On Oct. 20, citizens of Chilliwack will go to the polls to choose a mayor, as well as fill positions on the town council. The list of candidates has recently been finalized, and five candidates are running for mayor of Chilliwack.
First is incumbent mayor Sharon Gaetz. She has been mayor for 10 years now, having won each of the last three municipal elections. Gaetz describes herself as a “fiscal conservative with a strong conscience,” as quoted in an article in the Chilliwack Progress. The same article also quoted her as saying, “I believe in planning ahead, and our 10-year Comprehensive Municipal Plan has ensured that we enjoy first class amenities while maintaining the lowest residential and business taxes in the Lower Mainland.” While her accomplishments as mayor are rarely specified in detail, to borrow from the inscription in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London: “… if you seek [her] monument, look around you.”
Next in the race is Ken Popove, who was first to announce his intention to run for mayor back in May. Popove has seven years of experience on Chilliwack’s city council. During this time, he has done much to organize events and provide new amenities for the community. “We’re at a crossroads in Chilliwack,” Popove said. “We are facing big city problems in public safety, in homelessness, in affordability, and in the tragedy of the opioid crisis.” His platform includes more and better relations with local First Nations, providing good community services, keeping taxes low, and ensuring quality of life for all.
Second to announce his candidacy is Sam Waddington, another city councillor, currently in his first term, and owner of local business Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors. In his time in office, Waddington has been chair of the public engagement and transportation committees. In his capacity as the latter, he oversaw the largest expansion of Chilliwack’s public transit network in the city’s history. Waddington’s platform has five major “planks”: housing, public safety, economic development, transportation, and community. However, Waddington’s campaign has been marred by recent allegations of inappropriate spending in his capacity as a city councillor. The matter is currently under investigation by the municipal government.
Two others, Brigda Crosby and Dave Rowan have also announced their intention to run for mayor. However, due in part to their recent declarations, neither has received much media attention. Neither of them have previously served in Chilliwack’s municipal government. At the moment, Gaetz, Popove, and Waddington appear to be the front runners.
Public comments on the Progress articles announcing the three main candidates are telling. Comments on Gaetz are mostly negative, blaming her administration for the social ills that afflict the city. However, to be fair, some of these problems, like the decaying downtown area, predate her term as mayor. By contrast, comments about Popove are positive and hopeful for the most part. Comments on Waddington provide another contrast by their non-existence. Apparently, Waddington has not provoked much opinion, positive or negative. Major issues cited include problems with drug abuse and urban decay. Statistics cited by Global News indicate that crime rates in Chilliwack are significantly higher than the provincial average. Widespread dissatisfaction with Gaetz (or at least the status quo in Chilliwack) combined with Popove’s experience and ability to appeal across social divisions would seem to suggest that Popove will likely be the victor in this race.
Concerned residents who wish to know more about the candidates and their platforms may attend two events before the election. The first will be an all-candidates forum held at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on Oct. 3, from 6 – 9 p.m. A second forum focusing only on the mayoral candidates will take place at the Cultural Centre on Oct. 11 from 7 – 8:30 p.m. Voting will be held on Oct. 20 at several locations around Chilliwack. Those able and willing to vote should visit the city’s official website at chilliwack.com for further details.