I have been following the events of the past few weeks regarding the decision made by Patti MacAhonic, whom I do not know, to seek a political party nomination in Chilliwack.
The situation for me is deja vu with a different outcome. I have spent some time retracing a similar situation that occurred in 2009 when a Chamber of Commerce employee ran for a seat on the Chilliwack council.
On that occasion the board allowed their employee to remain in the position while campaigning and indeed for some time following installation. During an all-candidates meeting at that time, hosted as usual by the Chamber, I questioned
whether, if elected, the perceived and real conflict of interest in decisions made by the city might affect a business driven association. Would it reflect a negative image for the chamber if a councillor, actively supported and employed by them, was obliged to either abstain from a vote or worse having to leave chambers prior to discussion?
The president responded to that question by stating that he believed there was no conflict for the board in that regard. However, the candidate in this situation was successful in gaining a seat and was installed in February 2009 yet continued to hold a staff position for several more months before resigning.
I can only presume that the current board of directors feel differently about their responsibilities today since not even a leave of absence could be granted in this situation.
Could it possibly be that this candidate's political views do not align themselves with this chamber board?
Politics versus performance have intruded in many areas of business today and are used to advantage where possible but they sometimes lead to a poor decision being made particularly when involving personal party biases. I wonder if this was the case in this situation. I had hoped that a broader decision could have been reached based on the reputation and intent of the chamber movement.
All incoming governments present a challenge for some businesses in some areas of their policies but the local chamber philosophy surely is to seize any and every opportunity to make it work for their members whatever their personal preference.
As I type this letter I am unaware whether Patti MacAhonic has been given the nod-the majority vote will determine that-however the greater issue is too significant to go without comment. Time will tell whether or not she will be in a position to have a voice and a vote in any business decisions that come before government particularly affecting Chambers of Commerce in any way. Poor or misguided decisions seldom produce the desired outcome.
I am a life member of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, served as president for two years, and moved on to become a director of the B.C. Chamber for one year. I have been proud of my association as have many, many people in Chilliwack acting in capacities from volunteer to committee member, to director and president, for more than 100 years. At this moment I am not so proud.