By Mike Archer. It turns out mayoralty debates are livelier with two candidates. Both Henry Braun and Bruce Banman were at Thursday night’s Chamber of Commerce sponsored debate at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.
Some 200 people joined them for, what turned out to be, a lively debate.
The two men struck very different poses throughout the evening with Banman claiming he has turned things around at City Hall and Braun taking a much more serious tone describing the difficult work ahead.
Banman pointed to what he described as his accomplishments which included:
- A new Official Community Plan (OCP) which is in the final stages
- A new zoning bylaw which is much smaller and easier to work with
- The fact that building permits now take only three weeks as opposed to the three months they once took
- The hiring of a new Economic Development Officer
Braun countered, as he has on several occasions during the campaign, that while he is also pleased at the start the City has made on fixing many of its problems under the leadership and direction of the new City Manager, George Murray, the reason building permits take so little time to get now is that nobody is building in Abbotsford.
Braun came back to the economy time and again and, while Banman talked in vague dreamy phrases about what he would like to see happen in Abbotsford, Braun kept hammering him back with statements like, “I find nothing to disagree with but what Mr Banman is talking about doesn’t match the reality.”
Banman said that, now that the ground work has been done, he wants to lead Abbotsford to a much better place than it has been over the last ten years. He said the City has to get away from the bickering, disagreement and nastiness which he blamed on Mike Archer, Managing Editor of Abbotsford Today.
Banman accused Braun of inheriting wealth and told the audience repeatedly that he had come from humble beginnings and he knew all to well what it is like to not know where the next mortgage payment was coming from.
He said that Braun was anti-jobs because he had voted against taking land for the West Abbotsford Industrial Park out of the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Braun countered that the reason he had voted against that plan was that when asked how much the infrastruture costs for roads, water and sewer would be the engineering department didn’t know.
“I even asked them to ball park it for at $10 million … $20 million … $50 million. I couldn’t get an answer. We have to stop building things in this City without knowing how much they cost,” he said to a thunderous round of applause from the audience.
Braun went after Banman on one of his campaign slogans regarding transparency and accountability, saying that there are a great number of times when what is discussed behind closed doors at City Hall does not match what is said in public.
Braun said the entire ACS/BC Housing debacle which saw the City turn down $15.3 million in funding for a small low barrier shelter on the Mayor’s vote, was a classic example where the population seemed unaware that the City had offered up and negotiated the necessary arrangements, road allowances and property in order to make the whole project happen.
“It was the City that chose that property and did everything it could to make the ACS plan work,” he said, adding that people were then told by this mayor and councillors that the City had been kept in the dark, had not consulted or negotiated in good faith, etc … none of which, according to Braun, matches the facts.
He said he was not allowed to talk about what happens in camera, but that there are a couple of surprises coming to the taxpayers of Abbotsford which involve major projects which will cost a lot more than they were told.
Banman said the City was moving forward but warned that council has to be careful what it reveals.
Braun promised that, if elected, he would require reports to the public about decisions made behind closed doors. The audience responded with loud and sustained applause and cheering.
Braun said that he knows many leading Canadian business people who will not invest in Abbotsford, “Until we get our act together.”
“We used to be leaders in the region. Now all of the growth and business and people are going to our neighbours to the east and west of us. That has to stop,” he said to another thunderous round of sustained applause.
Talk about Abbotsford’s economy and the fact the City has the highest unemployment in Western Canada seemed to put Banman on the defensive as Braun rattled of facts, figures and statistics combined with anecdotal evidence that clearly demonstrated his case.
Banman responded primarily with the language of dreams, visions, children and grandchildren and, while admitting things were perhaps not all rosy, told the audience at one point, “We are just on the cusp of greatness.”
When asked to be specific about their plans for their four years if elected Braun said he would get the new council together and begin the process of changing the way business is done at City Hall. Banman spoke about the dreams he had for a better Abbotsford that builds on its strengths such as the airport, the University, the Aerospace industry, and make a more liveable city.
The moderator, Chamber President Mike Welte urged, “In your rebuttal, don’t be shy with the specifics.”
In his closing remarks Banman talked about how much he loved Abbotsford; how he has been one paycheque away from not being able to pay his mortgage; and, finished by saying, “I’m worried about future generations that we make our life to be better for our children and grandchildren.”
He said the City’s debt would be paid off by 2016.
Braun concluded saying that he was much less optimistic about the future; that the City has to stop favouring the few and create a level playing field for business; we have to learn to stay within our budget, become more business friendly, report to the citizens what is really going on and evaluate staff based on performance.
“We haven’t got our finances fixed and we have to stop borrowing from our children.”
Archived recordings of the all candidates meetings and the mayoralty debates are available on the City of Abbotsford website.
To watch the Shaw mayoralty debate go to their YouTube channel.
Abbotsford Today has put together an extensive section on the 2014 Municipal Election. In addition candidates announcements, profiles and Q&A as well as news stories, columns and pieces contributed by candidates it includes:
Contact Your Candidates
List of Candidates
Municipal Election Guide
New Local Elections Legislation
The Municipal Election Guide is made up primarily of information and links from the City of Abbotsford’s extensive information s