SURREY – With two weeks left before Surrey votes, some are wondering about the level of commitment from the seven mayoral candidates.
Outgoing Mayor Dianne Watts said she would serve nine years when she was first elected, so the Now decided to see what, if any, term commitments the current crop of mayoral candidates would make.
Candidate Vikram Bajwa promised two terms as Surrey mayor and would actually like to see mayoral terms capped at that length. As for major issues that may take more than one term to complete, he’d like to see Surrey’s RCMP police force replaced with its own municipal force, and implement a ward system (as in Toronto and Edmonton).
"We have a contract with the RCMP for another eight years, I believe, so during these years I would like for us to get our own Surrey police department, similar to the Vancouver Police Department," said Bajwa. "We need a local force made from local people born here in Surrey, that would help us understand our crime, help us understand the multicultural issues and help us curb crime. "Wards are another big issue we have because people in some parts of Surrey are underrepresented. These two things are very important to us as a city, I urge everybody running to consider these matters."
First-time candidate John Edwards said he would be willing to commit to two terms as well, after which he’d like to see more youth get involved with municipal politics.
"I am committed to the youth and committed to moving them along so they can take over the reigns of leadership in the next little while," he said.
Edwards repeated his desire to build a convention centre and a third university in Surrey, although both would likely take more than one term to establish.
"I think we’re missing significant economic activity by not having a convention centre that can compete with Vancouver, Victoria or even Seattle," said Edwards. Surrey First mayoral candidate and current council member Linda Hepner said she would be willing to serve indefinitely, provided she has the support of residents and her health. "No one can commit beyond a single term because no one can determine what the electorate will choose, so we only get to decide term by term," she said.
For long-term issues, Hepner said that although the city will hire more police officers next year, "the issue of public safety is a never-ending issue."
Like Hepner, former mayor Doug McCallum said he too would stay on as long as the citizens of Surrey want him. "I have no short-term plans but it’s up to the public for the next few years."
McCallum said most of what he’s proposed, such as the shuttering of the Surrey City Development Corporation, the hiring of more police officers and improving public safety could "literally be accomplished within two years."
Longer term, McCallum said he wants a fiscally responsible government that runs within its mandate and to create a safe community with jobs for Surrey families.
Coun. Barinder Rasode said she would commit to three terms as mayor, which would give her time to accomplish her goals.
"I think we can judge from Mayor Watts’ three terms in office that to implement a vision, the first term is about laying the groundwork and it’s not until the second or third term that you actually start seeing the results of that," she said. "I think it’s important to give that time commitment."
Rasode said all issues take time to ensure their feasibility and urged voters not to judge based on progress in the first year or two.
Candidate Grant Rice would stay on as long as it would take to see the changes he wants to see made to council, such as electoral reform and the introduction of a ward system. "I think a lot of it will depend on the makeup of council and how willing the people are who are elected on council to work together," he said. "It might require a lot of consensus building and persuasion. Bob Bose never had a majority on council but he was able to accomplish some pretty incredible things whereas the last two mayors we had had absolute control of council and I don’t think that’s a good thing."
John Wolanski, who ran in the previous election as a council candidate, said he’d prefer to see term limits introduced, but would be willing to do two to three terms. His top long-term priority is the city’s social problems, such as homelessness and drug problems.