All Ideas Are Welcome

By James Breckenridge. Ken Wuschke’s “Moving Forward Requires Open And Frank Dialog”  calls to mind courses and trainings in Communication, that Listening is vital to Communication and that both are necessary to facilitating the setting of goals and moving forward.

With all the diversity found in a Canadian city the size of Abbotsford ensuring all the participants have a clear understanding and agreement about what is being discussed, and ensuring all the participants have a clear understanding of what each other means by what they are saying, clear communication is a complex challenge.

One of the first things basic communications courses make sure participants understand is how often people are talking of apples and oranges when both are operating under the mistaken impression they are discussing bananas. The two people, supposedly speaking the same language, are in fact hearing something different from what the speaker was [or thought they were] saying.

Ensuring clear understanding of all aspects of the conversation, by all parties to the conversation, is fundamental to building trust.

Complicating clear communication and understanding is the need, often either unrecognized or ignored, to establish which facts are fact and which fall into the category ‘what ain’t so’.

As Mark Twain said: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Mr. Wuschke’s statement: “It seems that every council out of the past three terms have had their lightening rod issue” implies that we are talking about separate and distinct councils.

However, an examination of the members of these councils reveals that the core voting majority is the same for the councils elected in 2005, 2008 and 2011. Thus to me it has been, in a very real sense, the same council since 2005.

That the majority of council has been the same since 2005 explains the continued growth of the disconnect and distrust between council and many citizens that Mr. Wuschke writes of.

Mr. Wuschke’s statement ‘…..and now the homeless issue. It seems that every council out of the past three terms have had their lightening rod issue’ demonstrates the importance understanding the history of the councils, mayors, councillors and an issue such as homelessness; and the need to establish or at the very least explore the history of the issue[s] if clear and effective conversation is to take place.

Abbotsford Community Services was not the first BC Housing proposal to pay for construction of affordable housing and – more importantly – to fund programs and supports that significantly raise the probability of resident being sober a year after treatment from the 3% of the traditional approach. Council also blew off the September 2008 proposal – $11,000,000.00 for the capital costs and $22,700,000.00 for programs and supports.

The approach to homelessness, and the excuses, has remained the same over the years that the core of council has remained the same. Over that period of time we have experienced the misnamed ‘Compassion Park’ and its consequences; watched affordable housing being built in Mission and Chilliwack but not Abbotsford; could stand beside Highway 1 and watch modular housing from the 2010 Olympics trucked through Abbotsford to provide affordable housing in Chilliwack; been through numerous city pogroms against the homeless; watched the city ignore the negative consequences of their behaviours and actions, then repeat the same behaviours and actions over and over again as though next time the outcome would be different.

Homelessness is not simply an issue of the current council; it was an issue when I became involved with poverty, affordable housing, mental illness, substance use 12 years ago.
!2 years of council’s politically correct spin on the homeless issues; of councils taking actions that steadily worsened the issue homeless, ignoring advice and actions that had been demonstrated elsewhere to be effective in addressing homelessness; actively blocking resources and services that would have served to reduce homelessness.

The current council, the majority of the current councillors, are now reaping what they sowed in previous terns on previous councils.

The fact the core of the council in 2005 remains the core of the council in 2014 is also the reason it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve Mr. Wuschke’s call for “The community needs to have open and effective communication to city council” and “One where everyone’s ideas are welcome”.

However, faced with homelessness and other social issues, the economic and financial realities facing the city, the OCP, city services, infrastructure, Abbotsford Centre…….
…….neither the city nor its citizens can afford the current state between city hall, the politicians and citizens.

Moving forward does not require unanimous consent. It does require citizens take the actions necessary for them to be able to give informed consent and avoid the negative consequences of decisions based on Mark Twain’s “what ain’t so”. Moving forward also requires that decisions made by the city be based on reasons that are clearly set out, understood and rational.
Communication and trust are two way streets, must be two way streets if they are to exist and function.


City of Abbotsford Council 2011 – 2014
Mayor B. Banman, and Councillors L. Barkman, H. Braun, S. Gibson, M. Gill, D. Loewen, B. MacGregor, P. Ross, and J. Smith

City of Abbotsford Council 2008 – 2011
Mayor G. Peary; and Councillors L. Barkman, S. Gibson, M. Gill, L. Harris, D. Loewen,
B. MacGregor, P. Ross, and J. Smith

City of Abbotsford Council 2005 – 2008
Mayor G. Ferguson; Councillors B. Beck, C. Caldwell, S. Gibson, M. Gill, L. Harris,
D. Loewen, P. Ross, and J. Smith

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