By Mike Archer. Former Mayor George Ferguson had his faults but, until a couple of stronger-willed councillors – neither of whom appeared to understand simple concepts like compound interest, how to write a business plan, or the art of consensus building – hijacked the public process in Abbostford and pushed Plan A on an unsuspecting and unconvinced public.
Bruce Beck and John Smith were determined to break with the small ‘c’ conservative approach to growth in Abbotsford by risking it all on a grand plan which would, in one fell swoop, catapult Abbotsford into the 21st Century.
The ‘Build It And They Will Come’ philosophy would result in tremendous economic growth which would put enough money into City coffers that we would be able to fix our infrastructure deficit and modernize our water and sewer pipes, fix our roads and build a modern, cosmopolitan city.
That was the plan.
Eight years later and here we are:
1) We spend close to $10 million a year supporting two out-of-town companies and an otherwise empty building which no one in the community can use – Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC) with no end in sight.
2) Since Plan A was pushed through council and a razor thin referendum victory, the Development Cost Charges (DCC) reserves we had before Plan A have not only been depleted, we owe tens of millions of dollars to ourselves because we have borrowed against those funds to pay the bills.
3) With no reserves and no increase in population or revenue we have no way of fixing our water, sewer, or roads and no way of accomodating any real economic growth – even if it were to suddenly materialize.
4) John Smith, Bill MacGregor and others on council have confused the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) with the voice of the business community and have effectively funneled millions of community funds towards promoting and protecting the interests of a select group of small businesses to the exclusion of the rest of the community or the businesses we might have attracted.
5) The only businesses which do decide to invest in Abbotsford are either:
- Unaware of the size or the make up of the real population
- Move here because our municipal leaders drop their pants and either provide financial guarantees or tax breaks to encourage them to set up shop here.
The Culprits?The mystery to me is why either Peary or Banman became spokespeople for the agenda of those who got us in this mess. Peary didn’t have anything to do with Plan A or the financial nightmare it became. Why did he defend it and continue to promote a failed agenda? Why did he tell his friends and neighbours we needed a $300,000,000 new water supply when he knew it wasn’t true?
Why has Banman, who was elected for one reason – to not be George Peary – immediately and consistently take on and represent the interests of the same group of people who, despite loud, public and repeated warnings pushed a public policy disaster – even after it was clearly shown to be failing badly – and allowed it to devastate our public treasury and remove our options for future economic growth?
It’s almost as if both Peary and Banman were more interested in climbing up to the top of the rarified (some might say putrified) atmosphere atop the little power structure in Abbotsford. To do that one would have to defend and promote the interests of that very small, well-heeled group of businessmen/farmers and retired wealthy people who think they own Abbotsford rather than set the City on a new path towards economic growth and success.
Why did Banman become the poster child for the idiotic tax giveaway to the YMCA cooked up nearly ten years ago in the Parks and Rec Department? Why is he defending the failed policy of John Smith, Bob Bos and Bob Rich of resolving the homeless crisis by abusing, berating, attacking, stealing from and harassing the homeless while denying them any possibility of low-barrier shelters?
Why does he continue to defend George Peary’s deal to subsidize the Calgary Flames and pay a Philidelphia company to drain the treasury on the failed White Elephant on King Road.
Both men should be aware they are neither part of the old boys network nor will they ever be. That takes real money and real power. Neither George Peary 1.0 nor George Peary 2.0 have either.
Their friends and neighbours are left with an empty treasury, water, sewer and road infrastructure which is in ruins, and a worldwide reputation for chicken manure and a homeless crisis.
As a direct result of having two weak mayors in a row our economic development is changing from the standstill it was to a full-on retreat as more and more of the businesses which opened here based on the fairly tales they were told by the City are closing their doors.
Oh for a mayor with the guts and the independence to build the city we were all told we were building.