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Surrey mayoral candidates take each other to task

Surrey mayoral ‘dialogue’ at Sheraton hotel in Guildford Oct. 10, staged by Surrey Board of Trade
Surrey’s eight mayoral candidates readying to hash it out at Surrey Board of Trade election campaign event at the Sheraton in Guildford on Wednesday night. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Surrey mayoral candidate Bruce Hayne, of Integrity Now, took rival and former running mate Tom Gill to task Wednesday night for “attacking” himself and Doug McCallum with negative ads on social media.

The Surrey Board of Trade staged its Oct. 10 “Surrey Mayor’s Candidates Dialogue” at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel. The candidates had an opportunity to take a jab at one another in the form of a “one on one” question.

Hayne prefaced his to Gill, the mayoral candidate of Surrey First, by saying there’s been a “lot of controversy during the campaign” and a “number of very, very unfortunate allegations have been swirling around with your team.

“You have also come out and attacked me and moreso actually attacked the McCallum team,” Hayne charged, “and I’m just wondering do you think that this is the kind of dialogue that we want to be having leading up to an election and is this the kind of political dialogue and rhetoric that we want to be having leading up to an election?”

Gill replied he wanted “clarity” about the attacks Hayne was referring to.

“I’m not certain what you’re speaking of.”

Hayne rejoined that there’s “negative ads on social media going back and forth, attacking Doug, attacking myself and so on and I’m just wondering if that’s the kind of politics that you think that the city of Surrey wants to engage in?”

“Would you like to elaborate on those ads please?” Gill replied, with some people in the audience of roughly 350 laughing at his response.

“I think it’s important for us to be able to deliver facts and there’s no question there are facts out there, there’s questions that are being asked and we’re looking for answers,” Gill added.

Both Gill and Hayne are serving out their terms as councillors elected under the Surrey First banner.

Earlier in the evening, Gill took a “pass” on a question about crime and public safety. Asked later why he didn’t address the question on the stage, he blamed his blood sugar level.

A sallow-looking Gill said he “wasn’t coherent at that time, my blood sugar had gone right out of control, honest to God that’s what happened to me.

“It’s been a long day, yesterday was a long day, this morning,” he said, adding there’s “no question” he’s finding it tough on the campaign. “My blood sugar is off the radar today.”

Gill claimed he didn’t hear the question. “I passed on the question, yeah.”

Meantime, during the one-on-one questioning, McCallum, of the Safe Surrey Coalition, took the brunt, responding to twice as many as rivals Hayne and Gill.

While nobody levelled one at Pauline Greaves, of Proudly Surrey, she arguably dealt the biggest political smiting of the evening, in her closing comments.

“Mr. McCallum, I do not believe that you will actually be moving Surrey forward,” she remarked. “You sir, your record when you were mayor was absolutely atrocious.”

“You ran Surrey, you ran city hall as if it was your private boys’ club,” she charged.

“This is a city that requires leadership and unless you’ve had training in management and leadership, then you cannot possibly represent this community. We would be going backwards.”

McCallum was Surrey’s mayor from 1996 to 2005.

Rajesh Jayaprakash of People First Surrey asked McCallum about the cost of setting up a new police force to replace the RCMP. McCallum replied a new force will cost more but “our communities are willing to pay a little bit more money to make their communities safe again.”

Independent John Wolanski aimed his question at Hayne, noting his slate is called Integrity Now.

“Now that you and your two councillors have found religion,” he asked, “Is this a case of sheep in wolves’ clothing?”

“I have no problem standing on my voting record,” Hayne replied. “We are about integrity.”

McCallum asked Hayne to explain why, in light of his intention to now “pause” light rail, why he voted to cut down more than 200 trees in Hawthorne Park, “supposedly for light rail.”

Hayne said the city needs more “east-west connectivity” and “while it was not a pleasant and easy decision to make, I believe on balance it was one that is going to serve the city well and one that was unfortunately necessary to do at the time.”

Gill asked McCallum how he’s going to pay for getting “rid of” the RCMP, free parking at Surrey Memorial Hospital and City Hall, and putting SkyTrain to Langley. McCallum said there’s “very little net revenue that come to the city” through parking, that people are willing to pay “a little bit more for public safety,” and a SkyTrain extention can be built with $1.65 billion that has been committed by the federal government.

Imtiaz Popat of Progressive Sustainable Surrey, asked McCallum why he wants to “force a concrete highway,” meaning SkyTrain, through Green Timbers. McCallum said the construction costs of building rapid transit lines “drop dramatically” when you don’t have to have an elevated line.

Independent Francois Nantel asked Gill about LRT, and why he thinks that’s a better idea than Nantel’s proposal to build a suspended rail system. Gill replied, “I have no technical experience or expertise when it comes to the technical choice that you are proposing. I know very little about that particular transportation alternative. No one’s ever mentioned it to me.”

Greaves asked McCallum why the audience should believe him about saving greenspace and farmland “given that under your watch, the current development and the spread of the urban spread started under your watch, why should be believe you?”

McCallum replied that Surrey has “evolved” over the past 15 years and development has accelerated. He thinks Surrey’s “at the stage now where we need to halt development and we have to allow the infrastructure, through smart development, to allow the infrastructure to catch up to that development.”

“Surrey’s at the stage now where we need to halt development and look at building our infrastructure up to catch up to that, including schools, hospitals, playing fields and parks and rec,” McCallum said.

The first question of the night, asked of all candidates, was to provide a job description for the office of mayor of Surrey.

Chairman of the board of the board of a billion dollar corporation, was Popat’s reply.

Wolanski held up a press clipping of late Surrey MP Chuck Cadman, an independent politician who in 2005 held the balance of power in a critical confidence vote in the House of Commons.

“We should be conducting people’s business, not giving them the business,” Wolanski told the audience.

Meanwhile, McCallum said Surrey has a “very large debt” of $293 million and “very little in cash reserves.” If elected, he said, his Safe Surrey Coalition will aim to hold taxes to, at maximum, the Consumer Price Index.

Asked how he would reduce the perception of corruption, Wolanski said if elected mayor he would look at the issue but said it’s a difficult issue to comment on in the absence of hard evidence. “You’ve got to realize there’s honest people there,” he said of city hall.

Gill said he would launch a mayor’s task force on communication toward improving it between city hall and residents. Hayne said his group would set up an ombudsperson position, at an arm’s length from the mayors’ office, to improve transparency and accountability. Greaves said as mayor she would “make sure all information is shared, when required.

Said Popat, “Everybody knows city hall doesn’t listen — you need to listen to the people. We need to change things.”

On the future of agriculture in Surrey, Hayne said “we need to protect farmland,” Gill noted that one-third of Surrey’s land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve and the city needs to make sure it can be properly irrigated and farmed. Nantel questions why more ALR land is not being farmed. “If I were mayor I’d look into that very seriously,” he said.

Meantime, a CBC debate that featured three of the mayoral hopefuls (Hayne, Gill and McCallum) is being criticized by some of the other candidates in the Surrey election.

The Proudly Surrey slate took to Twitter to express their angst that the team’s mayoral candidate Pauline Greaves wasn’t able to attend the CBC’s mayoral debate on Oct. 9.

Supporters and candidates stood outside Newton Cultural Centre with Greaves’ signs, in a protest of her exclusion.

Greaves told the Now-Leader she was “uninvited” after initially receiving an invite from CBC.

“I was uninvited, last minute,” said Greaves. “When it was originally scheduled, the lady that was working on it sent me an email, and I responded and said yes. Then she went on vacation and somebody took it over…. That’s when this past week we found out, just before the long weekend, we found out I’m no longer invited.”

CBC responded to Proudly Surrey’s complaints on Twitter, sharing a link to their criteria for selecting debate candidates.

On its website, CBC stated that given the number of mayoral candidates running in municipalities across the province, they are “unable to include all of them in our on-air debates.”

CBC stated it would invite candidates on a combination of criteria “to provide our audience with the most meaningful municipal broadcast debates possible.”

Inclusionary criteria included incumbents or mayoral candidates representing incumbent parties; candidates who have held past elected office; candidates with demonstrated civic engagement experienced as evidenced by work with a civic electoral organization or inclusion on a city committee; those with demonstrated voter support based on polling results; candidates with defined platforms on a substantive array of civic issues or whose electoral organizations are running a comprehensive slate of candidates; and broadcast considerations around airtime and debate format.

READ ALSO: Surrey’s mayoral candidates civil at the Civic in Whalley

READ ALSO OUR VIEW: Surrey voters want results not rhetoric from their candidates

Greaves isn’t convinced.

“Incumbents? There’s a former mayor, and no incumbent mayors,” said Greaves. “The two other candidates, they might be incumbent council, but they are not incumbent mayors. To use that as a criteria, I thought was really disingenuous of CBC.”

She added: “I thought they could’ve done a better job with selection. I thought the very least they could’ve done is include the only female running, and that I was already asked to participate, then I was uninvited? That was pretty low of CBC.”

Following Tuesday evening’s debate, a second candidate took issue with not getting an invitation.

“CBC has no right to tell voters who to vote for,” said Imtiaz Popat, mayoral candidate for Progressive Sustainable Surrey, adding he plans to file a complaint.

Requests for comment from CBC’s Head of Public Relations Katherine Wolfgang and Public Relations Team Lead Simon Bassett have not yet been returned.

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