COMING DOWN TO THE WIRE
Voters size up Chilliwack mayoral candidates
Chilliwack mayor candidates discussed their focus on local issues Thursday at the Cultural Centre.
n Thursday, about 500 people crammed into the Culture Centre for a full-on cinematic experience with five mayor candidates.
At the beginning an e-poll from the audience showed no seismic shift: 51% already knew who they were going to vote for and 43% were undecided. It was roughly the same later.
We're in uncharted waters because of the big contenders and strong vote stealers.
Are councillor Ken Popove and the other hopefuls going to take away enough votes to make it a razor-tight race between incumbent mayor Sharon Gaetz and incumbent councillor Sam Waddington?
Talking points for all have centred around transportation including bicycles and bike lanes. It doesn't matter about bicycle lanes if no one uses them though. There weren't any locked up out front of the Culture Centre Thursday.
They talk about homelessness. Well, saying there's a homeless issue is like saying water is wet. There's been no real solutions offered. More little batches of rooms to a lucky few. What’s the strategy going forward? Are you're homeless and want a room? Buy a Lotto 649.
Drugs. The hospital's crumbling. Addicts are using the emergency room like a community centre.
The evening was softball with the exception of 3 audience heckles directed at Gaetz. It was nice to see more bare knuckles. But like any all-candidates meeting it was flowery rhetoric with no teeth. Most of their platforms are crutches.
Incumbent mayor Sharon Gaetz knows how to grab a headline. She's framed a large portion of her campaign around Waddington's (incomplete) expense account investigation. So when it was her turn to speak she drilled into him mercilessly. In war you need ammo.
She got booed when she hurled a dagger at Waddington that would have made Al Capone blush. She lost points from the crowd there.
We know that the longer a politician is in office the more they become disliked. Gaetz is pushing the envelope. She wants to go another 4 years. She's been in 10 years. She's up against the wall there. Will the city allow her to set another precedent? People want change. They love the smell of napalm in the morning.
She was asked about CEPCO in one of her questions. CEPCO she said, brought in the Justice Institute of BC. The Canadian RCMP training base and other facilities.
At one point Gaetz came out with the comment that council was broken and needs fixing.
If anyone can fix a "broken" wheel it's her. She's an authority of the rules governing councils. The best in BC. That's why she chairs the UBCM. The other candidates can't touch this. So Chilliwack has the best there is as far as experience goes. But if she's going to get reelected and get her council in line, she should have been more couth about how she throws the mud around. Being verve about it now will look childish should she be reelected.
Gaetz extolled about working with Fraser Health to bring in the Abbotsford parking but failed to say they immediately handed it over to Imperial Parking (Impark). Pity the person running for their life who forgot their wallet. They can't even get change at the flower shop.
She said the city needs more detox and mental health treatment, and help for seniors, but didn't say if that meant more facilities would have to be built.
Gaetz added she was excited about downtown revitalization, City and roadwork developments at the intersection at Watson and Vedder and widening Promontry Rd. She spoke about how the city has got transit buses up to about 15 minutes during peak periods.
She's got the the rural vote hands-down over Waddington. They don't know him, they just know what he allegedly did so so they don't trust him. Simple.
Even If she lost 500 votes over two nights at the Cultural Centre she'll easily make up for it in other two other areas: religion and business.
Waddington's knuckles are bleeding from working the trenches so much. Skeptics say he's too young and hasn't got enough experience. Think Trudeau.
He cleaned house Thursday. There was even a hug line-up after.
It's surprising how with some stick handling he managed to avoid polarizing his campaign over the current expenses investigation.
Waddington lashed back at Gaetz with his crowd-pleasing remark there hasn't been "effective governance" of council.
Waddington stated that he's been on the Fraser Health Board and they're sitting on a huge amount of capital reserves. So he'd like to see more spending with that money on health care. He added that "only 30% of people in Chilliwack have a GP" and wanted to bring in more doctors and that they've have limited successful bringing in three to the city.
He skirted the crime issue with a cavernous promise of bringing in a municipal police force or more resources. Even Gaetz said they "would talk about it." It's unclear if there would be a "marked difference", and that somehow crime is going to magically vanish by doing that. The RCMP know how to deploy and guess what, even on patrol.
On the question of council attributes, Waddington said he wanted to modernize all aspects of it and provide a "good foundation."
He agreed when asked if a safe injection site was needed. Without any "preconceived notions," he said. "Yes, it's data-driven" and said it's slowed down the death rate.
But as the candidates come around the clubhouse turn and down the home stretch, Gaetz is a quarter mile ahead of him regarding business votes. She also has stronger support from the spiritual segment of the community. She's been working quietly on building bonds with various churches over the last year visiting events like the Anglican church on "World Women's Day" that went largely unnoticed except to the church members. She's got Waddington over a barrel.
The crowd Thursday gave him ringing endorsements despite his politically charged issue with the expense account investigation.
Popove's campaign is status quo. He's been in cruise control for a long time now. Unfortunately, his ride is over.
Perhaps he didn't think Waddington would be more popular than him.
Popove's paid his dues. He's the hardest working councillor most visible in the community. He's been on countless field trips from schools to photo ops. Every time you turn around, there he is.
It takes more than just Facebook followers to win elections. It takes people going out to physically vote.
Cosmic voids are all around us. Popove's operating in one with his opinion on roundabouts and the Langley buses. With roundabouts he's saying they're key to the flow of traffic. He hasn't been to Cultus Lake in the summer. The line is blocks long.
He blames the $5 bus trip from Langley to Chilliwack for bringing more homelessness in the city saying it's a "major contributor" and "we've got to do something about this." Maybe he could consider asking for damage deposits. There wasn't any opportunity from the audience to ask him why he thought that.
As owner of one of Chilliwack's most successful businesses, he knows about teamwork so his comment about "some team-building" is merited.
Popove stated he wants more collaboration with First Nations. When the question about what he'd do to encourage new businesses downtown came up, he told the audience wants to see more "niche stores" like what's on Mill St.
He thinks coming development on the old Safeway property will cause a "snowball effect downtown."
He said he's been working with Chilliwack Healthier Communities but didn't elaborate much to what extent.
Popove has been advocating glass recycling and admonished the City over the $166,000 spent on residential recycling containers. "People know how to get their own bins," he said.
Popove bragged about CEPCO saying they brought in Coors with 100 jobs that came with it. Bragging rights sure, no sound from him, unless you count the sound his rubber stamp made. CEPCO operates under their own mandate.
In summation, he would have stood more of a chance at winning back a council seat. Taking on the so-called "Iron Lady" of Chilliwack is a daunting task.
But, sorry to his fans, he's not mayor material and that's going to be reflected at the polls.
Right off the bat she's very familiar with the workings of medical system because she has a tumour on her pineal gland. So she'd have an idea about shortfalls in medical care.
She's a self-made woman with her Cheeki Cherry store. At one point it was the only place to shop for women. Chilliwack's most talked about women's store. So as a former business owner she's qualified to say that new businesses should have "incentives" to set up in Chilliwack
She laid out her platform on no uncertain terms and one of her beefs was that she said there may be up to "123 sex offenders living in Chilliwack" and wanted ways to keep a better line on them in the community adding they need to get tougher on parolees.
She wants more ways to make the city more accessible for disabled and seniors but is unclear about what amendments to the system she could advocate for. She wants communities to focus more on kids.
Crosbie indicated that she "would want to change the tone of local politics." She advocates across the board on every social issue. She said she supports the LGBTQ community. She wants a 24/7 centre for homeless.
She was unquestionably the most versed of the other candidates in dealing with and remedying societal ailments. Not everything is a "provincial issue" as Gaetz says frequently. You put her in a room with the other candidates and she could easily go up one side and down the other.
But there's more issues than just social ones when it comes to running a city. Don't forget the roads and sewer work.
Rags to riches. Good businessman. Built his from nothing. Tough as nails. Tow truck drivers are tougher than longshoreman. So he'll bring toughness and grit to council. Just what it needs.
No one took him to task on the redneck "give 'em all fentanyl" sign on one of his tow trucks. Rowan's having brain emanations. He's more of a comedian than a politician. Where would we be without a little levity in all the drama.
When asked what he would do if he were leader, Rowan gave a buckshot answer: common sense.
He said no to safe injection sites because they cost $400,000 to build. He went off on a tangent with his type of work-for-welfare deal or whatever he was talking about. He lost me. He wants to see more bars aka drinking establishments.
Rowan scored points when shrugged and cited the City on the $42,000 that was spent on the "plastic flowers at Evans Rd and you can't even see the stems when the trees are in bloom."
Could he do four years talking roads, sewers and water in the day and rezoning bitch sessions at night?
I can hear the sound of "The Night They Drive Old Dixie Down" playing in the background at his campaign office. But when he's finished this election he'll be an absolute God among tow truck drivers BC-wide for many years to come.
Thanks to the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement Association for sponsoring the event.
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