SURREY – In what was a swanky affair, complete with a jazz quartet and a performance by Mark "Mr. O Canada" Donnelly, the new Surrey council was sworn into office Monday night at city hall.
"Winning an election is a great feeling but it’s even more special when your entire team gets across that finish line," said Mayor Linda Hepner in her inaugural address.
Returning councillors are Tom Gill, Bruce Hayne, Mary Martin, Barbara Steele and Judy Villeneuve. New additions to the table are Mike Starchuk, Dave Woods and Vera LeFranc.
During her speech, Hepner spoke of transportation, public safety, business, taxes and more.
She said her first order of business will be actively promoting a "yes" vote in the spring’s transportation referendum, which she plans to do through an engagement strategy.
"We need the light rail project, as well as the other significant public transportation initiatives that will fund. By 2041, Surrey is projected to grow by an additional 50 per cent – that’s 750,000 people relying on just eight per cent of the region’s rapid transit
service. I intend to see that rectified."
Hepner said, as promised during the election, she will be requesting an additional 100 officers to compliment the 30 coming in the spring.
The letter to the province requesting the officers has not yet gone in.
"It can’t go into the province until we formally request it at a budget meeting, which will happen on (Dec. 15)," she said after her speech.
She promised an emphasis on neighbourhood policing.
"We will see frontline officers build relationships with residents and business owners and become more engrained in the very fabric of our neighbourhoods."
When it comes to business, Hepner said she plans to expand Innovation Boulevard to include other industry sectors, noting Surrey is already home to 20 per cent of B.C.’s clean tech businesses.
She also stated she’s committed to keeping taxes low.
"I’m hopeful that the tax rate stays the same, but I’ll have to look at some of those levies though to see where we are," she noted. That will also be looked at on Dec. 15, she added.
Hepner also spoke of a follow-up initiative to the Build Surrey program, dubbed the "Next Generation Fund," which would include a museum expansion, as well as new recreation centres, parks and playing fields.
Hepner said she intends to create a cultural corridor to advance Surrey’s creative industry, hopes to make the city more age-friendly and develop a social innovation strategy.
"There is a long list of things to get done and the list is getting longer…. Over the next four years, time will be a precious commodity," Hepner said.
As for wards, she said while she doesn’t believe in the system herself, she is "prepared to listen" if it’s what the public wants.
Asked if she would be creating a deputy mayor position, Hepner didn’t rule it out.
"Having a deputy mayor requires a bylaw and also requires me to abdicate some authority directly to a deputy mayor and not to have it myself.
"And until my own feet are solidly on the ground as mayor I won’t be doing anything
like that," she said.
Following the oath of office, Pastor Randy Emerson of Cloverdale Christian Church led an invocation.
"It’s an honour to pray and bless this new council and her worship the mayor. So let’s pray," Emerson said.
"We pray that you will bless us with your continued presence, because without it, hatred and arrogance will infect our hearts. But with your blessing, we know that we can break down the walls that separate us. We pray for your blessing today, because without it, distrust, prejudice and animosity will rule our hearts. But with the blessing of your presence, we know that we can renew the ties of mutual regard which can best form our civic life."
After the inauguration ceremony, the new council held its first council meeting, to appoint representatives to the Metro Vancouver board of directors. Appointed were Hepner, Villeneuve, Steele, Hayne Martin, and Gill was appointed as alternate for mayor.