What a tumultuous night.
Saturday evening, Abbotsford voters decisively sank the P3 Stave Lake water project, with almost 75 per cent opposed – a far different picture than the close race predicted by two phone polls commissioned by the city in preceding weeks.
Clearly, the 38 per cent of the local electorate who turned out to the polls either did not accept the water requirement scenario depicted by the city, rejected private involvement in water delivery outright, and/or didn’t trust city hall to negotiate a P3 contract, and resented the lack of options to the nearly $300-million plan.
And while he is only one vote on council, Mayor George Peary paid the price, losing his seat to a political newcomer, chiropractor Bruce Banman.
It may have been a combination of the taxpayer-supported Heat hockey deal, the financially struggling sports arena, rising taxes, or a number of other issues in addition to the P3 proposal, but voter dissatisfaction targeted the mayor.
It’s deeply ironic, in that the voters who punished Peary for council’s decisions re-elected every incumbent who ran.
The only new face at the council table other than Banman will be Henry Braun, who took the seat left open by departing Coun. Lynne Harris.
Nevertheless, the public did deliver a message to elected representatives. The water issue must be revisited, and alternatives explored. And, if federal funds become available again, they best not be tied to a P3 deal.
The city’s need to address its water supply isn’t altered by a change in mayors. Neither are the challenges of growth and development.
A fresh examination of the situation may yield different visions for the future – or conceivably, some time from now, we may be back at Stave Lake.
It’s going to be an interesting term for this ‘new’ council.