Opening Salvo: Mayoral Candidates

As reviewed in a previous post, all 17 candidates for Mayor and Council were present at the Oct 21st All Candidates Meeting, hosted by the Queensborough Residents Association. We have heard from the Council hopefuls already. Here I review my impressions on the Mayoral candidates; Wayne Wright (incumbent) and Blair Armitage. Each man had an opening and closing statement and moderator Dean Wells had a number of questions reserved just for the Mayor’s race.

Blair Armitage looks the part. He is a squarely built, senatorial and businesslike and he began his remarks forcefully calling for a police depot to be built in Queensborough, perhaps into the addition planned for the community center. A law an order candidate; that is how he came across. Cleaning up crime and graffiti (I just did some cleaning my self as a matter of fact, on the back fence) and making the town safe for all the families.

Armitage was cutting in his attack on what he views as an aloof council (and Mayor) that doesn’t listen to the views of the citizens groups. He cites opposition to development projects and towers that were approved even though they were spoken against in council meetings. He did come across as being against further development or building. I would be interested to hear more on how he would plan to handle the pressure for growth in the Lower Mainland.

During the question period, many of his answers were direct and matter of fact and he often did not use the time alloted to him by the moderators. During one memorable answer Armitage insinuated Mayor Wright had presented a Gucci Plan to cover the open ditches in the neighborhood with the design that it would be rejected and that Queensborough residents really wanted a modest plan. Mayor Wright’s proposal to deal with the shocking projected cost of the ditch remediation plan was to do a pilot project over a short block to get a better idea on the true costs. Both candidates received hearty applause for their positions.

The loudest and most sustained applause was after Mayor Wright’s opening remarks. He passionately (and maybe a little too loudly) boosted the record of the last council and New Westminster as a city. He was a bit of a bull-dog politician during this two minute opener but he used that time to insist that he looked after the whole city, as a unit and that he maintained an open door policy for any citizen. I was almost a little uncomfortable hearing him loudly “take full responsibility for the lase six years” of governance. It was as if you were a kid watching your dad in an argument with your principal. After insisting that no city in the Lower Mainland was better prepared for the expected recession, he took his seat to a full and lengthly applause. I noticed VOICE candidates Wandell and Osterman shifting uncomfortably as the hall went quiet again.

One Exchange I appreciated was a question on illegal suites:

Illegal suites have not been closed down and the likelihood of our city’s bylaw being enforced is remote. What is your position on this?

Mr. Armitage, presented a position that “we can not allow our citizens to blatantly thumb their nose” at the by-laws and he suggested a mechanism to make it easier or more attractive for owner’s of illegal suites in New Westminster to get their suites approved and updated to code. Mayor Wright’s response showed a clear difference in philosophy between the candidates as he firmly insisted that unless great strides were made in affordable housing with more participation from other levels of government, illegal suites were a necessity in the city and should only be monitored to ensure public safety. In my view this was the one point on the debate that showed the greatest contrast. I have included the answers here on a video for you to decide.