ELECTION: Council candidates talk casinos, safe injection site

SURREY — Surrey’s councillor hopefuls found focus on business and social issues during the third all-candidates meeting at the Surrey Board of Trade Wednesday (Oct. 29).

While some points were repeated from earlier meetings, the topics allowed candidates to offer viewpoints on new issues. Due to the format of the event, all candidates were not required to speak to all questions but were instead able to pick which questions they answered.

Candidates were asked if they would support any form of expanded gambling in the City of Surrey in lieu of the current council rejecting a proposed South Surrey casino in early 2013.

Surrey First incumbent Coun. Mary Martin has not changed her mind since voting against the proposal, adding the city is already surrounded by communities with casinos.

“I think we have enough casinos, there’s enough availability for people who want to go and have their fun,” she said. “I just will not support any more casinos in City of Surrey, Fraser Downs is a great facility and big enough for our city.”

Independent Nav Dhanoya cited Langley as being the only debt-free city in the region for one reason, a casino.

“Cascades pays $5.5 million every year in taxes to Langley. Is that a good thing? Half the people say it’s good, the other half say they don’t want it, so what should we do?” he asked. “Do you want to pay all the taxes?”

Mike Bose of One Surrey said he was not a gambler nor did he want to see it expanded in Surrey.

“I don’t believe in gambling, I’m a turkey farmer and that’s gambling enough for me,” he said.

Bose opposes gambling in Cloverdale as well and said all of the promises that it would have enhanced the racing experience there have fallen short.

“It’s a destination thing, so let’s keep Vegas, Vegas and Surrey, Surrey,” he said.

Touraj Ghanbar-Zedah said he was flat-out opposed to gambling and would do everything he could to stop it from expanding in Surrey.

“I think gambling is really a despicable way of preying on honourable people,” he added.

Cliff Blair said having met the owners of various casinos, he would not be in support of bringing more gambling to Surrey.

“They (casino owners) don’t live here. They live in other parts of eastern Canada, the U.S. or China,” he said. “What bothers me most about this gaming thing is that we were sold the idea of gaming so our young people could have hockey teams and football teams and they would contribute to that. Have you seen that? The money doesn’t go where it was promised, it goes to the big pockets in eastern Canada. We have what we have. Let’s leave it at that.”

The second unique topic of the night was bringing a supervised safe injection site to Surrey.

One Surrey’s Khal Dosanjh said as a Downtown Eastside beat cop, he’s seen first-hand how a safe injection site works.

“As much as we don’t want this in our backyard, recovery is important,” he said, detailing the positives of the clinic.

Dhanoya, himself a bylaw officer with the City of Langley, said he’s come across addicts who have overdosed in parks and other public areas and said Surrey needs a safe injection site.

“This is reality, this is the real world we live in and we need this to help people,” he said.

Blair said there was no such thing as a “safe injection site,” as putting any chemicals in the body should not be considered “safe.”

“Abstinence is the only way to detox from drugs,” said Blair. “Giving people a free space to do their thing is not appropriate.”

Other questions from the meeting surrounded the issues of crime, transportation and homelessness, much of which had been covered at the previous two nights’ meetings

Twitter: @QuestionChris



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