different than you. The fact that we have a loud and vocal group of homeless people who seem to like to protest doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us.
Maybe they should consider living in one of the cities where they give out free drugs and reward bad behaviour. Why don’t they just move?”
Ambrose had challenged Terry’s corrupt version of christianity (outlined above) & had challenged local churches to step up the plate by heeding Jesus’ own words as they apply to Abbotsford’s homeless community:
“(Matthew 38)…when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
(39) When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
(40) The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
Contrary to Terry’s claims, many fine Christian organizations have been helping the homeless for years. More recently, both MCC and the Abbotsford Christian Leaders Network (ACLN) have come out strongly in support of ACS’ proposed housing initiative. The local churches’ support inspires the heart and helps further expose the corruptions Terry espouses under the guise of “hard work & faith.”
Sadly, Terry’s views have, until recently, held sway in our community and that sense of entitlement allows him to claim, “The traditions and backwardness you like to make fun of have managed to help us build a community of which I, for one, am very proud.”
Mayor Banman, “…doesn’t think people should be rewarded for making bad choices” and yet that is the implicit expectation Mayor, Council and Terry have of their own constituents and readers: stay out of the municipal decision making process, accept council’s ill-advised decisions and the resultant consequences because it’s all based on sound “…traditions and backwardness” designed to trump due process and reason.
When “democracy” is usurped by people like Terry who use their power and so-called christian work ethic like rat poison against anyone who thinks otherwise, then those few must surely shoulder the full burden of the blame alone.
There must surely be a better way.
Terry’s perspective demonstrates that democracy has badly yawed off course in Abbotsford. I just don’t know how badly.
Walter Neufeld is known for his advocacy work as president of the FVRD Citizens Association and his work against the gravel industry lobby.
He also founded a group called ‘Men on Roofs’. The full name of the group is ‘Men on Roofs ask Canadian politicians to stop filching our democracy’ and they are sponsoring a series of politically charged images aimed at Canadian politicians.
Today Media regularly publishes his satirical vignettes.
Walter’s latest project is a group called ‘woMen on Roofs – Fools in office’
*Walter Neufeld was born and raised in Abbotsford. He manages a development company operating in BC and in Alberta. Walter has been a critic of the provincial government’s dysfunctional Mines Act for about 12 years. Neufeld is the president of the Fraser Valley Regional District Citizens Association (FVRDCA). Most recently, he’s critiqued both Honourable Randy Hawes and the gravel industries Aggregate Pilot Project which he believes to be a harmful private production document .