COLUMN: Goodwill and pettiness on display in politics

Both the goodwill and pettiness of civic politicians were on full display with the recent apology to White Rock Coun. David Chesney.

The apology along with some minor financial compensation came from his current colleagues on council, and was issued by Mayor Darryl Walker in December. The information about it recently became public. The apology and payment was a result of actions taken by the last council.

The last council, headed by mayor and former longtime administrator Wayne Baldwin, stripped Chesney of the acting mayor role, suggested he had libelled a fellow councillor and accused him of leaking confidential information to Joanne Charles, a councillor with the Semiahmoo First Nation.

Baldwin and most members of that council were part of a slate known as White Rock Coalition, while Chesney was elected as an independent.

He and fellow independent Helen Fathers were re-elected to council in 2018, placing in the top two poll positions. White Rock Coalition’s seven nominees for mayor and council all lost. Coalition candidates Grant Meyer (who ran for mayor), Megan Knight, Lynne Sinclair and Bill Lawrence were all incumbents. The other five members of council are part of the Democracy Direct slate, headed by Walker.

The goodwill came with the current council recognizing that Chesney’s censure was a stain on the relationships that council members should enjoy with one another. At the council table, there should never be an insistence that slate politics must prevail over listening to the views of other council members. A municipal council is not a parliamentary body, with government and opposition sides.

While some councils have become that way over the years, including Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, that is not how councils are supposed to work. Such an approach usually means controversy and conflict.

The members who are elected by residents every four years should all be able to propose motions, debate ideas and (gasp) even change their opinions as the result of what they hear from fellow councillors and the public. While council decisions are made by majority rule, consensus is quite possible on many occasions and is the best way that councils are able to accomplish lasting achievements for the community.

The pettiness showed up on a number of occasions during the tenure of the last White Rock council, and is on full display in Surrey today. Councillors who are not part of Mayor Doug McCallum’s slate do not get the same treatment as the four who are part of his Safe Surrey Coalition.

In White Rock, the pettiness showed up frequently. It was directed not only at Chesney, but at members of the community. Perhaps the most damaging incidents were those involving the Semiahmoo First Nation.

The occasion Chesney was censured for came after council decided to give notice that it was cutting off water service to the Semiahmoo lands, even though some residents had been subject to a boil water advisory for decades.

Chesney may have done a few things that were inappropriate, based on some comments he made on his White Rock Sun website – but the details released suggest that he was trying to act for the good of the city. A good working relationship among all members of council is the best way to see positive steps in the future.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca

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