Crime, trans­porta­tion among dom­i­nant ‘If’

The Miracle - - Front Page -

It is the 12th most pop­u­lated city in Canada and, as the Oct. 20 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion nears, Sur­rey is cer­tainly hav­ing its share of big city is­sues. But when it comes to spar­ring top­ics for the eight peo­ple look­ing to as­cend to the mayor’s chair, there are two that stand out above all oth­ers. “Sur­rey has some ad­di­tional is­sues and chal­lenges that maybe make it stand a bit apart (from the rest of the Lower Main­land) and one of them is the un­rav­el­ling of the trans­porta­tion op­tions,” says Pa­trick Smith, a pro­fes­sor in the po­lit­i­cal sci­ence de­part­ment at Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity. It’s not that sur­pris­ing in a city where eight in 10 com­mute by car or truck for an av­er­age of 33 min­utes. Smith ac­knowl­edges a large num­ber of peo­ple con­tinue to see hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity as a ma­jor con­cern across the re­gion, but points out that isn’t unique to Sur­rey. The sec­ond is­sue in the city with a pop­u­la­tion of around 517,000 is noth­ing new: “The other one (con­cern) that Sur­rey has had a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in and ex­pe­ri­ence of is gangs and crime,” says Smith. Sur­rey is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with vi­o­lent crime. Long an ad­vo­cate for bet­ter more and bet­ter polic­ing, for­mer New­ton Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Doug El­ford is now seek­ing a seat on coun­cil along­side for­mer mayor Doug McCal­lum. “Sur­rey has the largest RCMP un­der con­tract ar­range­ment in Canada, and yet you’ve got ma­jor play­ers in the elec­tion mus­ing about hav­ing their own po­lice force,” says Smith. The fact it is and re­mains such a hot-but­ton is­sue doesn’t sur­prise the vet­eran po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist. He says it’s an easy thing to cam­paign for it, but a much more dif­fi­cult — and above all, ex­pen­sive — propo­si­tion to im­ple­ment on a prac­ti­cal level. In­cor­po­rated as a city back in 1993, Sur­rey has of­ten been viewed as the poor cousin when it comes to tran­sit and trans­porta­tion, and a lack of growth — the last SkyTrain sta­tion in that city opened 24 years ago — is just one of the rea­sons peo­ple there take any talk of ex­pan­sion so se­ri­ously. “We’ve had cer­e­monies in­di­cat­ing an agree­ment by all lev­els of gov­ern­ment on an LRT and now we have ma­jor can­di­dates who are say­ing ‘No, SkyTrain is the pre­ferred op­tion.’” Cur­rent coun­cil­lor Bruce Hayne is among those who have said pub­licly they want to “push pause” on any LRT work. But such an elec­tion prom­ise could prove dan­ger­ous if it’s fol­lowed through on. “You don’t stop some­thing that you’re well along in and have se­cure fund­ing for. And you can look at Ot­tawa and Toronto as ex­am­ples of what hap­pens when you do that, you get less and you pay more. Those who want to change gears in Sur­rey’s trans­porta­tion fu­ture with the LRT, have to ex­plain how they jus­tify get­ting less and pay­ing more over the long run,” says An­thony Perl, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence col­league of Smith’s who also teaches Ur­ban Stud­ies at SFU. “When they stop it (LRT), there will be penal­ties and costs that have al­ready been spent that have to be com­mit­ted and you don’t get any­thing to show for it. Stop­ping projects that are al­ready well planned and funded along the way, the ev­i­dence is clear in Canada that just gets you less and costs more. And I re­ally hope that Sur­rey won’t fall into that.” Other than Hayne, Tom Gill is the other cur­rent coun­cil­lor look­ing to re­place Linda Hep­ner after the 69-year-old de­cided not to seek re-elec­tion. Mean­while, McCal­lum is look­ing to once again en­ter the po­lit­i­cal fray after more than a decade on the side­lines. McCal­lum, who lost to Dianne Watts in 2005, came in sec­ond to Hep­ner four years ago. But it’s Gill, run­ning un­der the Sur­rey First ban­ner, who at least ap­pears to be in line to be­come the 37th mayor in the city’s his­tory, ac­cord­ing to Smith. “In the last cou­ple of elec­tions, if there was one thing that would be the best pre­dic­tor of peo­ples’ like­li­hood to win, it was whether they were an in­cum­bent or not. And that has changed.” “I would have to think that Gill is per­haps the front run­ner in the Sur­rey race. He’s got coun­cil ex­pe­ri­ence. The par­ties are splin­ter­ing a lit­tle but he’s got the main party that has been in power for the last bunch of years, with their en­dorse­ment, so I would think he would per­haps be the front run­ner,” says Smith. When she was elected in 2014, Hep­ner pledged to break ground on an LRT line in the city by this year, which hasn’t hap­pened. But for her part, she does hope that who­ever wins puts progress at the top of the list. “I just want the next coun­cil for Sur­rey to be as fo­cused on vi­sion­ing what the fu­ture will look like and how a great city de­vel­ops,” says Hep­ner. “That’s the kind of vi­sion I would hope that coun­cil has. We can do any­thing and we need the minds that are en­er­getic enough and vi­sion­ary enough to see all of that is pos­si­ble.” Vot­ers in Sur­rey are elect­ing one mayor, eight coun­cil­lors, and six school trus­tees.

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