The six men and women running to be mayor of Abbotsford are all expected to participate in an all-candidates meeting tonight at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and is expected to conclude around 9:30 p.m.
7 p.m.: Abbotsford chamber executive director Allan Asaph has begun the meeting. He will moderate with a panel of three business representatives posing questions. The public can also submit questions.
Each candidate will get a shot at each question. Each candidate also gets five “rebuttal cards” to interject after another candidate’s response.
Asaph notes a firm time limit has been imposed.
7:05 p.m.: Mayor Henry Braun goes first. (Candidates are ordered alphabetically.) Braun starts talking about transparency and conflicts of interest. He’s speaking about this story: Abbotsford mayor’s political opponents suspicious as Braun tries to sell Eagle Mountain lot. Speaking about the need for transparency. Repeats his response in that story. Says truth has been getting twisted.
“I am a servant of the public,” he says.
Says he will be a mayor for all citizens, as he said he promised during last campaign. Says no favouritism is shown to groups.
7:08 p.m. Trevor Eros goes next. Speaks about being a father of two, says that it was time to step up. Talks about owning small businesses and being involved in local events.
Talks about finding uncapped needles while in a park with his daughters.
Says Abbotsford is heading in a “great direction” but that there are things that aren’t being done well including addressing homelessness and bylaw enforcement. Says he needs to be a voice for everybody.
Says he listens to people.
“I generally care and I want to make Abbotsford better… I want to do things differently.”
Says everybody on stage can do “mayor position” but speaks about need for leadership. Admits that he doesn’t know everything yet, but that he has confidence that he can represent everyone equally.
7:10 p.m. Moe Gill is next.
Says he is honoured to be here and has strong passion and love for Abbotsford.
“Abbotsford has been good to me and I want to see Abbotsford succeed.”
Speaks about thriving here and raising his children here. Rhetorically asks why he is running for mayor.
Says Abbotsford needs better leadership. Says big difference between previous mayors and Braun. Says other mayors didn’t ask why he voted differently.
Says prior mayors encouraged team environment and welcomed input of subcommittees. Said prior mayors didn’t discourage people to come forward.
Says other mayors didn’t bring “distractions” to the council table.
“Under these circumstances I couldn’t serve another four years on council with Henry as mayor.”
Said he had to choose between retiring and running for mayor.
Gill gets applause and his time is up.
7:15 p.m. Eric Nyvall is up now.
Says he wants to know if people have concerns. Talks about going to around 8,500 doors. Talks about family and owning his own business.
Says Mayor has had little to show for the last four years. Talks about rising crime, and says status quo hasn’t worked.
Says Rail for the Valley needed. Says homeless should have piece of land to camp on.
Talks about eliminating business licence fees. Says more fields needed.
Talks about need for trade delegation to India.
7:17 p.m. Gerda Peachey is now up.
Talks about moving to Canada early in life.
Says it gave her respect for democracy, and that most of what she does now is ‘kick politicians in the shins.’
Says she got mad when the city ‘came after her neighbourhood.’ She is talking about this. She said that made her want to run for mayor.
She cites a lack of discussion at the city council table.
Says many councils are trying to turn their cities into “mini-Vancouvers.” Says little neighbourhoods are being “gutted.”
7:20 p.m. Nadine Snow is the last one to give their introduction.
Says she decided to run because she sees many issues in the city that people are affected by. Common concerns are being raised she said, including transit, affordable housing, education and homelessness.
“I feel that we should all have the opportunity to participate in finding solutions,” she says.
Says thing that is missing the most in the city is a lack of information sharing. Says people don’t know what’s going on when a project begins to happen.
7:24 p.m. First question: Why do you think voters should elect a new mayor
Eros: Says a broader representation is needed. Says new leader is needed who is from a different generation.
Gill: Says mayor needs a council. Says council doesn’t have much input and that the mayor has to have the council input. He says council should be responsible for representing the city.
Nyvall: Says Braun “family and partners” have done a lot of business here. Says mayor hasn’t voted inappropriately, but that his son is involved in development applications. Says things “can go very wrong.”
Says his family aren’t developers and many are doctors.
Braun rebuts: “What I just heard is nonsense.” Says he isn’t a partner with Diverse Properties, which Nyvall said. Asks if the meeting is being recorded and said Nyvall must be careful what he says in public.
Peachey: Says she has no problem with a mayor investing. Says “I do think we need a new mayor because I’m mad at the current one.”
Snow: Says no one issue, but that public needs to see more information. But also that the public needs to get more involved.
7:30p.m. Braun gets asked why public should re-elect him.
Says financial position has improved and council has set the city in the right direction. Says plans have been made “to give the public transparency.” Says master plans now being implemented.
We are now getting applauses after each response.
7:32 p.m. Candidates asked what experience they have to manage the city’s $250 million budget
Gill: Says he ran a large berry farm for many years. Talks about how he learned to farm, starting with how he learned to plow the fields.
Says since he served on council for two decades and that he has learned much over the years.
Nyvall: Notes that he is an accountant and, as an accountant, was once involved in the audit of another city. Says he owns a small business.
Peachey: Says she used to work for a bank and managed some money.
“I think that the role of mayor is not king of the world. Mayor is one of nine elected leaders.”
She says there is a lot of staff too and that the council is there to be the “common sense of the community.”
Snow: Being responsible for that money is a serious matter. Says she has been a partner in a small business and has been responsible for meeting budgets.
Braun: Talks about running a large rail construction company. Says he understands budgets. Says he invested money in properties, but was never a real-estate developer.
Eros: Says he has been involved at different levels of business over the years. Agrees with Gerda that council, and the whole community is in charge of the city’s budget.
Nyvall: Says need to be doing better but “you cannot manage what you do not measure.” Says city should better measure how many new businesses there are. Nyvall talks about a three-to-one ratio and “should be looked at.”
Peachey: Says that ratio also sounds too high. Peachey says taxes should be lowered.
Snow: Says more businesses need to be attracted to allow the city to reduce taxes slowly. Snow says many ideas in OCP are good, but they don’t all help the city grow at the rate it’s growing.
Braun: Says the ratio has already been reduced to 2.38:1 but that it’s kept up in the last couple years, due to increase of residential tax assessments. Says council wants to get to 2.0:1. Says city is working at “record levels in all areas of development.”
Says “our staff can’t handle much more new business coming here without finding more people.” Talks about need to broaden industrial tax base. He’s alluding to the city’s rejected application to have land removed from the ALR to make room for industry.
Eros: Says businesses will move here, but that it’s hard to survive as a businessowner these days. “It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge to retain staff.”
Says need to work to determine what is needed to bring new business here and whether tax breaks are needed.
Gill: Notes city got land out of ALR a decade ago and that new businesses have been moving in. Says city needs to work hard to draw more industry here. Says city does go over tax rates. Echoes Braun that residential assessments have been going up and that’s had an impact on taxes.
7:56 p.m. Question from the public. Nyvall is asked to be specific about the $700 million worth of business he said earlier had been lost
Says when you knock on many doors “you do here of businesses that want to come to Abbotsford” but that aren’t able to come here. Talks about Mariott Hotel would be coming here, but that land couldn’t be found. Says projects like Molson “are really tough to lose.”
Nyvall had mentioned Molson earlier, and Braun had said earlier that the land wasn’t there.
Braun is now going to rebut. “I noticed the question wasn’t answered.”
Says will use taxes to say Abbotsford has among the lowest taxes among other jurisdictions.
“I would like to know where the other $500 million of businesses are, because I don’t think they exist.”
7:59 p.m. Candidates are asked about recycling program
Peachey: Says husband had told her to talk about why glass isn’t accepted curbside anymore.
Snow: Recycling and the environment are very important. Talks about a bylaw saying she can’t hang clothes on clothesline. Says bylaw is old. Says everybody wants to keep planet healthy, but recycling is confusing. Says recycling project needs to be available and easy to use.
Braun: Says city is committed to “robust” recycling program. Says recycling of glass must be included. Backstory isn’t well known, though, he says. People were paying into MMBC. Says money was supposed to come back, but wasn’t. So he said council fought past government “to the point where we were going to sue them” over MMBC. Says got money back, but that pickup contracts have to be negotiated.
Says program will improve when new trucks are brought online after new contract is signed.
Eros: Says he also approves of recycling. Says recycling is tricky. Says organic waste programs also need to be in place.
Gill: Says Abbotsford has one of the best recycling programs but that the public just has to be educated more.
Nyvall: Says his environmental program was most ambitious ever offered.
8:09 p.m. Candidates asked if city should spend money to rebuild Ledgeview clubhouse. Referring to this.
Snow: Partially there should be money spent. Says businesspeople should be asked to support.
Braun: Says council has decided to build a bigger clubhouse, but that $2.8 million of money from Kinder Morgan hasn’t come through yet. City had committed $950k. But if it wants to proceed immediately, it needs to put all that Kinder Morgan money in with no guarantee that it will get it back. Says not responsible to do that.
Eros: Said he worked event at Ledgeview recently. Said they were promised new clubhouse, but city should head in that direction. But said it might not be the top priority. Still, he says it’s been a long time. Says plans should maybe be reviewed, given that Kinder Morgan money might not be there.
Gill: Says Ledgeview clubhouse should be built and money would be recovered. “I think we should go ahead and get going on it.” Says city should put money in to get project going.
Nyvall: Says Ledgeview only home course to two active PGA tour cardholders. Says course is key to city. Says city “does need certainty.” But notes course needs certainty more. Said city should “bridge-finance” project. And said if council doesn’t agree, city would immediately build “like-for-like” replacement.
Peachey: Says Ledgeview hasn’t historically brought money to the city. Said course should be given money to rebuild and if the society operating the course wants to build bigger, they should raise the money themselves.
“Why the focus on golfers?”
She says city has agreed that it will remain a golf course, but that city shouldn’t be focusing so much on golfers.
8:19 p.m. Gill asked about disparaging comments about Braun. Question is about this.
Gill: Says culture mayor had created he stood up to run. Says conflict of interest concerns aren’t new. Says he has heard from people in community. Says many people are concerned.
“Usually where there is smoke there is fire.”
Boos from the audience.
Braun: Says has met with council every six months “for a check-in.”
“Moe has never voiced a concern in the entire term I have been with him on council.”
“I’ve been a bit shocked about what I’ve heard.
Says Gill should be ashamed of himself. Long round of applause.
Gill: Says one should “never be ashamed of speaking the truth.”
8:23 p.m. Nyvall asked to explain his promise that the city could save millions by going to LED lights
Explains his accounting and says he looked at other similar-sized municipalities. Says he then looked at how many street-lights the city has.
8:24 p.m. Audience question asks Nyvall about how much his promises would cost and whether it would require tax hike.
Nyvall says it won’t.
8:25 p.m. Nyvall asked about his problems with the OCP.
Nyvall talks about need to include school planning and health campus in OCP.
Braun rebuts to say city staff have been meeting with school district staff.
“I think Eric needs to read the OCP,” he says because OCP includes health care campus.
Peachey rebuts to say she didn’t like OCP and that she had to read it in stages “because it was so boring.” Says it has top down mentality.
Peachey gets laughs.
8:29 p.m. Asks if lot sizes in residential communities shouldn’t be shrunk.
Braun: Talks about infill areas where small subdivisions are allowed. But says needed to provide room for affordable housing options. Talks about two-lot splits and coach houses.
Says long-awaited tree management bylaw coming before council soon.
Eros says he lives in apartment buildings. Some developments make sense, some won’t make sense.
Gill says Abbotsford growing faster and that infill policies help people afford their homes. Says city has to build more condos and high-rises to ensure it has enough homes for people moving to Abbotsford.
Nyvall says he agrees with Braun, that he is free-market guy and that homes are needed for people. Says city needs to allow development that meets what market demands.
Peachey says city has policy to retain affordable housing. Says large houses bring more taxes alludes to her own neighbourhood. Says OCP is driving growth.
“Why should I give up my affordable property, which I love … for this nebulous 40,000 people that we want to bring here.”
“Why do we want to grow for the sake of growing.”
Snow says parking should go underground to decrease street parking.
8:40 p.m. How should city respond to concerns as neighbourhoods densify?
Eros says city needs to hear from residents. Says open situation needed for public.
Gill says OCP was developed with a lot of input from residents. Notes council reversed decision on zoning for Peachey’s neighbourhood. He’s talking about this.
Nyvall says Abbotsford doesn’t have enough room and suggests city could expand and said applicants should sometimes be prioritized over concerns of residents of neighbourhoods. References Mahogany high rise near Mill Lake.
Peachey says city has a lot of people already. Asks why we say Abbotsford should get bigger. Says free market should reign. Says development should be slowed down.
Snow says development should take place in certain areas. Says city is growing “so fast that we are not taking care of the issues at hand before moving forward.” Says things like health care should be developed first.
Braun notes city won’t expand urban development boundary. Says sprawl won’t work. Says people don’t have to sell their homes. But when they do, they will be able to sell homes to those who want to build denser buildings. Notes city paused infill subdivisions after complaints from residents.
Peachey rebuts, noting that in her neighbourhood, rezoning her area would have made it impossible to rebuild a trailer if it burned up. Would have had to be replaced with a stick-built house. Says rezoning “can steal land.”
8:52 p.m. Candidates asked if retail pot sales should be legal
Gill says his neighbour has a marijuana grow op, and has had for a while. Gill says if feds make it legal, then applications should be reviewed and supported.
Nyvall says “I don’t want any drugs to be sold illegally by the guy on the street corner.” Says that leads him to want to allow dispensaries. Says should be sold like alcohol is sold.
Peachey says “marijuana should be controlled by all the powers invested in the government.” Says she volunteered at women’s prison. Says many women will say marijuana was entry drug to a life of crime.
“Marijuana is a dreadful thing.”
Says it does have medicinal purposes and should be controlled as tightly as drugs.
Snow says, simply, “yes.”
Braun notes current bylaw still prohibits it. Notes staff have been instructed to bring framework. Says will have to discuss at council. Says council members have to come to public hearings with an open mind and since he’s a member, he can’t say yes or not at this time.
Nyvall rebuts to ask Mayor to take a guess.
Braun says he isn’t going to use his card
Eros says the demand is there and restrictions imposed should be similar to those in place for liquor.
9:00 p.m. Nyvall asked about his views on AbbotsfordFirst (which he used to be involved in)
Nyvall says he has no role. Will vote for a couple candidates, not all of them. Resigned when he announced his mayoral run.
Says council hasn’t accomplished enough. Says slate should have “seized bull by the horns.”
Eros uses rebuttal card to go to bathroom.
Peachey rebuts to say AbbotsfordFirst should be renamed “Abbotsford Last.” Says a slate shouldn’t be involved and that it was bad that five people were running.
Says a slate “is really wrong, really bad.”
9:04 p.m. Should farm taxes be raised so farmers can pay a fair amount
Gill notes province sets tax rates. Says residents on farms pay same amount as those in houses.
Nyvall says wouldn’t support raising taxes on farmers. Says farmland in ALR “should be farmed.”
Peachey says the city should better enforce those who don’t use farmland to farm
Snow says farm taxes shouldn’t be raised, but agrees with Peachey that enforcement is needed.
Braun says city has its AgRefresh program and is looking to address improperly used farmland. Says the city does open many bylaw files. Says many thumb their noses at city and go to court.
Peachey rebuts to say that nothing has been done with a property she has seen on Fraser Highway.
Eros says there’s no need to raise farm taxes, and agrees enforcement is needed.
9:12 p.m. How do you plan to stop opioid crisis?
Nyvall says harm reduction is key. Says help is needed from the province. “These are human beings”
Peachey says more jails are needed for dealers. Says even though it’s a provincial responsibility the city should provide housing for people, with security.
“I drive through there and think ‘What would I feel like.’”
Snow says people are suffering, people need a home. Suggests even looking at things like train cars.
Braun says first responders have felt the crisis. Says housing isn’t local mandate, but the city can advocate. Notes the city has approved 170 supportive housing units so far. Speaks of interagency care team.
Eros says hands-on, interactive approach is needed to reach people. Says open arms needed.
Gill notes opioids don’t only affect people who are homeless. Says province working to help. Says city needs to continue working on it.
9:24 p.m. CLOSING STATEMENTS (in reverse order from opening statements)
Snow: Better information sharing is needed. Help is available, “but people don’t know where to get that information.” Says community liaisons are needed. Closes by asking community to get involved.
Peachey: Says “current crowd … isn’t doing the greatest job.” Says politicians forget they are public servants, as do the public. Notes she asked city for contract with Abbotsford Centre, but that most of information was redacted. Said she was unable to find out about the city’s deal with the basketball team soon to play out of the facility. Says voters should “fire people” who don’t tell them where their money is going.
Nyvall: Said his campaign probably the most direct one ever to be offered in Abbotsford. Says election is a “sacred democratic right.” Said people should ask if Abbotsford is better off than it was four years ago. Says decisions will affect city “for generations.”
Gill: Lists major issues for city. Says they are complicated. Says public should ask themselves who has best experience and leadership to bring city together. Cites experience on council and relationships with councils. “Who has no hidden agenda or conflict of interest,” he asks.
Eros: Says he will shoot from hip unscripted. Said he will “step up as leader” regardless of outcome of election. Says he cares about the community, and wants to make it better than it was before. Says he likes the direction the community is going. Says he hasn’t put money into his campaign because it doesn’t make sense to spend that money then tout fiscal responsibility. Encourages people to vote.
Braun: Says he’s gotten to like Eros sitting next to him, and would vote for him if he was running for council. Says difference of opinions are good. Says he is proud of council and work that has been done. Says disagreement is healthy. Says strategic plan and vision has directed council. Says he has liked being mayor and that it won’t take two decades to do everything, but also everything can’t be done right away.
Says serving as mayor requires time and patience and he is looking forward to fulfilling master plans. Thanks public for coming out.
Moderator Allan Asaph asks public to come out for all-candidates council forum on Thursday.