Promises, promises – what returning candidates said during 2018 campaign

October 03, 2022 – All five incumbent Town of Qualicum Beach Council members are standing for re-election in 2022.

This election campaign is a performance appraisal for each of the five incumbents based on their individual performance during the last four years. That is, performance compared to our expectations.

What did the returning candidates say they were going to do while campaigning in 2018? Did their positions during the term match their campaign rhetoric? Did they earn your vote for another four-year term?

In this look back we will try to help you answer the first question, drawing on 2018 campaign literature and online postings as well as media reporting. The second and third questions are yours to answer.

Perspectives on Qualicum Beach housing

Leading up to the 2018 election, most candidates cited action on housing as a priority. But, both in the campaign and in their actions after they were elected, there were major differences in the “what” (needs to be built) and the “how” (plans and policies) to proceed.

In 2018, candidate Anne Skipsey, identifying housing as the most pressing election issue, stated: “First, we need to know what types of housing are needed most; how much can working people, families, and seniors on a pension afford to pay; and who are the organizations with whom we can partner.”

Candidate Scott Harrison framed the housing affordability problem as “the increasing split between how much income citizens receive and how much it costs to live in our community.” He emphasized a need to priorize “building affordable rental housing and homes blue collar families can afford.”

For candidate Brian Wiese the number one issue for citizens was health care, narrowly defined as “doctor shortages.” Number two for Wiese was the issue of “housing and affordability, housing choices for seniors leaving their homes, young workers, young families and the less fortunate.”

Candidate Robert Filmer echoed the clarion call for housing: “In order to ensure our community remains vibrant we need a range of housing options so we can retain our youth as well as attract young families in support of maintaining a viable workforce.”

Then mayor, running for councillor in 2018, Candidate Westbroek was more specific about housing strategies: “I support leveraging Town-owned lands to address the need for affordable and attainable housing; increasing housing density in the village centre; … innovative solutions using our airport properties; and the redevelopment of the light industrial area of the Second Avenue ‘East Village’.”

Two other 2018 candidates, Jean Young and Dave Willie, are candidates again in 2022.

In 2018, Jean Young emphasized the need for “attainable housing for our young families, service workers and retirees,” as well as “supportive housing for those who have health issues.” She specifically noted the absence of affordable rental units in Town, with a local vacancy rate less than 1%, compounded by “rentals with pet and age restrictions as well as properties only rented as short-term vacation” units.

Dave Willie’s most pressing issue in 2018 was the “lack of opportunity, particular for the younger members of our community. We need more jobs, we need more light industry, we need a variety of housing. … We need light industrial use in and around the airport to provide jobs and opportunities. We need housing alternatives close and within walking distance of the downtown services and in the downtown core.”

Turns out we did not need more industrial jobs. That seems to be a dated trope oft repeated by Chamber of Commerce proponents. In 20/20 hindsight we have discovered there are already plenty of jobs in Qualicum Beach, currently going unfilled, mostly in the service and construction sectors, at least partially tied to the dearth of modest-income rental housing for such workers.

During the 2018 campaign, Westbroek pushed for enhanced Town amenities including “an expansion of our swimming pool and updated skateboard park and other facilities and places to socialize for young people will encourage them to continue to study, live and work here.”

In summary, that was the gist of the challenges going forward identified by candidates in QB’s 2018 civic election.

As stated above, readers can assess for themselves whether the positions and voting records of the 2018-22 elected members of Town Council matched their campaign rhetoric, and which have earned your vote for another four-year term.

Have they practiced what they preached?

In the 2018 election campaign, candidates not only talked about practical issues and community needs, but also presented their views about the working relationships within Council, with Town Administration and with the broader community.

Candidate Wiese stated: “The single most pressing issue in our community is working together to solve the challenges facing us. Solutions require teamwork and leadership. We need to set aside differences, stop bickering and start working together to protect and enhance our quality of life.”

It was candidate Skipsey’s aspiration that: “Ideally there will also be a diversity of voices at the Council table – young, old, male, female.” The Council elected in 2018 did include a range of ages, but we elected five males. The gender imbalance was slightly lessened by Skipsey’s own byelection win in 2021.

Mayor Brian Wiese launches his re-election campaign at Pheasant Glen Golf Resort along with 100 supporters including MLA Adam Walker, Aug 2, 2022. Photo: Brian Wiese

Candidate Harrison told us: “Listening to citizens and their concerns is fundamental to effective municipal government. As elected officials we need to make sure that the process feels open to citizens and not something that’s already been decided ages ago. Increasing participation at early stages of a decision-making process can help ensure citizens feel their voices are being heard and their voices matter.”

We refer you to our analysis in the accompanying Breaker article, Latest allegations of bullying and harassment at QB Town Hall, to help you decide how well the 2018-22 Council achieved the desired level of teamwork and community harmony under Mayor Wiese’s leadership.

This article would not be complete without noting the 2018 sentiments expressed by candidate Robert Filmer who, after declaring he would not be running again, has done a sudden about-face and decided to run again, while apparently holding down a full-time job and living on the Lower Mainland.

Filmer’s 2018 election campaign brochure included:

  1. “I believe in keeping Qualicum Beach a small town and will work to preserve our lifestyle.
  2. I believe in following and respecting our Official Community Plan.
  3. I believe in a fiscally conservative approach to managing our finances.
  4. I believe in giving youth and young families a place to grow in Qualicum Beach.
  5. I believe in protecting our coast and nature walks.
  6. I believe in Qualicum Beach.”

What the 2018 candidates didn’t, couldn’t? wouldn’t? tell us

Candidates for any elected position are technically not obliged to disclose their complete biography, history, alliances, ideologies, prejudices, or intentions when campaigning. But most voters do appreciate and expect transparency and truth in advertising.

It is a challenge for voters to attempt to gauge the competencies and true intentions of a candidate, particularly a new candidate, unknown to voters. In the 2018 civic election, four out of the five Council members that were elected had not run for QB Town Council before.

Public all-candidate meetings were (and still are) largely ineffective at unveiling concealed biases, credos or opinions that might turn off a potential voter.

Public all-candidate meetings were (and still are) largely ineffective at unveiling concealed biases, credos or opinions that might turn off a potential voter.

Ideally, to enable voters to get a reasonable appreciation of a candidate’s potential value to the community, each candidate should get at least 30 minutes of air time during all-candidate meetings. If a dozen candidates are running, that means a six-hour marathon plus breaks. Few voters can sustain that kind of attention span. Much more effective, both for candidates and voters, would be a series of single topic, moderated webinars accessible from home, or at least offering an opportunity for voters to attend virtually, not just in-person meetings.

Full disclosure by candidates in their campaign materials does help close the information gap, but is never guaranteed.

For example, in 2018, mayoral candidate Brian Wiese provided a 300+ word bio on his campaign website that neglected to mention he worked in the real estate industry on the Island. Choosing to obscure that information was not only a disservice to voters but also created a lingering cloud of doubt about the candidate’s priorities: Why didn’t he tell us? What else was he hiding from us?

Speaking of intentions, we can find no evidence in the 2018 campaign materials or media reporting that any Council candidates wanted an increase in pay. Yet, within two months of being sworn in, the five men on Council voted themselves a healthy raise, with only Councillor Walker opposed. Not a big deal in terms of total taxpayer hit but, to many voters, the optics were terrible, and it set a tone of opacity and arrogance that has dogged this Council for the duration of their term.