From The Vault: Four Years Worth Of Constructive Citicism

UPDATED 15/03/13 – After reading a column in The Abbotsford Times by Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Allan Asaph chastising those who take to the internet to criticise their betters, we replied in a manner we thought fitting.

We also decided to have a look through our archives to find some of the better examples of constructive criticism and advice we and those who have contributed to Abbotsford Today have provided to the Chamber of Commerce, City Council and the administration at the City of Abbotsford over the last four years.

It was a useful exercise because, as it turns out, we found a ton of really good advice and constructive criticism. For those of you who don’t know us yet, this may be a useful introduction.

Thanks to Mr. Asaph’s gentle prodding, we’re going to start re-publishing some of that advice with the faint hope that, instead of attacking us, dismissing us or rudely characterizing us a naysayers and people who shouldn’t be taken seriously, maybe those atop the little social world populated by the Toffs who run Abbotsford will take some of the constructive criticism to heart and stop ruining our city.

yertleIf they applied some of the ideas being provided for free by the citizens of Abbotsford they just might be able to avoid the fiscal brick wall towards which they are driving us.

There have been many writers, contributors, columnists and letter writers who have provided some very well-thought-out advice for the City of Abbotsford on Abbotsford Today. You’ll find them all if you search for them by name or simply go through the Opinion section at the top of the page. You’ll find all sorts of columnists, guest columns and a fair share of humour and satire … all of which has been dutifully ignored by those who govern our lives and spend our money.

Some of the people we’ve gone to in search of fact-based research and professional guidance are featured below together with excerpts from some of their posts on Abbotsford Today.

Follow the links to the original posts and find out just how much constructive criticism and good advice the citizens of Abbotsford have given to those at the top of the turtle pile only to have it ignored.

Oh … we almost forgot … use the comments box to criticise us if you feel the urge 🙂 … even if it isn’t constructive 😉
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Four Years Worth Of Constructive Criticism


voteMayor and Council Performance Review
Sherril Guthrie performed, at no cost to taxpayers, a Mayor and Council Performance Review which provided some very interesting insights into the way some Abbotsford residents feel about the way they are being governed.

Included in her report were a number suggestions for City politicians and a disturbing revelation about the number of businesses and people in Abbotsford who are afraid of the power structure and City Hall.

The Chamber of Commerce helped Guthrie distribute her reviews. [Editor’s Note: After receiving a note from Sherril Guthrie – see comments below – we have changed this story. Apparently neither Patrick Geisbrecht nor Allan Asaph were willing to help with the Performance Review despite being given two opportunities] The Abbotsford Times didn’t cover her work. The Abbotsford News didn’t cover it either until after her results were complete when they devoted a short five-paragraph story to it.


waterThe P3 Water Referendum

Rather than rely on opinions alone, we asked for advice from professionals and people close to the water issue in Abbotsford, four of whom had quite a bit of background, insight and knowledge on the issue.

From agrologists and engineers to academics and others close to the issue we relied on as many experts as we could to tell the whole story.

Up against the barrage of opinion pieces and stories in the chained-owned media and all manner of marketing and PR on the issue coming from the City of Abbotsford and the Chamber of Commerce it was interesting to watch how real, factual information swayed the day.

In fact, it was later revealed that if the Chamber and the City had succeeded in getting us to purchase the unnecessary new water supply, our dilapidated and aging water pipes wouldn’t have been able to handle the supply.

People voted against the City and the Chamber by a factor of 75 percent in the P3 referendum.

  • David Sahlstrom, BSc(Agr.), MBA, PAg, is an Agrologist and an independent consultant.
  • Karen Ageson, a policy analyst, researcher and instructor,has an MSc in Agricultural Economics from the University of British Columbia and told us of her research on the Abbotsford aquifer and how it could save the City $126 million.
  • Diane Kalen-Sukra, Water Watch Mission/Abbotsford, CUPE
  • Ed Regts Retired Chief Engineer
  • Together they gave some very useful, factual and well researched information which showed the information being provided by those selling the idea of giving close to half a billion dollars to an American company to build and manage a new water supply was false.

    The work done by the Mission Engineering Department after the fact showed that the City of Abbotsford, its Mayor (George Peary) and senior staff as well as the Chamber of Commerce – all of whom supported the nearly half a billion dollar expenditure, based on completely inaccurate forecasts by Abbostford City staff – facts which were known at the time of the referendum and available to those who were telling citizens we would run out of water by 2016 – were, at the very least, incorrect in their description of the problem as a water shortage.

    The Chamber of Commerce supported this almost half billion dollar expenditure of public funds which proved to be completely unnecessary.


The City’s Engineering Department

Steve Dunton
Businessman and developer Steve Dunton helped us reveal that, for every dollar spent on infrastructure, by private developers and by governments in the City of Abbotsford, five percent of the project cost goes to the Engineering Department for inspection.


Walter Neufeld

Walter Neufeld

YMCA Debate

From his incisive and witty ‘Men on Roofs’ series of comments on politics to his columns about the gravel industry in Abbotsford and across the province, Walter Neufeld has contributed and enormous amount of very sound advice over the years.

Of particular interest has been his series of debates with Steve Butz of the YMCA which Butz put to an end by asking Neufeld to stop emailing him.


The YMCA Question

Most recently, few topics have garnered more interest at the local political level than the proposal to give $17.5 Million and tax forgiveness to the YMCA for a membership-supported sports facility.

For our coverage, we’ve relied on several sources:

  1. Abbotsford Ratepayers Association (ARA) president and Abbotsford Today co-owner Vince Dimanno
  2. Abbotsford Councillor and businessman Henry Braun
  3. YMCA President Stephen Butz


Fred Thiessen
Speaking of developers and business people, Fred Thiessen put his money where his mouth was and led a delegation to City Hall asking politicians and bureaucrats not to give $17.5 million and tax concessions to the YMCA in order to build thgemselves a private membership facility in Abbotsford.

Thiessen and his citizens group then paid for an advertisement in a local chain-owned newspaper urging the City not to give any more of taxpayers money away to private organizations.


Council Votes on YMCA Today

Abbotsford Ratepayers Association (ARA) president and Today co-owner Vince Dimanno

Abbotsford Ratepayers Association (ARA) president and Today co-owner Vince Dimanno

Vince Dimanno
Firstly, you are in direct contravention of the Community Charter. You are giving a business a benefit and that is not allowed. There has been no mention that the City would “own” this facility in whole or in part and therefore funding it any way is purely against the law.

Secondly, while it might seem that we are getting a facility at half price, we are also getting half a facility. Planned is a 25 metre pool and this community desperately needs a 50 metre pool.

Finally, the Mayor has stated that the City of Abbotsford has money in its reserves. We don’t believe this to be true. It has money in its DCC fund but that is for development, not recreation. The DCC fund is also many millions in the red and any funds in it should stay in it until such time as that fund is repaid.

Just because we don’t need to borrow this money doesn’t mean that it won’t create a debt. It means a debt in our infrastructure upgrades, our policing and firefighting personnel and once again we drain our reserves so we can “have a party”.

Do the right thing. Say no and then put a financial plan together that saves the money in advance of construction, that plans for the facility that meets the needs of our community and not the needs of a business, and do it in accordance with the Community Charter instead of in spite of it.


From ‘YMCA – Looking At The Bigger Picture

Councillor Henry Braun

Councillor Henry Braun

Henry Braun
A grant equal to 50% of the capital costs gives the YMCA an enormous competitive advantage over all of the other private facilities located in Abbotsford who provide similar services AND pay property taxes. There are many unintended consequences that will result from this uneven approach, including increased subsidies (taxpayer’s money), for the City’s own facilities: ARC & MRC.

Is a grant of $17.5 million to the YMCA really the best use of taxpayer monies given our current financial situation? Shouldn’t our first priority be to repay the $29 million borrowed from the DCC accounts (a very risky decision in itself), and then be in a position to fund the $14 million AC water main backlog? These are real ‘needs’, as opposed to ‘wants’. In the end, the required funds will have to come from the residents who already absorbed large property tax and water rate increases over the last 5 years.


The YMCA’s Position
[excerpt] YMCA logo bigStephen Butz, President YMCA Vancouver. Our interest in Abbotsford is about our mission, not our business model. For the last 127 years, the YMCA has been serving communities throughout Vancouver as a leading not-for-profit charity. For generations, the heart of that work has focused on communities that need support in raising healthy children and families so the whole community can be strong. The facilities, programs, and services offered by the Y are simply tools to achieve this purpose. We have figured out how to operate these facilities in a prudent, sustainable fashion, and that is why government, community organizations, countless donors and municipalities across Canada have partnered with us. The days are over when any one of us can address the complex set of challenges facing a community like Abbotsford. Rather, we are putting our shared capacity to work together on behalf of communities to work. That is why we want to be here.


YMCA Decision Another Dark Day For Abbotsford
[excerpt] By Vince Dimanno

We have over $300 million in debt incurred from Plan A to pay off. We spend close to $5 million per year on the Plan A and Abbotsford Heat losses. We have no money in our DCC fund (used for growing our town), and we have now committed the very last dollar in our capital reserves to building a facility for someone else.

The truth is, the reason I think it was a dark day for Abbotsford is because despite the evidence, despite the information available, despite all the public feedback, City Council voted to spend your money again. It is evidence that when you re-elected these city councillors you did so against your own interest. Mayor Banman said we needed to live within our own means. John Smith claims to be a fiscal conservative, but he always … always votes to spend your money.


Special Sections Filled With Advice And Constructive Criticism


Abbotsford's plan for repaying the money it borrowed from its DCC fund,

Abbotsford’s plan for repaying the money it borrowed from its DCC fund,

There are two issues which proved so difficult to cover in one or two articles or columns we relied on research assistance from Lily Kaetler and created two whole sections devoted to what we discovered. The Chamber of Commerce pushed hard to get the two overpasses which ate up a great deal of the DCC fund and fully supported the phony water crisis and the need to spend hundreds of millions on a new water supply


Lot’s More …

If you’re looking for informed opinion on the public agenda in Abbotsford, just let your mouse hover over the Opinion tab at the top of the home page and you will find everything from our regular columnists, to our guest columnists, letters to contributions in our popular ‘Pop Voice’ section.

James Breckenridge's 'Shaminder' is full of constructive criticism

James Breckenridge’s ‘Shaminder’ is full of constructive criticism

For some of the most edifying comments and constructive criticism on the whole site we advise you to keep an eye on the Recent Comments section in the middle of the home page. Some of the most well written and well researched commentary on issues in Abbotsford we have relied on people like Meghann Coughlan, Lily Kaetler, Lynn Perrin, Gerda Peachey and hundreds of local people, some of them involved in politics, some who’s only qualification is that of being an interested and caring citizen.

Some of the deepest and most important writing about what it means to be a citizen of Abbotsford who is abandoned, chewed up and thrown away by their community James Breckenridge has been offering constructive criticism for four years on Abbotsford Today and for years before that to whomever would listen.

His latest piece, Shaminder, should be a must read for anyone claiming to speak for the citizens of Abbotsford.

James’ columns can be found here.

abnorWe haven’t begun to name or thank all of those who have contributed but I hope we’ve reignited the debate over who has a right to speak on the public’s business and who can and can’t criticise those who spend their friends’ and neighbours’ money.

We’ve got plenty more constructive criticism to unearth as we delve through the archives over the coming weeks.

While you’re waiting check out our ‘Who Said What When‘ section. Lily Kaetler has kept track of every quote of significance by every Abbotsford politician that has ever appeared in a newspaper. Very interesting reading …

For a lighter look at Abbotsford politics drop in on Abnor and have a chat.

More Next Week … Much More …

Photo from

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Meghann Coughlan says:


    I hope you aren’t comparing that fool to an Orangutan because it’s unfair to Orangutans. 😛

  • The Editor says:

    Sherril Guthrie Says:

    For the record and for the sake of accuracy, you should know that although Allan Asaph, Patrick Geisbrecht and other key Chamber representatives were given two opportunities to share the Mayor and Council Performance Review with their members and to modify the review based on early feedback, they chose not to.

    From a research perspective, their input was not actually required. The opportunity to participate was offered primarily as a professional courtesy and as a gesture of respect for many of their Chamber members who are also Abbotsford residents and taxpayers with legitimate opinions about the performance of their Mayor and Council.

    As to why the Chamber Executive chose to shield their members from this review, I’m not sure. What I am certain of, however, is the many phone calls and emails I’ve received from local business folks since the release of my report. All stated, in their own way, that the final report was “bang on!” This, of course, is very affirming of the results. In fact, I am so confident about the research that I believe if the number of participants was quadrupled, there would be only a minimal or insignificant variation in the scores for each individual on Council.

    Hope this is helpful. Please make the necessary correction so as not to misrepresent the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and their involvement in the research.

    Thank you,
    Sherril Guthrie

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