Who Would Have Thought???

Abbotsford has a Character Council??????

“The Abbotsford Character Council was established in spring of 2011 following the Abbotsford Leadership Forum which took place on April 26th, 2011. At this forum, community leaders worked together to establish a common language and a vision for the future of our city; one that places high value on the practice and promotion of good character” – excerpted from the Abbotsford Character Council web page

Who could of guessed…….although, a Character Council does fit right in with trendy organizational must haves such as a highfalutin, buzzword laden Mission Statement.

And why should taxpayers expect their City Council [et al] to focus on old fashioned ideas such as safe, drivable roads or worry about the health of its poorest, most vulnerable citizens or astute, frugal spending of taxpayers monies rather than ‘cultural gardens’, giant strawberry (raspberry?) sculptures in a roundabout, a Character Council, council’s egos or the subsidizing of profession hockey teams and owners?

Character:     the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing; moral or ethical quality

Good:             satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree; of high quality; excellent; right; proper; fit.

Armed with definitions for good and character……..we need consider a few of the actions taken by the City of Abbotsford under the auspices of the majority of the current council.

One test of ‘good character’ is what you do when you want to take an action but there is a law against taking said action.

The BC Local Government Act contains a prohibition of municipal governments investing in or subsidizing private businesses.

The WHA’s Chilliwack Bruins relocated to Victoria because Chilliwack’s Mayor and Council turned down the Bruins request for a yearly $250,000 subsidy to enable them to remain in Chilliwack. Chilliwack’s Mayor and Council citing the provisions in the Local Government Act against subsidizing a private business, in this case the Bruins.

When Abbotsford’s Council, in order to save face by luring a hockey team to Abbotsford’s empty Entertainment and Sports Centre, was faced with the need to subsidize the Heat ownership for 10 years for the losses incurred playing in Abbotsford……… Council circumvented the law and made Abbotsford Taxpayers liable to the Heats ownership for up to $57 million’

            Aside: Hmmmmm? I wonder how long it will be before Abbotsford Council, in light of                    the fact the annual subsidy is (for now) closer to $2 million rather than the $5.7 million            maximum, begin claiming to be saving taxpayers $3.7 million a year?

Ethics and character lie in obeying the intent and spirit of the law as opposed to circumventing the law for ones convenience. Consider the following:

The news is full of reports of people being defrauded out of their money, to the point of losing their life savings, by scams.

With my background in accounting and business it would be easy (I have a few specific approaches I favour in mind) to construct an……’investment opportunity’……that would circumvent the fraud laws, enriching myself and my bank account at the expense of the victimized investors – in a perfectly legal manner.

Siggghhhh, the ethics, the character my parents instilled in me tells me it is not whether I can circumvent the law and get rich with no legal consequences, but whether circumventing the law and reaching into people’s pockets to relieve them of their cash is ethical behaviour. Further,  the ethics and character my parents instilled in me tells me that the difference between breaking a law and circumventing the law is simply that circumventing the law avoids the penalty, the negative consequences, of simply breaking of the law.

As much as poverty may grind on me, ethics and character will not permit me to rationalize or justify circumventing the intent and spirit of fraud laws to enrich myself.

Under the ethics and character my parents and the community of Georgetown Ontario instilled in me it is unethical, a sign of bad character for Abbotsford’s Council to circumvent any law, not just a law designed to protect the taxpayers of Abbotsford from Council wasting millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money subsidizing a private business and the owners of that business.

While considering ethics, character and the AESC there is the recent admission by the City Manager that City Hall had always expected the Entertainment and Sports Centre to lose $2,000,000 a year, even as Council was promising taxpayers a profit of $500,000 a year, in order to get taxpayers to vote to let council to build  Abbotsford’s Great White Elephant Centre. While saying anything needed to get elected or win a referendum may be politics and politicians as usual, it is neither ethical nor behaviour of good character.

Then there is the matter of Harm Reduction; a matter where the bottom is quite literally life or death.

A matter were the actions, yea or nay, of a community directly results in lives saved or lost and has a direct effect of the health of the community – the whole community – places a duty of care on all citizens requiring them to put aside what they believe they know, what it is they want to believe about Harm Reduction and their personal preferences, to determine what experience demonstrates the facts to be and to base one’s decision on the facts.

Ignoring the facts, that Harm Reduction saves lives, gets people into treatment sooner and improves the health of not just the community of those who use substances but of the entire community – devalues human life and imposes a death sentence on some of those who use substances to self medicate.

Clutching at straws, grabbing onto any excuse in order to ignore that the facts, experience and evidence are all against you…….is behaviour that substantially lacks character.

            Aside: before you utter or think the words “he is just a bleeding heart” let me state the       my thoughts on  matters of mental illness, substance use and homelessness    underwent significant re-examination and modification when mental illness and homelessness brought me face to face with Reality, shattering smug myth, judgment and wilful  ignorance.   

Let us conclude our considerations with a clash between greedy self interest versus ethics, character, consideration of others and the health of our community as a whole.

On July 1, 2012 City Council changed security contractors, not because the previous security firm was not doing a good job – it was – but to save money. These saving will be achieved through paying those working  for the new security firm wages at or close to minimum wage.

Unfortunately, minimum wage does not provide enough income to cover the expenses of living frugally in Abbotsford. $10.50 is considerably under the $15.50 – $16.41 that is calculated to be the hourly wage necessary to be able to live frugally, but with a degree of comfort in Abbotsford. A ‘living wage‘.

It is unethical for the City of Abbotsford (government period) to directly or indirectly pay someone performing work for the City (government) a hourly wage that is not sufficient for them to be able to afford safe, healthy housing; food; basic necessities etc.

Paying such a wage, at the expense of the wellbeing of people, to save money in order to pay council its automatic yearly salary increase and management their exorbitant and unconscionable raises descends into an area of unethical and characterless such that council and management must cease to sully the City of Abbotsford with their presence and resign.

Unless they apply the same rules to themselves as applies to the least among those who serve the City.

20 hours a week times $10.50 per hour times 52 weeks a year = 20(10.50)(52) = $10,920.

40 hours a week times $10.50 per hour times 52 weeks a year = 40(10.50)(52) = $21,840.

Under the same wage rules that council and city management consider adequate for contracted workers council should be paid $10,920 a year and managers should get $21,840 a year.

With the savings realized using those wage rates for council and managers the City could afford to pay those contracted to perform tasks on the City’s behalf a wage sufficient to live, frugally, on.

Seems to be ethical and fair vis-a-vis council and managements behaviour in this matter; and would – hopefully – encourage the development of character in council and management.

Council, city management and their sycophants may even come to appreciate that we were not instructed to “do unto others” but to “do unto others as we would have done unto ourselves”.

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