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Non-profits host first all-candidates debates in Abbotsford

Two all-candidates meetings were hosted this week by local non-profit organizations to discuss Abbotsford’s homelessness problem, public transit, and arts community, among other topics.

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By Vanessa Broadbent (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: October 29, 2014

Image credit: panoramio.com

Image credit: panoramio.com

Two all-candidates meetings were hosted this week by local non-profit organizations to discuss Abbotsford’s homelessness problem, public transit, and arts community, among other topics.

As the Abbotsford mayoral ballot is only made up of two names, the meeting of incumbent mayor Bruce Banman and city council member Henry Braun was highly anticipated. But Banman announced the evening before the mayoral debate through his Facebook page that he would not be attending the meeting. After people left comments criticizing the move, this was later changed, with Banman clarifying that he would be in attendance only between 8 and 9 p.m. because he would be attending Diwali celebrations in the city.

Moderator Justin Goodrich opened the meeting by addressing the issue.

“I have heard a great many rumours about things that may or may not transpire tonight,” he said. “Let me be clear: I will not allow tonight to become a spectacle. We will conduct ourselves with integrity, and we will honour ourselves with respect.”

Although the debate was scheduled to end at 9:30, Banman left at 9, as he previously said, to attend another Diwali celebration.

The debate started at 7, as scheduled, without Banman. Mayor candidate Braun answered questions concerning various issues in the city. When Banman arrived an hour later, he and Braun answered questions from three moderators before answering audience questions.

Questions focused on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, where a plan has proposed doubling the pipeline through the Fraser Valley, as well as a proposed supportive housing project from Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) that Banman rejected earlier this year. Braun was supportive of the ACS proposal at the time, and shared that he still is. He believes that because of Abbotsford’s size, it should already have three homeless shelters. “We are no longer the ‘City in the Country.’ We are a city of 140,000 people, and unless we start acting like one we will be in trouble,” he said.

The debate was one of two meetings hosted this week by various local non-profit organizations including ACS, the United Way of the Fraser Valley, the Abbotsford Community Foundation, the Abbotsford Arts Council, Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley, MSA Museum Society, the Reach Gallery Museum, and the Fraser Valley Conservancy. Both meetings were hosted at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.

The first of the two meetings was an all-candidates meeting for city council candidates, who were asked a variety of questions on topics ranging from homelessness to public transit and environmental issues. The ACS housing project was discussed at length during this debate as well, as candidates were questioned on how they would have voted on the issue or, if they were incumbents, how they did vote on the issue. With 30 candidates for city council in Abbotsford, the majority of the evening was spent discussing the proposal. Candidates were also asked about their support of arts and culture in the community.

Both events were well-attended by the community, with over 300 people at each meeting. The city’s Chamber of Commerce is hosting another set of debates for both council (Wednesday) and mayoral (Thursday) candidates this week. Both start at 7 p.m. and will be held at the MCA. There will also be a mayoral debate at UFV’s Abbotsford campus on November 4 at 6 p.m. in room B101.

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