There was no shooting, but plenty of political fireworks over Surrey First mayoral candidate Tom Gill’s call last week for a complete ban on handguns.
Gill’s call followed similar moves from mayors of Toronto and Montreal, and comes after brazen shootings in a number of eastern cities.
Surrey, of course, has had more than its share of shootings, mostly involving gang warfare. Some are drive-bys and do not lead to serious injury. Others are outright assassinations.
In June, three innocent people were killed in what are believed to be gang-involved shootings. Two were teenagers, whose families say they had no involvement in drugs or gangs. The third involved a nurse at Peace Arch Hospital, who was killed in the driveway of his Clayton home. These shootings deeply affected many.
Gill’s call for a ban was followed almost immediately by the resignation of Coun. Dave Woods from the ruling Surrey First party. Gill now only has two incumbent Surrey First councillors – first-termers Mike Starchuk and Vera Lefranc – running with him. Two others are retiring, and two others have left the party.
Woods did not say if he was planning to run again. However, he unleashed a blistering attack on Surrey First’s governing methods.
“I stayed with Surrey First because I was assured there would be a new culture and attitude on the team, one of consultation and team input into decisions and the platform,” Woods said. “I cannot support a team leader who doesn’t value or seek consultation of team members who have experience in areas where he does not. I have no confidence the movement towards a more open, collaborative, and transparent culture within the party will exist.”
His comments are the strongest indication yet of the tight discipline and lack of team collaboration practised by outgoing Surrey First Mayor Linda Hepner. This has rarely been obvious in the past 3½ years since Hepner and eight Surrey First councillors took office, but it did show in the lack of public debate and in far too many 9-0 votes. No Surrey First councillor dared to take a different tack on a major issue.
Woods, a former RCMP officer, believes a handgun ban only penalizes law-abiding gun owners and does nothing to restrict the flow of illegal handguns from the United States.
“Such a wholesale ban would have little effect to decrease gang violence in our community,” he said.
Gill said Surrey First candidates (few of whom have been publicly revealed) met on Aug. 21 to discuss platform issues and came to an agreement on the call for the handgun ban.
Surrey First, along with the Safe Surrey Coalition slate headed by former mayor Doug McCallum, and the Integrity Now slate headed by Coun. Bruce Hayne, are all gradually revealing their candidates, with both Hayne and McCallum indicating last week that it was unlikely a handgun ban would have much impact on gang violence.
Proudly Surrey council candidate Stuart Parker said Gill’s comments are typical election fare – “speaking about issues completely outside of your jurisdiction.”
Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for the Now-Leader. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org