Chilliwack council candidate seeks transparency at city hall

Sam Waddington - Paul J. Henderson
Sam Waddington
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson

He's young, he's athletic and, if you're stuck in an icy crevasse, he could probably rescue you.

And come November, Sam Waddington wants a seat on Chilliwack city council.

The 24-year-old adventurer and owner of Mt. Waddington's Outdoors in Vedder Crossing is the first person to formally announce he will seek one of the six spots on council.

Municipal elections across British Columbia are set for Nov. 15.

Waddington is diplomatic as he talks about the current city council, pointing no fingers at any individuals or the mayor.

But starting with the decision to tear down the Paramount Theatre two years ago, Waddington takes issue with how decisions are made and the sense that back-room politics dominates.

"The public perception . . . was that the city wanted to tear the building down and there was really nothing they could do to stop it," he said. "I think that's a fundamental issue. The citizens of Chilliwack need to feel like their voice is being heard."

Waddington was part of The Friends of the Paramount, a group of citizens and business people that pushed to save the iconic downtown theatre from the wrecking ball.

"For me, the Paramount project was all about process," he said. "I don't think that due process was followed at a lot of levels. I just don't think everyone's voice was heard."

Since then, and increasingly in recent months, Waddington has attended city council meetings to see how things are done. Beyond staff, interested parties and the media, he is usually the only one watching live in council chambers.

And what he has witnessed is the way city council, for the most part, agrees with one another and don't question staff recommendations. There is the sense that decisions are made before the meetings even start.

That's not to say Waddington thinks decision are being made in private, just that there is very little (usually no) public discussion by city councillors on most issues.

"Due process might be being followed but the citizens of Chilliwack need to hear all sides of that debate," he said.

Given land constraints in the city, Waddington sees population increases as predicted in the Official Community Plan as central to the agenda in the coming years.

"It's going to demand some pretty leading edge public policy," he said. "It will be one of the biggest challenges city council will face over the next decade."

As for his background, Waddington's parents moved to Chilliwack when he was two so he is rooted in the community. He has travelled extensively since graduating from Chilliwack senior, always returning home to see Chilliwack as "one of the best places in B.C. to live."

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