By Mike Archer. When the media presents one side of an issue – usually the one espoused by the power structure and, by extension, City Hall, and then people are asked what they think on the issue, the community is engaged in circular reasoning.
This is what happened to us with the Plan A referendum. Opponents were denied the $40,000 which proponents gave themselves to promote the Yes side in the referendum and then the proponents went on to spend $120,000 of taxpayers’ money to tell them how they felt.
The newspapers ran full colour ads, paid for by taxpayers, and stories which might just as well have been press releases, and even wrote editorials supporting the idea such that a very vocal group of opponents who were warning about the financial consequences (all of which have turned out to come true) were out-shouted. And still City Hall only won by the narrowest of margins.
In the water referendum on the $300,000,000 George Peary wanted to spend on a water supply it turned out we didn’t need, both out-of-town newspapers helped Peary and the senior staff at City Hall to get their ‘sky is falling’ message out and, again, both newspapers wrote editorials supporting the proposal. This time City staff spent $200,000 promoting their plan.
According to the newspapers City polls showed right up to the end that the community was divided 50/50 on the issue.
By then people were clearly listening to someone other than the newspapers as the plan was defeated by a factor of 75 percent to 25 percent and Mayor Peary was turfed.
Mayor Banman, deciding that the fact that the old ways got us in this mess and clearly don’t work as a means of governing, decided to adopt them.The YMCA Is Swept From The Public Agenda
And so, with the YMCA proposal, which has turned out to be as popular as Plan A and the new water supply combined, the Mayor has kept all his cards close to his chest and his newspapers have been playing along.
The Abbotsford Times seems to have forgotten the YMCA is even an issue. The Abbotsford News which only began covering the issue in April, have been running online polls on two separate but connected issues: the Vye Rd Overpass gift from Mike de Jong and Ed Fast which will cost us $8.33 Million, and Bruce Banman’s gift to the YMCA of $17.5 Million which we can no longer give as a result of the first one.
Setting aside the fact that self-selecting polls are slanted and irrelevant, online polls conducted by media who have control over the narrative they present to the audience they are polling are fooling themselves if they think they are providing anything but pre-determined, useless, uninformed, and potentially damaging information into the public discourse as though it actually means something.
Also known as ‘begging the question’, circular reasoning occurs when the reasoner begins with what they are trying to end up with.
“I’m right therefore I’m right”
If you happen to be right it works. If you aren’t, you end up with something like what we have been experiencing in Abbotsford since about 2005.
The inability of politicians, business leaders, newspaper editors and other members of the haut monde of Abbotsford to admit they have made mistakes, especially when combined with a media who seems to see its job as, not only promoting the agenda of the power structure but covering their tracks when their incompetence blows up in our faces, leads to a terribly dysfunctional ship of state which is completely unable to right itself when the bilge in the ballast turns it on its side.
Whenever the hoi polloi get restless the power structure closes ranks and shuts down discussion the way Mayor Banman did on the YMCA postponement or deferral, or … we’re not sure what.
If newspapers effectively tell people, five times a week for a decade that everything is fine at City Hall, and then ask them, “Is everything fine at City Hall”, they will invariably give you the answer you prompted them to give.
And so, when the chain newspapers reported that the federal, provincial and municipal governments had joined forces to build an overpass on Vye Rd at a cost of $8.33 million to Abbotsford taxpayers, they didn’t tell their readers that the formula and the amount had changed significantly.$41 Million Gone From Public Treasury
In 2005, when the need was first identified and the deal worked out to build an overpass, Abbotsford taxpayers were on the hook for only $600,000 or seven percent of the $9.1 million project. After waiting eight years to act on the project the price had gone up to $25 million and the provincial and federal governments, represented by Mike de Jong and Ed Fast, had changed their minds about how much Abbotsford taxpayers should pay for the project by upping Abbotsford’s portion to 33 percent or $8.3 million.
Without providing any background or educating their readers about the issue other than to tell them three politicians were providing them with a much needed overpass, the Abbotsford News then asked their readers in an online poll whether or not they approved of the overpass. They got a mixed reaction but mostly favourable.
Then, for a reason never explained to readers, they ran a story about the poll, repeating the limited information and encouraging people to answer.
Even had they garnered 66,500 responses to their question, the poll result would still be completely and utterly statistically irrelevant because all it measures is the number of people who wanted to answer the question (whether they are from Abbotsford or not), and like answering polls, and read the Abbotsford News – a number which we now know for certain is less than 400.
The danger of having doltish decisions being made based on inaccurate, ill-informed and incomplete information is that those decisions can lead to unintended consequences which make those involved look even more foolish.
If any of the large amount of constructive criticism provided to those who know better had been followed or even acknowledged and listened too we wouldn’t be in the financial situation in which we find our selves – that of being flat broke.
If they would allow themselves to admit they might not have all the answers, or, in some cases, have a clue how to run a city of 133,000 people, they might be able to listen to their citizens who have been providing them with some damned good advice.
At Abbotsford Today we claim no monopoly on the truth, good judgment or the knowledge that allows good governance. But if you add together all of the wisdom, advice and suggestions provided by all of the writers, journalists, informed citizens, columnists, commentors, letter writers and contributors from the community over the last four and a half years, you will find a very different set of values and points of view than that represented by those with money, access and power who have done such an awful job of managing their friends’ and neighbours’ money.
Had the power structure understood the need for criticism and a multitude of opinions and points of view to make any organization work effectively and if even one tenth of the advice from the people of Abbotsford outside the power structure who give a damn about their city been listened to, the community would be a far different community than it is today.
But in a paternalistic community where appearing right is more important than being right, and those who disagree with the ones with money and power who are making bad decisions are ostracized, ridiculed and made fun of, there isn’t much purchase for democracy.
And so, by helping politicians like Banman look like they know what they’re doing when they accept gifts from Mike and Ed, and then appear to demonstrate that they have the support of the people, it can lead to unintended consequences such as the deferral of Bruce’s gift of Abbotsford taxpayers’ money to the YMCA because Council already spent all our money.
The thing to do next, of course, is to ask a loaded question about how people feel about the YMCA deferral after avoiding any connection between the two issues in your coverage.
What you end up with is the same 300 to 400 confused and ill-informed people pushing buttons on their computers after being prompted by those asking the questions to answer in a pre-determined fashion.Having No Money Keeps You From Being Able To Give It Away
What would be most humourous about this cabal of powerful nitwits, if it weren’t so sad, is that the reason it too so long for the Vye Rd overpass to happen, is that just like all the other desperately need infrastructure work in Abbotsford, it was sidelined by Plan A.
Before Plan A we had $41 Million more in the DCC fund – the fund used to pay for infrastructure upgrades and construction – than we did by 2012 and we had deffered the majority of the necessary infrastructure needed to support economic growth in Abbotsford.
This ludicrous plan is what the power structure of Abbotsford, insulated from criticism by pliant out-of-town flyer distribution companies and fueled by self-important Chamber of Commerce executives, former bankers, investment dealers and people getting paid way more than they were/are worth, cam up with as a way to spend their friends’ and neighbours’ money after 2005.
The City is in debt, has no money, has the highest taxes, water rates and fees anywhere in the Fraser Valley and we couldn’t handle development even developers wanted to come to Abbotsford.
A community in which the power structure and their politicians can rely on a pliant and supportive media to tell the accepted, proper and authorized version of the facts, provides the community with a circular form of reasoning in which common sense and intelligent discussion of reality are rejected in favour of a self-serving discussion among a very small number of people about how right they are in their flawed decision making.
And George Peary, who wants to be remembered for giving opportunity to Abbotsford youth, is responsible for probably the biggest single decision that will keep them from being to find meaningful employment in Abbotsford for at least another generation – the Abbotsford Heat contract – and we’re not supposed to talk about these things in public.
Welcome to Abbotsford.