By Mike Archer. Whatever decision City Council makes on February 17 on the Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) and BC Housing Supportive Housing Proposal, one thing was made eminently clear at February 3rd’s public hearing.
By a factor of two to one the speakers and the audience as a whole are sick and tired of being embarrassed by their political and business class.
Year after year they have had to endure being the butt of jokes about George Peary’s Deal and the White Elephant on King Road. Making the top ten ‘Stupidest things the government has done with your money’ list in MacLean’s magazine twice has had an impact.
We are the laughing stock of the development community on the West Coast because, once you’ve gotten over the fact that we will offer you just about anything you want in order to build here – including up to ten years of not having to pay taxes – you will likely discover that our water and sewer pipes are not of sufficient capacity to service your development plans.
Even the Chamber of Commerce has been trumpeting the fact we have the highest unemployment in Western Canada (Odd thing for a business organization to be shouting about).
When I first moved to the Fraser Valley in 1998 I learned that Abbotsford City Hall was impossible to deal with if you wanted to do business here, according to business people from Chilliwack to Langley and beyond.
When Vince Dimanno and I first opened an office in downtown Abbotsford, the very first phone call we received on our brand new office phone was from the Abbotsford business licence department informing us we hadn’t applied for or been approved for a business licence yet.
Not a ‘Welcome to Abbotsford.’ Not a ‘Thank You for investing here.’ Not even a ‘Good Morning.’
We’ve watched as year-after-year the news kept getting worse as the ADBA and the Chamber bent council’s will in their favour spending hundreds of millions of dollars on failed hockey arenas, failed hockey teams, failed overpasses, failed economic development strategies, failed transportation strategies and a policy on homelessness of which, had we been asked about it, we would never have approved. And all of this in the name of ‘the business community.’
Well the business community is not made up only of Chamber and ADBA members and the community has suffered greatly from the misguided bully tactics of a few well-heeled, well-connected but very poorly informed and short sighted business leaders.
It seems all the taxpayers of Abbotsford have become a ready-made savings account for the business lobby to tap into whenever it has a bright idea for its own amusement.
Hockey rinks, golf courses, overpasses, illegal and unconstitutional bylaws against drug addicts, mindless and excessive homeless strategies …
Then came the Chicken Manure Incident. Abbotsford citizens traveling in Nova Scotia, the US and as far away as Ireland were told about the incident by local people who had heard about the Abbotsford Today story either on the BBC, CBC, CTV, CNN or even Harper’s Magazine.
It is the image which has come to define us. So sick and inhumane an action was it, people still try to understand how such a thing could happen in what they thought was a modern, 21st century and developed country.
As the layers of the onion have been peeled back and we had to endure weekly conflicts between the City, the APD, the Sally Ann and the homeless men and women they were harassing, the community had almost grown numb by the time the City used force on Christmas Eve to remove the Drug War Survivors protest from Jubilee Park.
Responding to the plethora of lawsuits against it due to its ultra vires and illegal Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw, City Council wisely rid itself of the embarrassing bylaw in January. Their lawyers had spelled it out for them – municipal governments can neither break the law nor make up their own laws.
Thanks to the Drug War Survivors and The Pivot Legal Society the City was forced to remove, or at least neuter, it draconian, illegal and immoral bylaw, if only to try to protect itself from the legal ramifications of the ultra vires millstone around the City’s neck.
We waited until the illegal bylaw’s author and main defender, Simon Gibson, was safely ensconced in Victoria … making laws … to do it, and it was only done as the result of legal pressure brought to bear by the people Bruce Banman thinks we ought to lock up .. because, like pedophiles,, drug addicts are criminals, but when forced to do the right thing by law our leaders proved up to the task of dropping their pants and scurrying behind the shed.
The people of this community are fed up with the awful leadership we have been forced to put up with over the last decade due to the inordinate influence of a small cabal of business people, property owners and developers who have taken every ounce of taxpayer cash and favour as they could get away with while destroying a community’s good name in the process.
The Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association should be ashamed of the horrible leadership they have provided their friends and neighbours and, absent an apology, they should simply get back to doing what they are supposed to do – make money for themselves.
As far as the City is concerned; the bureaucrats who could be blamed have been blamed, fired and replaced. The politicians who are responsible for the mess in which we find ourselves are desperately trying to distance themselves from their own involvement and responsibility so that they can, once again, be re-elected in order to suck at the great teat of the public purse, paid for by, you guessed it, their friends and neighbours whom they have let down so badly.
The one fact remaining for Abbotsford citizens to learn (and they will eventually) – who gave the suggestion; the order; the OK to poison homeless people with chicken feces – will remain elusive until the law suits drag the City through the courts and force the power structure to give up its Stooge.
For the old men and women on council who have been living in a self-made vacuum – the Feb 3 public hearing was a warning sign of things to come.
Abbotsford Council: on February 17, clean up your act and give us back our good name. Start doing the right thing instead of the politically advantageous thing. And please, for those of you who got us in this mess, have the decency to retire this year. You really have done enough damage to our City.
For the rest of you who, will be running for mayor because you know Bruce Banman was a one-off mistake, think about this: The citizens of Abbotsford are sick and tired of your incompetence, ineptitude and complacency. If you didn’t get the message from the sea of green scarves supporting a solution to homelessness at the Feb 3 public hearing, you will never make it as a politician because you still believe that the powerful people to whom you report are the ones who get you elected.
They don’t. They merely pay for your advertising campaigns.
Here’s the deal … between you and me … nobody believes that shit anymore. Nobody reads their community newspaper for real information anymore. Have some guts. Do the right thing. Change the channel on homelessness in Abbotsford.
We’re sick and tired of having it define us.