Abbotsford council seeing fewer unanimous votes

AbbotsfordFirst splits occurring more often, but agreement still the norm

Abbotsford council hasn’t exactly become a cauldron of conflict since the last federal election, but unanimous votes are no longer quite as prevalent as during Mayor Henry Braun’s first term as mayor.

About eight per cent of all non-routine votes involved at least one dissension on council, an analysis of a year’s worth of votes after last October’s municipal election shows. And despite the appearance of just one new face on council, that’s a sharp increase from the four years prior, when about 96 per cent of such votes were unanimous.

As in the previous term, Coun. Les Barkman has been the most frequent dissenter, with 13 minority votes. Coun. Bruce Banman, who assumed outgoing Coun. Moe Gill’s seat following the 2018 election, has the second-most nay votes, at seven. (That’s roughly on par with Gill’s above-average rate over his final four-year term.)

AbbotsfordFirst councillors have also found themselves splitting from their colleagues more often. In the first year of the current term (this analysis does not include the last two council meetings), Couns. Ross Siemens, Kelly Chahal, Sandy Blue or Brenda Falk have failed to vote the same way on eight different occasions. That only happened nine times through the entirety of the last council term.

RELATED: United they vote: Abbotsford council votes are consistently unanimous

Siemens said he and his AbbotsfordFirst colleagues, while focused on the same governance issues, don’t caucus before votes and inevitably look at issues differently.

“We come from a diverse background, so we will have a different lens or different emphasis we put on different issues that come forward,” he said. “I think that manifests itself in how the votes are.”

Braun has also found himself in the minority on three issues – the same amount as his entire first term.

(Coun. Dave Loewen was the only councillor to be on the prevailing side of every vote, while Coun. Patricia Ross cast four opposing votes, in line with the previous term.)

Although dissension is more common on council, it’s still not the norm. The vast majority of council votes are still unanimous, and, with a couple exceptions, those that aren’t, rarely involve city-wide issues or policies.

Barkman’s record of opposition, for one, is magnified by the fact that he has frequently cast lone dissensions on individual development applications – particularly those involving parking or traffic issues. Like Siemens, the voting record inevitably reflects his background, particularly his experience as a former city worker.

Braun said the predictability of council is valuable, particularly on large issues, because it provides reassurance to investors, businesses and residents who apply to the city for various reasons.

He said the focus needs to remain on the underlying rules and regulations that influence how city staff deal with applications before they get to council.

“We now have laid out a plan that is predictable, so you should be treated the same as someone on the other end of town on the same thing.”

Braun said dissensions that conflict with developments that meet city guidelines and rules should be redirected toward those underlying policies.

Notable dissensions from the council’s first year:

• April: Braun and Chahal vote against increasing the amount of money spent on celebrating 25 years since amalgamation. (Loewen and Barkman were absent.)

• June: Banman, Barkman and Chahal vote against changes that reduce the maximum height and size of homes in central neighbourhoods. (Ross was absent.)

• October: Braun, Falk and Siemens vote against considering We Town in the McKee Peak neighbourhood plan.

• October: Siemens votes against a new solid-waste plan that would see the city continue to pick up waste for half the city, while contracting out the other half.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

How to ‘heal your gut for good’: Free session in Abbotsford

Choices Markets hosts ‘Heal Your Digestion’ event on Wednesday, Jan. 29

TRAFFIC: Roadwork, stalled semi causing major delays on Highway 1 in Langley

Westbound commuters should try the Fraser Highway or 56th Ave

Abbotsford dance students to perform in Disneyland

Group from Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts will do set on Feb. 14

Car giveaway set for MEI on Friday

One lucky alumni member will receive a new Mazda 3

VIDEO: Chilliwack arson victim lights up rural property like a runway

Chris Thompson had enough after twice having barns torched in suspicious circumstances

Caregiver, society charged in death of developmentally disabled B.C. woman

The victim was not given the ‘necessities of life,’ police said

B.C. teacher suspended for putting kid in headlock, lies about it to get next job

He has now been fired from Delta and his license temporarily suspended

B.C. councillor runs afoul of Coastal GasLink protester

Northern pipeline not a Maple Ridge issue, insists Coun. Gordy Robson

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Air Canada cancels select flights to China as coronavirus spreads

Canada’s largest airline runs 33 flights a week to China

Canadians seek way out of Wuhan as coronavirus continues to spread

The Chinese government has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities

Most Read