Print Edition: November 30, 2011
In the recent civic election, Abbotsford citizens brought about significant change: although most of the city council and school trustees remain the same, there will be a new mayor in town. The incumbent George Peary had won the last civic election with more votes than all four of the other candidates combined. But on November 19, Mayor George Peary lost the mayoralty election to Bruce Banman, a local chiropractor whose vision of what Abbotsford could be tempted him into politics. Even the mayor-elect, Banman, stated he did not anticipate he would become mayor of Abbotsford.
“Joy was my initial reaction [to discovering the election results], followed by shock, followed by fear, and finally a huge sense of responsibility. I knew there was going to be a great responsibility going in, but until you win it’s not real. There’s a huge amount of responsibility, and now I have a lot of hard work to do.”
Banman was openly opposed to the proposed public-private partnership (P3) for the Stave Lake water project. The project intended to create a new water resource for Abbotsford with the assistance of private partners.
“I had some serious concerns about the P3 option. When I first started out I was open to a design build or a P3. I was not opposed to that concept, but as I learned more about problems other places had had with P3s [I became] more suspicious,” Banman admitted. “It’s perhaps something that could still work, but you have to be incredibly careful with the details. This truly is a case where you have to think not what if it goes right, but what if it goes wrong? I think the people have spoken loud and clear on the issue. I have no intention of reintroducing a P3… It was resounding.”
The crux of George Peary’s election campaign was making the public aware that his fellow candidates were all inexperienced in comparison. Banman recognized his inexperience in politics and civic government, but maintained, “I’m only the mayor. There are eight other people on council. The reality is people think the mayor has far more power than he or she does.”
“I really have an awful lot of learning to do. It’s one thing to run. It’s one thing to have ideas and concepts. It’s another thing to realize what the details of the job are… It’s like any other job; you have to find your way and figure out what your responsibilities and duties are.”
Throughout his mayoralty campaign, Banman repeatedly discussed his vision for the city of Abbotsford and where he would like to see it in future years. Now, after having been elected, he says he would like to see it discussed at city hall in the days to come.
“I would like to take the city in the direction of the vision that I painted. I think we need to build up, not out. I think we need to create niches in which small businesses can thrive. That’s the backbone of the economy, that’s what fires the engines up. I would like to make Abbotsford the friendliest, most livable city in the world.”