By James Breckenridge. At the Abbotsford City Council meeting on Monday February 17, 2014 Bruce Banman stepped up and delivered yet another blow to democracy in Abbotsford.
When Simon Gibson was elected as a Liberal MLA in the provincial election of May 14, 2013 Mr. Gibson, mayor and council decided democracy for the citizens of Abbotsford was not worth the cost of a by-election.
If Mr. Gibson, mayor and council had not decided that saving a few thousand dollars was more important than the democratic rights of the citizens of Abbotsford, the citizens of Abbotsford would have been going to the polls to elect a new member of council last Fall  as did every city where a city councillor had been elected a provincial MLA.
Every city except Abbotsford, where it was decided the cost of a by-election was to high a price to pay for democracy.
A by-election in the Fall of 2013, when the details of the Abbotsford Community Services housing proposal were before the public for their consideration; a by-election that would have permitted the citizens of Abbotsford to express their opinion on the housing proposal. But no, the cost of a by-election was to high a cost to allow the citizens of Abbotsford to express their will on the ACS housing proposal – or was it the cost to council and special interests that was to high to permit the citizens of Abbotsford to democratically express their views?
Keep in mind Abbotsford City Council was aware of the proposal and of the proposal being made public once all the Ts were crossed and all the Is dotted. Council knew that not holding a by-election would deny the citizens of Abbotsford the right to democratically express, through the ballot box, the citizen’s position on the ACS housing proposal. Council robbed voters of their right to vote, but hey – they saved taxpayers the cost of a by-election.
Ironic, coming from a council that willingly spends millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars every year to subsidize the ownership, by a few privileged business people, of a professional hockey team.
A few thousand of taxpayer dollars? Far to high a price to grant taxpayers a democratic say in the actions, the governance, of city government.
Spend millions of taxpayer dollars to protect council’s ego by buying a tenant so council’s Great Folly [aka the Great White Elephant] did not sit there empty – no matter how many millions of dollars an empty Folly would have saved taxpayers? Council has no problem squandering however many millions of taxpayer dollars are required.
“It may be irrational, but that doesn’t matter,” said Councillor Smith. A statement that, while warped, makes perfect sense when you consider all the other irrational decisions made and/or supported by Councillors Smith, Barkman, MacGregor and Mr. Banman.
With a municipal election this November 2014, having run twice for council and lost one begins to wonder if the citizens, as mind-boggling as one may find it, want a council that is financially reckless and irresponsible.
What else would you call it when, after years of calling on BC housing for funding and BC housing steps up with $2,5 million, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for support programs for residents, council tells them to take their housing and their money and shove it?
When council tells the Finance Minister to take his $$millions$$ to a community that wants to do something – besides whining – about homelessness in their community?
When the mayor, with visions of sugar-plums [or something] dancing in his head, expects Fraser Health to step up with millions of dollars to fund housing in Abbotsford; the same Fraser Health that is under scrutiny for its inability not to go $50 million over budget every year. Fraser Health, when Fraser Mental Health must make a special funding proposal to the provincial government for funding to undertake new, and needed, services.
Only reckless and irrational dreaming would have anyone thinking that the Finance Minister is going to give Fraser Health extra funds to spend on housing in Abbotsford after the mayor and council told BC Housing, the Finance Minister and the government to take their money and give it to a community that cares.
One begins to wonder if the citizens want a council that ignores reality, facts and experience and behaves irrationally when dealing with social issues such as homelessness.
A council that deployed chicken manure in its war on the homeless. An action one Abbotsford citizen heard about when surrendering their passport as they checked into a hotel in Scandinavia where the front desk staff, upon seeing they were from Abbotsford BC informed them they were from the city that dumps chicken shit on its homeless citizens.
A council that chases the homeless around the city never answering the question “where are the homeless suppose to go?” A council that, as it pointlessly chases the homeless around Abbotsford, ensures there is no place for the homeless to go by voting not to permit ACS to use the housing first model to build housing to help the homeless transition off the streets.
A council whose action in rejecting homeless housing provide proof to the courts, for the ongoing homeless related litigation, that not only is the City of Abbotsford not doing anything about affordable housing and housing for the homeless, but that the City is actively preventing the building of homeless related housing projects.
But then Mr Banman stated “Council has to ensure that any changes made to our bylaws are made for the greater benefit of the entire community……. we also need to make sure the interests of all residents are considered in our decisions.”
A statement which brings to mind a notable prior assault on Abbotsford citizens by Mr. Banman and Councillor Smith when, after council voted not to approve the rezoning of the Mahogany at Mill Lake, Mr. Banman ambushed council and citizens by sneaking Mahogany at Mill Lake back before council at a time when one of the council members who had voted against the project could not attend the council meeting, allowing Mr. Banman and councillor Smith to have the project approved against the wishes and interests of the citizens living in the area.
An assault on democracy made worse as both Mr. Banman and Mr. Smith had accepted campaign contributions from the developer.
Mr. Banman is right, the citizens of Abbotsford need people on council who are concerned about building a community, people concerned about considering the interests of all residents not just the well connected and moneyed, in decisions; people who don’t make reckless, irresponsible, fear based or irrational decisions.
It is clear that the majority of the citizens of Abbotsford, those who are not among the well connected and/or the moneyed, need new blood on council to protect their interests from irrational, irresponsible actions such as Mr. Banman, councillors Smith, Barkman and McGregor rejecting the desperately needed housing proposed by ACS.