SURREY - Less than a week before final countdown all-candidates debates are the best element in pursuing undecided voters to support their political programs, giving them new chances to improve situation in Surrey, placing it on the path of success and regional importance. Surrey First, Surrey Civic Coalition candidates followed by independent candidates come out at South Surrey Rotary Field House, debate was organized by South Surrey Residents Association, to discuss general issues as taxation, environment and Eco-systems protection, business and investment plans, transportation but also to challenge each other stands on one of the most controversial issues in this year – Surrey Economic Summit/George Bush visit to Surrey in October. Two candidates, each from different candidates group [Mayoral and Councillor], put a great effort to come out and captivate attention of attendees with their statements regarding current situation in Surrey. Two dozens candidates including incumbents lead by Mayor Dianne Watts and veteran Bob Bose repeated for so many times their devotion to accountability, accessibility and careful running of the City over next term if they got elected on Saturday, November 19th.
One of the most interesting debate moments happened in the first part of debate when candidates were asked to address crime rates and to tell to potential voters if they are convinced in crime rate decline when it comes to Surrey past and present rates. Split opinions on crime rates come out very fast as almost half of the candidates answered this question with resolute “No”, and other half say “Yes”. While independent mayoral candidate Ross Buchanan stands on a point crimes rates didn’t decline in recent years, probably thinking they’re on rise or on same rate as before, SCC candidate Rina Gill sees this issue as national question which can’t be discussed as exclusive Surrey matter. Incumbent Cllr. Barinder Rasode at the other hand answered this question sending a clear message to public statistics can be wrong and can send one or other message to the public, in her opinion public’s feeling and sense of security are more important. Other candidates didn’t told to us present at the debate anything new or special, and what was more interesting non of those who answered with “No” how they think to change those rates and prevent new crimes to be committed in Surrey. Candidates also challenged each other stands on crime rates with different polls and researches, including recent reported by CBC and The Globe and Mail which could be used as great starting point in understanding current situation, even if I’m not quite sure that statistical data could be or should be taken as “ultimate” results. I think that each and every local community should be seen as considered as unique element with it’s own merits
Moving on issues of transportation, for more data on that you should read my two previous articles from transportation debates at Newton and Fleetwood Libraries, candidates once more acknowledge enormous outrage with current Translink governance calling provincial government to change it. As we all learn that on Councillor debates all sides are eager to see comprehensive reform of transportation system, especially in effort to give enough money to Surrey which will be used for either Skytrain expansion or Light Rail/Street Car development. On additional question regarding alternative funding for Translink and possible introduction of new taxes [on gas or property] as funding source all candidates categorically answered “No”. Incumbent, and veteran, Cllr. Marvin Hunt repeated tonight as he did it before what is main problem to current Translink funding, and I’m pretty sure, up to the moment when that element is put aside comprehensive reform [called by candidate Popat] will not be close to reality. “Everyone wants more, but anybody doesn’t want to pay for that”, said Cllr. Hunt. Anyways debate between “Light Rail coalition” [SCC/Surrey First] vs. Skytrain [incumbents mainly candidate Griffin] will not be put aside without wide, wise and complete analysis of whole transportation system especially micro system of Surrey with focal point at the best option for connection and functionality which will serve all parts and citizens in the best possible form.
Comprehensive Canada – EU trade agreement
This was one of the most balanced issues among all-candidates. Comprehensive Canada-EU agreement is seen as one of the biggest dangers to Canadian economy, especially to local communities and their rights in the area of waters, waste management and their governance. On one side we had Cllr. Hunt who presented federal government stand on possible agreement with EU wouldn’t be signed without clear approval from Municipalities and their joint bodies, as it was promised on latest Conference of the BC Municipalities earlier this year. SCC candidates Grant Rice and Doug Elford called this agreement one of the worst proposals ever, their main focus was on environment and threat to natural resources and Canadian heritage.
George Bush in Surrey – Deterioration of Surrey’s image or beneficiary addition to it?
Polarization regarding October’s George Bush visit to Surrey’s Regional Economic Summit, who was accompanied by former President Bill Clinton, is and will continue to be one of the biggest disputes probably up to the next Summit or up to the moment when some other “interesting” politician comes somewhere near by Surrey’s city center. Describing George Bush’s visit to Surrey, veteran Cllr. Bose, said that both Summit and Bush’s visit shouldn’t be held at all because he doesn’t sees any benefit to Surrey from it, also adding in case that Summit continues it’s life next guest should be his hero former US President Jimmy Carter. If I may say Cllr. Bose wants to bring another political very polarizing and “interesting” political figure which didn’t left US in the best shape when he left White House, and still is shaking political scene with his visits to “great leaders” as Kim Jong-Ill and Co. are. I’m not saying that Bush is positive political figure, far from that, but as we can see tastes are different and we can’t always had a same view on all politicians. Despite a fact that incumbent Mayor Watts and Summit Chair, Cllr. Hepner, repeatedly denounce use of taxpayers money for Summit organization. On the other side SCC candidate Grant Rice claims that Muslims and their community here in Surrey were offended by Bush’s visit to our city, issuing apology to them in his and his coalition name. I can’t speak for community but as a Muslim, survivor of last Balkan wars, and someone in who’s family Islam is cherished for more than five centuries I must to say I was not offended because we must to have a chance to listen and understand how different people are understanding world around us, and how they see our future. Bush doesn’t has great record on relations with Muslims, but isn’t that case with so many world leaders today Hu Jintao for example doesn’t have a great record on Tibetans rights, Sarkozy on Roma, Manmohan Singh or Pakistani PM Gillani on Muslim/Hindu rights in their region. Does that mean we shouldn’t call all of them to come and talk to us every time being afraid of someones feelings or opinions?
Independents and SCC candidates in majority denounce any benefits to Surrey from this Summit explaining their stand with fact that talks with world leaders will not bring anything good to Surrey and it’s economy. Well maybe they’re right, but still if we look towards small Swiss winter center Davos than we’ll see quite opposite image and benefits which are coming from yearly meetings bringing together major political, economical, scientific and religious leaders to discuss today and future issues. I just want to say one more thing on this issue, neither of opponents mention two great economics writers and experts who talked to business and community members prior to Bush/Clinton conversation, and Kielburger brothers who talked to them on very important issues of child poverty, volunteering, building better human relations and empowering new generations with leadership skills for better future. To be sincere Bush’s visit is used just as PR stunt to captivate public interest to your statements without analyzing whole event, but we can’t be all equal in thinking and understanding recent event benefits.
Business and Spending
All sides on this election caravan promised without any hesitations to promise low taxes and continuation of that trend during upcoming three-year term.Surrey First candidates used this opportunity to point out more than 13,000 jobs open in Surrey in last few years under their leadership, promising continuation of that trend in future while keeping taxes low and attracting more businesses to Surrey especially to central city area tightly connected to New City Hall. According to their claims approximately $6 billions will come through investments connected to new City Hall, and tax revenue which will end in City budget will be significant. Other side, SCC, wants more carefulness on matter to whom will be given right to build and conduct business in Surrey in effort to get a maximum from those, their intention is also to prevent possible losses to City if expected business success is not reached and developers move out of project.
As I mentioned that at the start of this article SCC candidate, Grant Rice, caused very noisy and energetic reaction from Surrey First candidates including Mayor Watts itself with his confident stand according to which Surrey’s finances are in such bad condition which will apparently lead to bankruptcy. Cllr. Hunt, supported by other especially Cllr. Hepner who sit beside him, strongly denounce these claims opposing to it with several facts and numbers showing positive or green state of City finances especially state of reserves which are not according to his words anywhere near by bankruptcy. By reaction of other candidates Hunt’s statement was not convincing causing calls from SCC candidates, mainly Robinson and Stephanie Ryan, for referendums on any future capital spending in effort to protect and preserve City reserves on behalf of all citizens.
Last all-candidate debate will be held today at Eaglequest Golf Course and it’s organized by Surrey Board of Trade and it will start at 6 PM with two hours time frame for candidates answers and debate on following issues:
A. Crime (Panelist: Jock Finlayson, BC Business Council)
B. Environment(Panelist: David O’Sullivan, PW Trenchless)
C. Industry(Panelist: Brenda Lee, Fraser Valley Real Estate Board)
D. International(Panelist: Greg Timm, Pacific Customs Brokers)
E. Social Policy(Panelist: Gerard Bremault, Centre for Child Development)
F. Taxation(Panelist: Nissar Dalal, VanCity Business Banking)
G. Transportation(Panelist: TBC, PCL Constructors Westcoast)
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