Mayoral candidates in Surrey had numerous chances for face-off and discussion on their vision for this City once one of them is elected to replace Dianne Watts in early December. But even biggest optimists didn’t predicted that the best debate so far will happen once CBC crew comes to Surrey. So-called “Big Three”, somehow looking like original Big Three (Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt), met to discuss public safety, transportation and future development of Surrey. That was debate which opened many doors into minds of Linda Hepner, Barinder Rasode and Doug McCallum but also closed many doors of potential voters to each of the Big Three.
Incumbent Councillor and Surrey First mayoral candidate Linda Hepner did all in her power to surprise those in the room, listeners and those following debate on social media. As it is now known and widely discussed among Surrey residents Cllr. Hepner saved her best moment for the end of debate.
Apparently Cllr. Hepner thinks that Surrey does not have any problems and it is safe city. Latest statistics released by Surrey RCMP are extremely different from what she said. According to those crime hiked some 21% and worse situation in Newton city center which was hit with another despicable crime just hours after she claimed Surrey is safe city. Cllr. Hepner would easily win upcoming elections if these claims were true and she closed many doors of potential voters especially in Newton and Whalley areas of the city. While Cllr. Hepner was on her rant about safe and without problems city one attendee heckled and told her “try to walk down the street” which said enough about her claims. This rant hasn’t played well with public, added another layer of concern regarding Cllr. Hepner
understanding of the situation in the City and came on the list of her previous scandals which included attacks on media, Ferris Wheel and preemptive erection of election signs.
Second significant moment, spread over five different occasions probably causing abdominal pain to Cllr. Hepner advisers, came in form of her open and very loud agreement with her key opponent Cllr. Rasode. It is well known that while they sit together and run under the same banner Cllr. Herpner and Rasode were great friends and worked well on council together often supporting each other, but that is past. If Cllr. Hepner wanted to leave a mark with this debate broadcasted on national station this was the worse way to do it. Openly and frankly Cllr. Hepner gave credibility and support to ideas which Cllr. Rasode presented as part of her campaign platform. This could cost her that central chair in the City Council Chamber from December 8th until the end of this term.
On the other side Cllr. Rasode who is well known as great orator and someone who knows how to deal with though issues in public came with a different strategy this time. If she let Cllr. Hepner to suppress her points during debate on Shaw TV, this time was Cllr. Rasode who came out as stronger and much more confident contender.
But despite her great performance and gain of critical agreement on several issues from Cllr. Hepner, One Surrey leader must to be very careful in her promises. Yes, she has great team behind her back, especially when it comes to the public safety, but one thing is election platform and the other is when you have a chance to look inside the administration and to get hands on all information. Failure to implement these could move her from the top of positive list to the top of blacklist and residents can be very unpleasant if that happens.
Many before her, including Dianne Watts and why not to say Barack Obama, came into the office with great promises and ideas just to leave that office without much done. Cllr. Rasode as proponent of LRT and different approach to this issue than Mayor Watts if she succeeds her because Mayor Watts was not able to fulfill her promises on transportation over three terms as a mayor. Same applies to public safety no matter how great her plan is or how successful police chief was someone in Delta, Vancouver or anywhere else. Micro issues can derail even biggest and best plans previously successfully implemented elsewhere.
Third candidate of the Big Three of course is former Mayor Doug McCallum who came into the race after decade long absence and it is eager to revenge for what happened to him last time when he run for Mayor. Despite long political career and experience in the world of politics McCallum still makes beginners mistakes in effort to reach top city position.
While he is completely right in claim that this council hasn’t delivered anything over the last two years due to divisiveness of opinions and lack of cooperation his own record on council is not convincing that he would create better situation. But attacks on incumbent Cllr’s would not help him to reach the top position because his promises are pretty much phoney or hard to be implemented.
McCallum who has record of muzzling RCMP and quite large luggage related to the other inappropriate activities. What McCallum promises today is to deliver 140+ police officers over the next 12 months. As much as this looks promising and pleasing for the residents of the city it will be hardly delivered as it was already explained here in one of previous debate posts. Nobody even those with greatest optimism are expecting nor will expect that 140 officers out of 900+ at the depot at the moment can be given to Surrey and forget need elsewhere for police forces and replacements.
On moments during this debate McCallum reminded many in the room of his predecessor Bob Bose who in the last campaign spoke about transportation in 1970’s and 1980’s. McCallum spoke about Translink of 1990’s and early 2000’s, which are completely different from times today and reality in Translink. He might have experience and knowledge but those will hardly be applied today when Translink is struggling with great number of issues. Just to mention few several system wide shutdowns which cost greatly transit corporation and users, $20m over planned budget for never delivered Compass Card and terrible bus service south of the Fraser.
McCallum had a plausible idea of getting transportation expansion done through 3P projects. Public-Private-Partnership played great role in many projects around the world and helped many projects to get of the ground. In this case key issue is to get right partners in the right time to be at the right place which is gamble which shouldn’t be put in front of citizens and for which they would need to pay through taxes.
Voters in Surrey will need to think twice if not three times before they put their ballots in and send one of these three candidates to the office of Mayor of Surrey. Future might look bright and promising but on the road to that future citizens and elected officials will need to work hand in hand to reach it. Whoever emerges to the top on November 15th should start seeing this term as the worst possible nightmare in their lifetime which will make or break them and those who will work under their leadership.