It has been almost two weeks since a story suggested that there has been a conflict of interest issue going back to the 2018 municipal election.
It was very clear that all of the campaign financing rules were followed, that all campaign finances were disclosed as required, and that no issues of conflict were found based on the opinion of one of the most respected conflict management lawyers in the province of British Columbia. Even so, some members of our community continue to make false accusations regarding the character and honesty of some members of Township council.
A few points to clarify:
• Each municipal candidate was required to follow the campaign financing rules laid out by Elections BC. The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that receiving campaign donations is a normal part of a municipal campaign and that those donating are mostly likely going to give to like-minded individuals. Simply put – receiving a campaign donation does not put a municipal councillor in conflict. I followed the rules closely and every decision I have made is because I honestly believe it is best for the Township of Langley.
• The Williams Neighborhood Plan was before council in 2018. The results of council voting show strong support for the Williams Neighborhood Plan with first and second reading decided by a 7-1 majority, third reading decided by an 8-1 majority, and the final reading decided by an 8-0 majority. There is no evidence to support a reconsideration of those decisions.
• I fully support asking the Province of British Columbia to review the municipal campaign financing rules, and if necessary, amend them to continue providing reassurance to the residents of B.C. of transparency and fairness. This could include closing the ability for candidates to give campaign donations to each other during the campaign period. Elected officials must carefully make the best decisions for their respective communities including future development.
• The Township of Langley is a wonderful place to live. There is strong protection of agriculture with 75 per cent of the land within the Agricultural Land Reserve. We have outstanding athletic facilities, parks and recreation spaces, a growing arts community, and one of the best records of community volunteerism in the entire province. We are one of the fastest growing communities in B.C. for a reason.
As we manage the positive challenges of growth, it is clear that we will not always agree on the best future for the Township of Langley. Even so, if we continue to work together, learn from each other, and strive for the best community possible we will be better for it.
Blair Whitmarsh, councillor, Township of Langley