Opening Salvo: Council Candidates

The Queensborough Residents Association hosted what was for some, the opening salvo of the 208 Civic Election Season in New Westminster. With 25 days until voting day, this all candidates night at the Queensborough Community Center was the first of five similar nights where the 2 Mayoral Candidates and 15 prospective city councilors present their views to the public. The night was moderated by QRA President Dean Wells.
The roughly 35 citizens who attended the ‘debate’ were treated to a list of questions, some pre-posted and some freshly minted by the Queensborough Residents Association. Each candidate also presented opening and closing remarks. The event started at 7pm and lasted about 2 hours.
With so many questions and 17 candidates there is no way to present each answer or position here but it was a great night to see the personalities on display. My perception of the event was that it was lively and upbeat but with an undercurrent of dis-satisfaction and even rancor amongst the Voice New Westminster candidates and Mayor Wright and others that support him. I am no NW political insider but I seemed like this election is the latest battle in a larger struggle between the two groups.
Matthew Laird (council, ind) I was surprised by this candidate. I have spent some time on his website and he has some very interesting ideas and suggestions, many of witch I find compelling. In his remarks, he certainly has a good list of practical, achievable improvements (increased composting and others) but he seemed to have his emotion or frustration with city council run away with him. He made his points aggressively and with a fast speaking style and was hostile to the record of the last councils. My wonder was how he would be able to work with the next council and team if he was elected. He certainly has vision but a more friendly and less confrontational pitch style might come in handy.
Bill Harper (council, ind, incumbent) Bill Harper is known by many New Westminster-ites but less by me so this really was an introduction. He was proud to highlight the past councils record and strengths and stress the importance of business growth and the re-development of commercial corridors. Harper is affiliated with the CUPE union backed campaign.
Lynda Fletcher-Gordon (council, ind) One of 5 female candidates (with Betty McIntosh, Susan Wandell, Lorrie Williams and Lorraine Brett) wanted to look to the future to determine our needs and find a mandate from residents through consultation and active collaboration. Her ‘research and sound planning platform’ might resonate with some even as it leaves out any policy proscriptions for today.
Jamie MacEvoy (council, ind), a labour endorsed candidate was at easy with his message after decades of volunteerism and activism with New Westminster’s homelessness, refugee and low income assistance issues. In my view he presented a positive vision on how New West can continue re-building its commercial base. I liked his up-beat attitude on the past 6 years and the future of the city and his ‘pledge’ to work diligently with any and all of the elected candidates if he is chosen as a counselor.
Gavin Palmer (council, VOICE) Introducing himself as “Palmer, Gavin Palmer”, this Q’bro resident and founder of the QRA highlighted his past work for traffic and bridge safety in that neighbourhood and felt at home with an easy, likable manner and a folksy way of relating to others. Mirroring the VOICE position of criticizing a lack of transparency on the current council, his remarks prompted Lorrie Williams to shake her head in disbelief from her position at the table.
Lorrie Williams (council, Ind, incumbent) herself a teacher and Q’bro resident and a labour endorsed candidate was in fact the first to speak and the last of the evening. She also had the bad luck of being asked wild-card questions (that were not previously released to the candidates) rather than the pre-printed ones simply on the basis of the debate lottery. She spoke well and highlighted her dedication to Q’bro and New West. In her closing remarks she said how she loves this city and watches it closely. I appreciated that.
Steve McClurg (council, VOICE) campaigned for the VOICE slate in its entirety rather than focusing on his own attributes as a candidate. Not one of the most positive or up-beat candidates, McClurg also presented the last council as unfortunate and the views of citizens as unheeded.
Calvin Donnelly (council, ind, incumbent) has served the council for 18 years and his experience with the issues showed in his answers. He is often found at civic events hosting amplified public karaoke parties in the streets. He was the only candidate to evoke the New Westminster of past generations in his description of yesterday’s Queensborough as a farming community filled with hard workers. His facility with the details of tendered contracts, city policies and mandated legal procedures showed (as it did for Betty McIntosh) but he did not offer any new ideas or policies to bring to this election. I would have liked an indication that he is working to meet the challenges we have in front of us as a city and I will be looking or that in the next debate.
Betty McIntosh (council, VOICE, incumbent) surprised me by saying she was with the VOICE slate and that “we can think what we want about that”, meaning that if we thought it was good, well fine, but if we disapproved, don’t hold it against her because she is her own boss. I believe it too. She presented herself, as always, as a competent, positive individual with a keen and judgmental point of view on the daily topics. Her 9 years on council and many years as a nurse root her to the community and she seemed fully happy and casual in the role of candidate.
Jonathan Cote (council, ind, incumbent) is one of the four younger candidates on the 17 remember list. In his answers and speeches he so artfully avoided saying anything concrete or notable that the most I learned about him was that I was pronouncing his name wrong (Koat-ay, not Kote). While he had a positive attitude and a professional manner, his catch-phrases and buzz words only really revealed that he wanted to get elected again, not why he should be on council for 3 more years. Cote is a labour endorsed candidate.
Terry Owen (council, ind) is a business owner on Columbia St with a very entertaining way of talking. He seems unpredictable and he talks very fast. He is running on a policy of good fiscal planning and a thorough examination of the issues. I will have to reserve further judgment for another experience though. Mr. Owen seemed a bit nervous addressing us folkies but that could all disappear by the time the next candidates night is held. Mr. Owen was asked to run for council by incumbent Mayoral candidate, Wayne Wright.
Niel Powell (council, VOICE), another younger candidate highlighted his work on the NW Police Services committee and as a member of Sapperton/McBride Residents Association. A teacher and comfortable speaker, Mr. Powell’s ongoing priorities were the preservation of our natural environment and the opposition of the Waste to Energy Plant at the CanFor location in Sapperton. I liked this candidate but he is in my demographic. He repeatedly referred the the ‘stewardship of our natural resources which I think is odd for such a small, heavily urbanized fully integrated city. What natural resources, the rose garden in Queen’s Park? Poplar Island?
Bob Osterman (council, VOICE, incumbent) is looking or re-election on the voice slate as a candidate firmly against Wayne Wright and others on the current council. His remarks indicate a fluency with the issues and the responsibilities and operation of civic government and like many of the voice candidates, he call for the Mayor and Council to listen more to the citizens. No candidate explained why this was really and issue but it came up a few times. Mr. Osterman is concerned with towers being built here, and there and with the direction of development in the city .

That sums up the counselor’s portion of the event. Check back soon for my take on the Mayoral Candidates and some uploaded video of some of their answers.

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