After 33 years of public service, Coun. John Smith is ready to retire from politics.
Smith cites many accomplishments during his 12 terms in civic politics, but is quick to acknowledge the assistance of many great people on the organizations on which he served.
Smith, who was born in the United Kingdom and emigrated to Canada in 1964, has lived in Abbotsford for 38 years. He has been married to wife Judy for 48 years and has four adult children and grandchildren.
He was elected as school trustee in 1981 and served for 24 years before running for council in 2005, where he has served since.
During his time on the school board, Smith said the district went through a major expansion and became a “district of choice” with many options such as fine arts schools, traditional, French immersion and more.
After deciding to leave school board, a group of friends persuaded him to run for council.
He said at the time, a main issue in discussion was improving local facilities. He said there was talk of a need to expand the Abbotsford Recreation Centre, create a museum and art gallery, and a sports and entertainment centre. That would eventually become Plan A – a controversial plan to build the facilities that passed by a slim margin in a referendum.
Smith said he continues to support Plan A and remains proud of the facilities, which include The Reach Gallery Museum and the Abbotsford Centre.
“When you see international stars come into this community now and play to sold-out crowds, this is entertainment that formerly you had to go to Vancouver to see.”
He added that it is unfortunate the anchor tenant for the sports centre – the Calgary Flames-affiliated hockey team the Abbotsford Heat – was unsuccessful. The city paid yearly subsidies to the team and severed their supply-fee agreement in April, ending with more than $12 million paid to the team since they began.
Smith said he understood the ongoing public criticism and was also upset by the subsidy, but said it is important to remember the business plan was established before the global financial crash. Smith said he is thankful for the successes of the Abbotsford Social Development Advisory Committee (ASDAC), which he was chair of for three years.
He cited the Harmony Project of affordable housing that won a Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation award for innovation. He added that the legislation for recovery homes created by ASDAC was adopted by other cities.
He said in all the time he served, he never worried about the next election, saying he always voted for what he believed was the right thing to do.
“If you’ve compromised your principles and beliefs, you’re a lost soul in my view.”
With his background on ASDAC, he said he “agonized” over his decision to vote against the Abbotsford Community Services’ proposal to build supportive housing downtown in his last term. But said he ultimately he couldn’t “abandon” the downtown businesses who struggle.
After the project was defeated, a task force on homelessness was created and Smith sat as co-chair. He said he has little doubt that recommendations made by the task force will come to fruition and that “Abbotsford will become known for the way we deal with this fairly significant social issue.”
He said one regret is that he won’t be on council to see it happen.
Smith noted there will be at least three new councillors elected in November and it will be a “huge learning curve” for those elected.
With the election less than a month away, Smith said he wants to encourage voters in the municipal election to “do their own homework on where the truth lies.”