Friday, November 07, 2008

Maple Ridge Chamber of Commerce hosts 2008 candidates Q&A

One or two candidates had complained earlier in the day that the Maple Ridge Chamber of Commerce gave very short notice regarding this meeting. Not only that, but the all-candidates Q&A meeting conflicted with a fund raiser for another group and many candidates, frankly, would be better viewed attending the (perhaps more worthy) fund raiser. The MC for the Chamber of Commerce apologized for the short notice and, as candidates trickled in late, they each excused themselves by saying that they had been at the other event.

Notwithstanding the fact that when your correspondent arrived a number of candidates were still at the fund raiser and it did appear for a moment that at the Chamber of Commerce meeting the questioners were outnumbered by the answerers i.e. council candidates v. general public and members of the Chamber of Commerce. There is, as an aside, no way of telling who of those attending were members and who were general public.

The venue at Thomas Haney is cavernous so the combination of all candidates and the audience did little to fill it. None of the three Mayoral Candidates were present. Perhaps they lingered at the aforementioned fund raiser hoping to snag a vote or two. Or perhaps it was just that evil mix of rain, wind and a cold fall night that kept the Mayoral Candidates away from the Chamber of Commerce meeting. And what a meeting it wasn't.

A town is just a town, after all. It is easy to exhaust the questions: what is your vision for Maple Ridge; what can we do about crime, homelessness, drug abuse, vandalism; can we improve transport; how can we attract more business; what have we done; what should we do; and of course, why do you think you rather than anyone else at the table can do it? If the questions sound familiar it is because they are. Ditto the answers.

Densification and revitalization of the downtown core and business area has been on the table for several decades now. True, it is given more airtime in 2005 and 2008 than at any previous electoral discussion. It is as though the candidates are piling into the discussion three years at a time. Your erstwhile correspondent would like to have heard a question regarding demographics.

Anyone interested in macro or micro economics will be aware that the answers to most of the run of the mill questions submitted at these meeting every three years is simply demographics. Gender, age, education, marital status and to some extent ethnic background and whether or not one is new to Maple Ridge or not. And in this consumer society, let's not count out income and occupation, white collar, blue collar or simply no collar at all. For an interesting Chamber of Commerce Meeting hire an expert in demographics. He or she will have the questions, the answers and perhaps even a glimpse at the future to offer.

The dreary thing about demographics is its relationship to time; birth, population movement and death (death can be unpredictable at times) move at a slow pace. And it these fundamentals that determine for instance the success or failure of a plan to say, densify our population in downtown Maple Ridge. And as we grow so do the the seedier aspects grow happily in the shadow of our loftier aspirations. More people, more crime, more homelessness, more drug abuse. Managing growth is all we can hope for from the elected officials. It is brave and kind and good of them to stand for office. To the articulate, and more than one of them rose to the occasion in the gloom of this meeting last night, hopefully go the spoils. To the less than articulate (and I suspect they know who they are) one hopes that office will be denied.

It did occur me last night that had I not attended last night it may have caused me to make one or two poor decisions. I departed the meeting with a somewhat altered slate than the one I arrived with. It pleased me that what I heard and saw caused me to change my mind and my vote. In this era of change, after all, change is seen as a good thing. This community of 73,000 would be better off it more voters dragged themselves out to all candidates meetings to hear what the hopefuls have to say. If not you are more or less voting to keep things just as they are. On reflection. "keeping things just as they are" would perhaps be an appropriate tag line for Maple Ridge's now familiar "Deep Roots. Greater Heights." The District of Maple Ridge, at least from what this correspondent has observed these past 15 years, is more about the roots than the heights.

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