Residents of Surrey have spoke and decided their future for the next term, which is this time extended from three to four years based on bill passed by BC Legislature. Linda Hepner of Surrey First and her eight slate mates are elected to be new Surrey government. Responsibility now lays on their backs and it is delivery time. Many promises were made and got support from people of Surrey. December 9th will be the D-Day for this administration and they need to start it running not walking. Although that Mayor-elect hasn’t even started her term officially first blow came from sports organizations in BC.
One of the key issues in Surrey which has been endorsed last week is LRT and improved transportation which this city lacks for decades now. Mayor-elect Linda Hepner already spilled her guts and in unusual move for a politician gave to the public all aspects of her plan and strategy. That plan according to Mayor-elect would be delivered LRT no matter what by the end of this term in 2018. According to her plan there are options A, B and C. Under the option A Mayor-elect Hepner sees federal transportation fund and funding for which City of Surrey already passed first phase and now waits to see if LRT project will get a green light. If that in any case fails Mayor-elect would go to PPP (Public-Private Partnership) model through which public and private funds would be joined to fund $2.2 billion LRT project. Third and most interesting option is that if A and B are not successful Mayor-elect would form “South of the Fraser Transportation Authority” to fund promised transportation development.
Those who are experts in this area believe that this size project no matter how well prepared is and how well funded is can not be implemented in four years. Based on previous knowledge and experiences of North American and European cities project of this size will take up to a decade to be fully completed and operational. Mayor-elect might want to look into the past and carefully take a note of what happened with optimistic promises of changes and delivery, often those are projects which remain just that promises.
Her predecessor outgoing Mayor Dianne Watts, now candidate for CPC MP in South Surrey-White Rock riding, was one who initiated process to ask federal government for dollars from federal fund to implement LRT project. As much as this is attractive project and could play on Harper government cards to get more votes and support in this area of Canada there are few elements which could derail it. First of all is that Canada is in fact already in election year. Current political situation in Canada is telling us that Conservative government of Stephen Harper is endangered by the rise of Liberals and their leader Justin Trudeau. If Harper is not re-elected or even if CPC is re-elected but Harper is replaced as PM by one of his key lieutenants this project could be cut out and funds could be divert to any other given region or city in Canada where votes or support are more important. All this must to be taken into consideration in times when promises are flying as shot from very powerful weapons. Indeed it would be great to have federal dollars pouring in but that is not always the safest way to get money on board.
Plan B which is PPP would probably be the best choice for Surrey when it comes to stability and availability of funding. Despite security in these two segments residents of Surrey would need to learn what would be their share of the project and what would be set aside by the local government to ensure that private sector would invest in this project. Only then and with much of consideration this project could get approval or disapproval by the residents.
Setting up “South of the Fraser Transportation Authority” to fund and implement this project is viable option, but the key question is how would it work in reality. SFTA would be setting up Translink vs “Translink” and would put in question relations with the rest of the Lower Mainland on one of the most important issues which transportation is. It would be much better and more suitable for Surrey and for every other municipality in the region to put away pride and self-importance and to make joint projects either through funding provided by higher levels of government or through PPP projects which would connect more than only one municipality parts together.
In the last weeks of election campaign and her role as City Councilor Mayor-elect Linda Hepner spent a considerable amount of time in negotiations with Whitecaps FC to bring their USL team to Surrey. In days following her election to the top position in Surrey administration, Whitecaps and local football club BC Lions decided to go out of Surrey and place their young teams to Thunderbird Stadium at UBC. This means that Surrey beside investments in sports facilities across the city doesn’t have what these sports organizations require to facilities their needs. It would not be suitable to link this decision to solely to the public safety situation in Surrey, but it is major and first blow to the Mayor-elect because this was seen as her project and one on which she took a leadership. Not that good start for Ma’am Hepner and new city administration.