Election 2014: Mayoralty meeting too rich for one of the contestants

Gary Cleeve won’t be joining in the mayoralty debate Nov. 4 sponsored by the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce.

Gary Cleave wants to be mayor and school trustee.

Gary Cleave wants to be mayor and school trustee.

Gary Cleeve won’t be joining in the mayoralty debate Nov. 4 sponsored by the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce at the Arts Centre Theatre.

Instead, he’ll be outside, with his bag lunch, “hoping for a piece of Marie Antoinette cake.”

Cleeve objects to the $25 price tag, saying in a release that he was shocked by the cost. He wants the event to be free to the public and says unless the fee is dropped, he’ll be “shivering outside the theatre with the huddled masses.

“This so-called all-mayor’s candidates meeting is really a job interview so the business elite can decide which candidate to back,” he said.

Chamber president Terry Becker said the event, done in partnership with the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association, is just one of the four regular business meetings the chamber has to hold every year. The mayoralty candidates were invited one of the meetings because there’s an election.

Scheduling chamber meetings during lunch hours allows chamber members to attend without having to go home, then go out again in the evening, Becker said.

“People like to come. They like to have some lunch … have the all candidates’ meeting and then they go back to work.

“They like the luncheon format.”

Becker added that the chamber traditionally hasn’t sponsored an all-candidates meetings, adding that usually community groups organize those.

“Because we’re a business organization, we’re going to do what our members ask us to do for first.”

The meeting is a great opportunity for candidates to mingle with business owners. But they don’t have to attend.

“If they don’t want to come, they’re going to miss the chance to talk to business owners.”

The lunch takes place in the Genstar Theatre and the $25 is just to recover the costs of the theatre rental and food.

Becker pointed out that during last election, the chamber partnered to put on an all-candidates meeting in the evening, while there was a luncheon mayoralty meeting during the 2008 election.

Cleave, Ernie Daykin, Mike Morden, Nicole Read and Graham Mowatt are all running for mayor of Maple Ridge.

Becker said she hasn’t heard from Cleave.

Mowatt plans on attending and says the $25 fee is for the meal costs. The chamber is an important organization so he’ll be there.

Mowatt, along with council candidate Grover Telford, made a pitch to council Tuesday to reduce parking costs at Ridge Meadows Hospital. Last year, council said it could do nothing about the hourly charges.

“If they don’t, we will,” Mowatt said.