CBC Focuses On Abbotsford Political Issues

By October 18, 2014Municipal Politics

CBC News has focused its political lens on Abbotsford today as it provides snapshots of BC municipalities and the issues faced in each community in the lead-up to the November 15 BC Municipal elections.

Cover photo: Mayor Banman, who took responsibility for the Chicken Manure Incident, and Deb Lowell of the Salvation Army, which knew about and approved of the incident before it happened, discussing the issue the day it was revealed by Abbotsford Today.

After two brief features on the contenders for the mayor’s job, the network then lists the candidates and summarizes what it believes to be the four main issues in the campaign. The Plan A ‘money pit’ and its financial repercussions as well as Mayor Banman’s Chicken Manure Incident and the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis which exploded during his term topped the list.

They were followed by Abbotsford’s chronic unemployment problems clashes over development rounded out the list


The issues

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Abbotsford built an 8,000 seat arena and attracted a professional hockey team. The Abbotsford Heat, the AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames, opened the 2009-2010 season in the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. It didn’t go well. The team struggled to draw fans and the facility became a money pit.

This year, Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman, who inherited the problem from the previous mayor and council, announced the city spent $5.5 million to get out of its deal with the Flames, and the Heat moved to Utica, New York. The arena currently doesn’t have a significant tenant, but hosts minor hockey league games and concerts. The venture has cost Abbotsford taxpayers about $12 million since 2010 and remains fresh on the minds of voters.

Another issue that has cast a negative spotlight on the city is homelessness. It all started in the summer of 2013 when city officials scattered chicken manure over a homeless camp on Gladys Avenue. Mayor Banman later came to the site to apologize to the campers in person. The city also launched a Homelessness Task Force to examine ways to solve the issue.

Earlier this year, BC Hydro served campers with an eviction notice, telling them they had to leave due to safety concerns. Many people are now staying at another campsite just down the road. The Pivot Legal Society is now arguing in court that the group has the right to camp in a city park. There are 151 homeless people in the city, according to a count that was done earlier this year, but advocates say the number is much higher.

In 2012, Abbotsford’s unemployment rate hit 10.5 per cent, well above the provincial and national average. The number currently sits at 8.1 per cent, but it will likely rise again as we head into the fall, since many people in the city have seasonal jobs in the agriculture sector and when winter hits, jobs tend to dry up.

As the Lower Mainland’s population shifts from Vancouver to Surrey, Abbotsford is becoming a crucial link for the entire region, with its border crossing and major airport. The next mayor and council should have opportunities for growth and economic development. Pursuing those opportunities while continuing to support agriculture, which makes up a significant portion of the city’s economy, could prove to be a challenging balancing act for the next mayor and council.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Observation says:

    CBC’s story reports that Abby’s unemployment in 2012 was 10.5%. They go on to say it is now over 8 % and is likely to go up throughout the fall due to seasonal employment. It strikes me that that is why Banman and the incumbents continue to run for election as they would have no jobs in a city that has chronically high unemployment. Seeking elected office is not applying for a permanent job it is the opportunity to affect change for the greater good not to enhance one’s pocket book. If the latter is the case then what is the difference in corrupt gov’ts and ours? Not much, I’m afraid. As an example, Sharon Gaetz who has no formal education has received three raises as Mayor in Chilliwack and as Chair of the FVRD! Not bad for someone who doesn’t have a Bachelor’s Degree. How many of Abby’s current councillors have a university education? MacGregor, Loewen, Banman. They are not the best political leaders but they have proven they have the ability to learn and maybe are better suited to their day jobs. Patricia Ross doesn’t. It’s unclear whether she even graduated high school.

    If the minimum criteria for jobs in today’s competitive global economy is a Bachelor’s Degree that is fast being replaced by Master’s education that should be a minimum criteria for our elected officials as well.

Leave a Reply