In his first major public address since election night, mayor-elect Bruce Banman announced that he will form a city task force on economic prosperity.
He was speaking to the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon on Thursday – a full house at the Ramada Plaza and Conference Centre.
Asked later what he hopes will come out of the task force, Banman answered “jobs.”
He noted how a friend drives three hours every day to and from work in Surrey, and he wants to reverse that trend. With an airport, a university, a regional hospital and other key employers, he said people should come here to work.
“Abbotsford should be an economic driving force,” he said. “Abbotsford is a hub.”
Banman told the audience he considers small business the backbone of the economy.
“Your needs should be the city’s needs,” he told the chamber crowd.
He said his goal is to make Abbotsford “the friendliest city for business and for families in the world,” and spoke about the importance of a livable city, where people can live, work and play.
The task force would include the Chamber of Commerce, which requested the initiative from the outgoing council, with representation from the province. When a member of the audience asked whether social service providers would be included in the task force, Banman agreed they should have a place at the table.
It was a wide-ranging speech that covered his own background as a fifth generation Valley resident, and numerous other topics.
Banman obliquely referred to previous civic government spending decisions, suggesting he wants “… smart, prudent, intelligent fiscal management.”
He said the new council will have a blend of veteran and new experiences in its makeup.
He spoke about the need for the city to establish a stable supply of water, and said conservation would be an important part of the plan.
“I will ensure this issue will not impact our economic viability.”
Banman also talked about the need for the city to grow upward, rather than outward, and said densification will make better use of existing infrastructure, and not encroach on the Agricultural Land Reserve.
“If we’re going to be the city in the country, we need to save some of the country for future generations.”
He suggested revisiting the city’s intention to leave the Fraser Valley Regional District, saying he did not agree with the manner in which the city decided to leave, and that he would like to see the process be more transparent.
“Our neighbours should be our friends. Abbotsford is not an island unto itself,” Banman said.
Joining with the Metro regional district was not an option, and he said if that happened “I would get lynched.”
“I’m not going to put my foot into that quagmire.”
He sees the city as being at a critical point in its history, and “in the right place, at the right time.
“The decisions we make over the next few years will either bless us or haunt us.”
He spoke about the Nov. 19 municipal election, saying he heard from numerous doubters.
“There’s a lot of people who though I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning.”
One of those was his good friend Brian Lee, who said that if he was able to win the election, the local jeweler and businessman would make him a commemorative ring.
True to his word, Lee brought the ring to Banman at the Thursday luncheon.
Banman does not take office until Monday, Dec. 5.
He got a laugh out of the crowd with his comment: “On the fifth I get sworn in, and I fully expect that on the sixth I’ll get sworn at.”
Preceding Banman’s address, long-time community supporter Brian Lee of Lee’s Fine Jewelry spoke to the crowd, asking that people support Holmberg House, the new hospice facility in Abbotsford, which needs $2.5 million in donations to reach its goal of $7.5 million.
Banman, who sings, told Lee that if he is able to auction the mayor’s choral talents, he will “sing for three hours at anything you want.”