ELECTION: McCallum: ‘We didn’t see it coming. In fact, we saw the opposite’

SURREY — If you’re a defeated mayoral candidate making his concession speech, you don’t want to be drowned out by music booming from the banquet hall next door.

You especially don’t want that song to be Louis B. Armstrong’s "What a Wonderful World."

Still, Surrey mayoral candidate Doug McCallum and his four Safe Surrey Coalition running mates, all shut out in Saturday night’s election, put on brave faces as they faced supporters at the Dhaliwal Banquet Hall in Newton.

McCallum congratulated mayor-elect Linda Hepner, of Surrey First, who defeated him with 44,944 votes to his 24,706.

"We didn’t see it coming. In fact, we saw the opposite," McCallum later told reporters in a scrum.

McCallum served as Surrey’s mayor from 1996 to 2005, when he was defeated by Dianne Watts while seeking a fourth term.

He praised his fellow coalition members this time out.

"You will see that the ideas that they brought forward will come into force in the next few years," he said.

The Safe Surrey Coalition was comprised of small business owner Rina Gill, community advocate Laurie Guerra, lawyer Justin Thind and Surrey Now editor on leave Beau Simpson.

It featured eight proposals, namely to freeze taxes for two years, reverse growing debt through an "aggressive" repayment plan, shut down the Surrey City Development Corporation (SCDC) and eliminate plans to build a district energy heating system.

It also wanted to cut the city’s operating budget by three per cent, chop Surrey’s Regional Economic Summit, and "reprioritize and increase" funding for the city’s parks, recreation and culture strategic plan.

According to McCallum, the SCDC owes city taxpayers $70 million.

McCallum said Saturday that he and his coalition "did a really good job" of presenting important issues to voters.

Nevertheless, he said, the coalition itself was a one-off and "won’t continue." Asked if he’ll seek public office again, McCallum told the Now "at this time I don’t think I will."

Saturday’s defeat, he said, was "a real disappointment" but nevertheless, he added, "That’s fair enough, and that’s what they have decided to do tonight, and Surrey will move forward."

"I’ve always said that Surrey could be a shining light to the world, how different cultures can live together and work together," McCallum said.

Gill came closest to securing a council seat, coming just under the line with 24,914 votes to councillor-elect Vera LeFranc’s 33,237 votes. She did not address the crowd.

Meanwhile, Guerra said it’s people that make Surrey great, "not the fancy buildings."

She praised McCallum as "an amazing human being," and Thind echoed that. "We’ve learned so much from this man," he said.

Simpson said the coalition had "worked hard for three months, seven days a week" during the election campaign.

"Let’s be proud," he said.

"We’re all proud of the campaign. We gave it our all."


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