Election 2014: Strong words at Abbotsford mayoral debate

City of Abbotsford mayoral candidates meet in Chamber of Commerce-sponsored debate.

Mayor Bruce Banman and Coun. Henry Braun

Mayor Bruce Banman and Coun. Henry Braun

Abbotsford’s two mayoral candidates took aim at each other’s record while in office during a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored mayoral debate Thursday evening at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.

Mayor Bruce Banman and Coun. Henry Braun directly challenged each other in ways not seen at a debate one week prior.

Banman repeatedly called himself “pro-jobs” and pointed to Braun’s vote against forwarding a proposed industrial project in the Bradner area to the Agriculture Land Commission. Banman also said he listened to the small businesses when he voted against a supportive housing project in the downtown core that had been opposed by the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association.

“I’ve proven I listen to business whereas Mr. Braun turns a deaf ear,” he said.

In response, Braun cited his history in business, and said he voted against the industrial project because staff could not say how much it may cost the city.

“If we get it wrong, guess who pays,” he said.

Braun said the city is failing to attract new jobs.

Braun also challenged Banman over his leadership of the city. In regards to a question about transportation policy, Braun and then Banman said the widening of Fraser Highway needs to be a policy. In his rebuttal, Braun said the widening “may be a priority for Mr. Banman, but council does not know about this.”

Later, Banman spoke about the need for council to find common ground in order to get things done.

“We’ve been so polarized that we’ve forgot how to compromise to move toward a common goal,” Banman said.

Braun countered by saying he and Banman had rarely had one-on-one meetings in their three years together and that the mayor had either cancelled or didn’t show up to the last three planned meetings. He also said council was disjointed because councillors rarely know where each other stands until an issue comes before them.

“I’m all for what I heard. The reality is quite different,” Braun said.

Banman then returned with the strongest words of the evening. He said his opponent regularly casts a lone opposing vote and said Braun was “probably the most polarizing person on council” and has probably not been a team player.

Watch abbynews.com and check next Wednesday’s paper for more on the debate.