Campbell River Chamber of Commerce board Chair Michael Boulet prepares to ask questions to Andy Adams and Walter Jakeway

ELECTION 2014: Mayoral candidates spar over communication

Breakfast debate has ‘You say divisiveness, I say leadership’ quality

It was a cold morning, Wednesday, but the air was about to get chillier between the mayoral candidates in Saturday’s election.

People dug out their window scrapers from wherever they languish in the offseason that morning. The candidates for mayor in the upcoming election – at that point just a few days away – were having their final public forum over breakfast at the Royal Coachman to make a last pitch before people go to the polls.

Well, two of them were, anyway.

Incumbent Mayor Walter Jakeway and Andy Adams were seated at the head table, ready to engage both each other and those in attendance over their stances on the future of this city.

One chair was empty. Candidate Steve Wood did not attend the event due to a previous personal engagement on which, when contacted by the Mirror, he did not want to comment further.

The two attending candidates were given time for an opening statement.

“The community has clearly stated that they expect a council that works together to develop sound strategic plans, is accountable, and sets direction that seizes opportunities to expand the economic base while providing jobs and stability,” Adams said by way of introduction. “I’m a leader, I’m a coach, I’m a facilitator and listener, and I’m looking forward to working with a strong council that represents a balanced cross-section of experience, ideologies and perspectives.”

He said that the next four years in Campbell River will be key to the long-term future of the city, “as we set building blocks in place to ensure industry and business is sustainable in the long term,” adding that “the transition from major industry is done,” and now we need to rebuild city revenues and control expenses while providing conservative and stable infrastructure improvements for the community that ensure taxes are competitive and stable. He said he will “perform the duties as Mayor representing the City of Campbell River in a positive, professional and credible manner.”

Jakeway followed with his own introduction, where he gave a quick recount of his time thus far in Campbell River, followed by his views for the future and multiple promises to the electorate.

“Election day, Nov. 15, is not about me,” Jakeway said. “It’s about you, the citizens, selecting a new council that respects and meets your expectations. A new, engaged council, will make sure that every decision will ooze common sense.

“Operating costs for the City of Campbell River will be lowered with no loss of service, in fact with a significant increase in customer focus. City residential tax rates will be lowered 15 per cent over three years. They really will,” he said.

He also commits to new resources being made available to non-profit, charity and community organizations addressing social needs and that “expensive consulting reports will be a rare event.”

Chamber of Commerce Chair Michael Boulet asked the debate questions from the podium, Jakeway and Adams were given 45 seconds to answer the question directly, followed by a three minute debate on the topic. The original plan was to have five minute debate intervals, but that was based on the incorrect assumption that there would be three candidates to make arguments.

The questions up for discussion included subjects such as encouraging international newcomers to town and how to support them when they do, important infrastructure improvements needed in town, how to leverage the massive BC Hydro and North Island Hospitals projects into more long-term benefits, and what we can do to bolster tourism.

The most divisive question of the debate, ironically, was on the issue of divisiveness in council, relationships between elected representatives and how to work together as a team at City Hall.

“If you look at the videos, and all the meetings are on video and online, I challenge anybody to find a place where this council has had infighting,” said Jakeway, to which Adams agreed. So, they agree that, within council chambers, things have been running smoothly.

“Part of the reason that it looks like there’s division,” Jakeway said, “is at the end of the council meeting, I usually spoke last, and let everybody else have their say, and then when the council meeting’s over, the press come to me, ‘why did you vote no?’ and that’s when it’s up in the paper, and so it looks like we’ve had a big battle, when we haven’t. We just vote differently – we have different values and we see the future differently.”

“Yes, Walter, you do have the last word, as you should as mayor,” Adams said. “(But) mostly it’s you who are approaching the media with comments after council. Then it’s the comments on social media that are quite destructive to members of council and to members of staff that are completely unacceptable.”

“I appreciate that you’ve entrusted me as the finance chair for the past three years,” Adams said, “but there wasn’t once when you came and said, ‘Andy, let’s talk,’ before going into the financial planning meetings…instead we would go into the council meetings and you would just come from a completely different perspective, and I don’t think that’s the way you work with a council.”

“I don’t have anything more to say,” Jakeway said. “I don’t agree. I think I’ve been completely constrained in what I’ve said, both to the media and in the public. The last election I ran to change the status quo. People who are maintaining the status quo don’t like it, but I ran and got elected on a change format, and I’m doing the same thing this time.”

“So would you or would you not agree that at no time in three years did you come and talk to your finance chair about what your ideologies or perspectives were going into finance planning?” Adams asked.

“Not one-on-one I didn’t,” Jakeway answered.

“Thank you,” Adams said.

“But we’re supposed to be dealing with council together, we’re not supposed to have little cliques,” Jakeway said.

“Having a mayor talk to the chair of a committee is not a clique, it’s called communication, and it’s called developing structures of how to move forward in council chambers.”

Jakeway said that “no matter what way I did it, the old guard didn’t like what was going on … and we just see the world differently.”