By AmbrÖese Bierce. It appears Bruce Banman has done such a mediocre job as mayor that almost the entire city council of Abbotsford is considering running against him in 2014.
Cover image by Meghann Coughlan-Hernandez
Setting aside the preposterity of witnessing the men and women who created, managed and oversaw the combined financial legal, and moral, disasters of Plan A and the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis, there is a real opportunity for the community to move forward if everybody else on council actually runs for the mayor’s job.
You can’t go back to being a councillor if you throw your hat in the ring for the mayor’s job. Do the math. If everyone but John Smith runs for mayor, there are seven council positions open for new blood. With those odds, even Aird Flavelle’s reliable bid for a council seat might win this time around.Based on the tired old practice of working yourself up to the job through years of service to the community, John Smith would seem to be a natural for the job if it wasn’t for the fact that his Plan A has turned into a half billion dollar multi-generational millstone around the necks of the entire community and his plan for cleaning up the downtown core of homeless people has given us a worldwide reputation as the ‘Chicken Manure City’ and years worth of lawsuits and civil rights cases to dispute and lose.
Other than those two little turds, he would be a shoo-in.
A man of John’s ego doesn’t simply take the opportunity to sheepishly exit stage left and quietly retire though. When faced with such enormous and embarrassing career failures he could simply bow out gracefully, pick up his complimentary obsequious and fawning retirement feature in the Abbotsford News and settle quietly into the relative security of old age. Not John. Word has it he’s considering inflicting himself on the electorate one more time, albeit only as a councillor.
Bill McGregor, after having uttered well in excess of at least 30 or 40 words in public during his two terms as a councillor and having played his dual role as council representative on the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) and on the Abbotsford Social Development Advisory Committee (ASDAC) without helping either organization, is said to be done with the civic duty thing and is heading for the showers.
Other than that – everyone is apparently running for mayor.
The Reasons For Many Councillors’ Success Are Also The Reasons They Can’t Win
In the strange world of Abbotsford politics the very reason almost every councillor has any support in the community at all is the very reason they can’t win the mayoralty.
Moe Gill has made no secret of the fact he would like to move up in the political world and he appears willing to do almost anything to make that happen. If he were to run for mayor and fail, his opportunities for a continued active role in politics would be very limited given the shabby way he was embraced and then rejected by Mike de Jong and the BC Liberals.
Were he to win his star would rise at a time when both Mike de Jong and Ed Fast have to be considering their own retirement, but breaking out of his perceived role as the representative of the Indo-Canadian vote and appealing to the general population may prove to be an insurmountable task if Moe is serious about abandoning his council seat and running for mayor.
Les Barkman, whose chosen role is the union voice on council, finds himself in much the same predicament in the sense that his union support may have been sufficient to bring him to the council table but they are unlikely to translate into the plurality required for a serious run at the mayor’s job.
While he hasn’t made any particular blunders in his two terms on council, he hasn’t done anything or said anything notable either and, in order to convince anyone not in the union movement he has something to offer, he would have to actually have to stand for something.
In two terms he hasn’t yet told us what that is.
Dave Loewen’s constituency is now so narrowly defined by his inability to maintain a train of thought to its logical end or see the big picture on any of the issues on which opines, that he will find it difficult to convince any but his most ardent supporters that he has the right stuff to manage the multiple and complex issues facing a mayor.
His quiet acquiescence and vocal support for a variety of the key decisions which have put the taxpayers at financial risk with an enormous debt, reduced expectations of economic growth and a dubious record on the legal front, Dave has participated in, if not always willingly, some of the most disastrous decisions this city has ever known. It will take more than his name being included on the Church List to save him this time and it will certainly take more than his limited understanding of the sad state of the City’s affairs to get him elected mayor.
His persistent unwillingness to admit the sorry state of the City’s finances by heading off down one of his endless rabbit holes of illogical obfuscation will leave voters yawning and disappointed.
Patricia Ross has always confounded most thinking political watchers in Abbotsford and beyond. She always seems to effortlessly manage to pull in 15,000 or more votes in municipal elections simply by putting her name on the ballot. And yet she has never seemed to find an issue she can understand.
Were she ever to actually make a speech, she might lose a good 5,000 to 10,000 of those supporters, which is probably why she seldom makes them.
More than any other councillor, Patty suffers from being a one-trick pony. The business community knows it and so do most of her own supporters who only vote for her because she uses the word environment regularly. Were she presented with a legitimate rival on the environment – someone who was actually conversant with more than the branding aspect of environmentalism, she might just whither and disappear in a puff of smoke.
It has to be tempting for Patty to think her 15,000 supporters as a councillor would follow her in a bid for the mayoralty but that math has already been done for her. Patty knows she doesn’t have the necessary support to win a mayoralty race unless the vote is split so many ways she could win by default.
Which leaves Henry Braun. Council watchers of every stripe have been impressed with Braun’s principled and intelligent approach to politics. He has consistently proven to be a strong and often lonely voice on council for common sense, fiscal prudence, the rule of law and other, similar ideas of which the rest of council seems only to have a rather cursory knowledge or understanding. He has proven to have a tough skin; he seems prepared to fight when he must, and able to win when he does. Mostly, unlike anyone else around the table, he appears to be willing to take some hard decisions and tell the truth.
Most citizens who are familiar with politics in Abbotsford will tell you he is their number one choice for the job, by a long shot, and many consider the mayor’s job to be his for the taking.
Braun is much too intellectually and emotionally centered and experienced to make the mistake of believing all of the accolades he receives, but it can’t have escaped him that every time he stands up to the silliness, the mindless adherence to disastrous old decisions, policies and practices or failed political forces which have already been proven wrong, there is a loud cheer from the general population.
That’s because the general population had all but given up on politics in Abbotsford until they saw Braun in action. Hopefully Braun is only deciding whether to announce before everybody else or after everybody else and has already been convinced to run because if we are forced to chose among the people who ruined this city over the last couple of decades we are sunk.
If he does run for mayor, and if everybody else on council (other than John Smith) does too, then the citizens of Abbotsford could end up with a perfect sweep at the polls which gets rid of all the people except John Smith who have so disastrously damaged this city in the last three administrations; brings in a whole new group of councillors who have seen how not to run a city and who hopefully have some fresh ideas about how to do so properly; and elevates the one bright light in the bunch – Henry Braun – into the mayor’s job.
Bruce Banman is a nice guy but the phrase ‘in over his head’ should be tattooed to his forehead as a warning in case he runs again. And by all accounts he has already started campaigning.
It is unfortunate that he thinks he actually stands a chance because it betrays the lack of self knowledge or understanding which is so important for successful leadership.
Bruce fell backwards into the mayor’s job, not because anybody had even thought about what a good mayor he would make – they didn’t have time to do that calculation – he just switched from running for council to running for mayor when he discovered just how unpopular incumbent George Peary was.
As such he could have set Abbotsford on a new path of honesty, truth, and public involvement. He might even have led us down a path of change. Instead, he fell in lock step with the failed policies, procedures, decisions and backroom dealing which have done so much damage to this city.
He immediately began defending several now disgraced bureaucrats and announced his support for all of the nonsense most people had already figured out to be false. He became a defender of the power structure and the status quo and, in the process inherited and then came to own it all.
That’s Why People Rejected George Peary, Bruce
He didn’t have to. He didn’t start or cause any of it. But he has continued it all. Bruce became a cheerleader for George Peary’s Deal with the Calgary Flames. He took on the ludicrous plan to give $17 million cash and tax free status to the YMCA as if he had thought of it himself.
When city staff and the Salvation Army decided to get rid of the homeless at the Happy Tree using chicken feces, Bruce defended the people who made the decision and then went on a rant comparing homeless drug addicts with pedophiles.
And so he will be remembered as the Chicken Manure Mayor and the guy who ardently and proudly refused to deal with the only crisis for which he can actually be blamed because it finally exploded on his watch and he did nothing about it.
He seems to think he deserves the job just because he’s got it … and because he enjoys it so much. It is sad but true that whatever few thousand votes he does manage to garner in November will probably be based on friendship (he is a nice guy) rather than respect. They will likely be taken away from Patty Ross and Moe Gill enabling Henry Braun a significant majority – and that is a good thing. So please run Bruce!
Finally … An Opportunity For Change
However the campaign develops, it looks like Abbotsford may finally get a chance to turn the page on one of the most damaging, disastrous, incompetent and ineffective decades in its political history. The turn of the century will be remembered as the period when the horrible decisions were made and proudly defended which saddled the community with a debilitating multi-generational debt and when it was embarrassed on the provincial, national and international stage for it’s treatment of its most vulnerable citizens.
It’s a tough record on which to run for re-election but it goes to show how out of touch with reality most of our councillors are that they actually believe they can win on their record.
AmbrÖse Bierce is Today’s writer in residence who occasionally gives voice to the concerns of individual citizens and taxpayers who, for a variety of reasons, are unable or unwilling to take a public stand on issues of relevance to the rest of the community. Reasons may include possible loss of job, injury to their business, or any number of quite legitimate reasons to keep their mouths shut.
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