This story is the first in a series on Surrey’s eight councillors-elect.
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Brenda Locke is nobody’s rookie. She’s lost more elections than she’s won, but her profound tenacity resulted in the veteran Surrey politician topping the polls of all 48 candidates running for councillor, with 40,388 votes, in this past Saturday’s civic election.
It was Locke’s seventh campaign.
They say politics runs in the blood. Asked what politics means to her, Locke didn’t pause a heartbeat.
“Politics, in a very short sentence, means you’re a servant of the people,” she said.
“I really believe that, I really think you’re there to see if you can help design, and fix, and support people so that their lives are just that little bit better in your community.”
Locke will likely be a mentor for her six fellow Safe Surrey Coalition councillors-elect.
“My heart’s concern is the social infrastructure,” Locke said.
“Social planning in Surrey has been a disaster, and I’ll tell you, the part that really floored me is those shelters, the three new shelters they’ve put in because they wanted the people off the street on 135A. All of those shelters close in 14 months — those are non-renewable leases. So in 14 months, the middle of winter 2019, everybody, if they don’t find a location, all of those people are back on the street.
“We’re just not caring for people in need in our city and we have to do a better job. It’s not good enough to take them off the street so you don’t have to have the ballot question for an election be about housing and people on the street.”
The 63-year-old Tynehead resident served as Liberal MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers from 2001 to 2005, having defeated NDP MLA Sue Hammell at the polls. She was minister of state for mental health and addiction service — a “great gift,” she said — until Hammell defeated her in the 2005 provincial election to reclaim the seat. After that, Locke ran unsuccessfully as the Liberals’ MP candidate in Fleetwood-Port Kells in 2006 and 2008, losing twice to Tory incumbent Nina Grewal.
Turning her eyes to civic politics, Locke ran in the 2014 Surrey civic election with the now-defunct TeamSurrey and lost, then tried in 2017 to win the Surrey-Green Timbers seat back for the Liberals, after Hammell retired from politics, and lost to the NDP’s Rachna Singh.
During the 2014 civic election, she noted that Surrey had seen “tremendous growth” but “infrastructure has not kept pace with that growth. Transportation, social services, recreational services and especially policing and public safety need serious and immediate attention.
“We can and must do better.”
That rang through in her latest campaign, with SSC. She also said in 2014, that “For more than a decade, council has been dominated by one-party rule. That is not good for Surrey and our infrastructure deficits are a result.”
Back then, and until recently, council was dominated by Surrey First. Now, it’s dominated by Locke’s group.
How’s she thinking about what she said in 2014 now?
“Good for you,” she laughed, “for putting that to me. That’s funny. The only thing I can say to that, the difference between who we are and who Surrey First is, is we’re a coalition. We’re quite independent, all of us. We did agree with three issues, and those three issues were SkyTrain, moving to a city police force, and smart development. That’s what we agreed to with going into the coalition, but we all were quite independent in our thinking and like I say, my issue is more on social planning, they don’t share that, they don’t even know what I’m talking about, a lot of my colleagues, and so I’m going to spend some time bringing them up to speed on that.”
When she’s not politicking Locke serves on the board of Surrey Urban Mission, and is executive director of the B.C. Massage Therapist Association.
Before entering provincial politics, she was executive director of the BC Liquor Licensee and Retailers Association and was office manager for an outfit called Richmond Association for Children’s Service that ran group homes for troubled children as well as an outreach for kids under 12.
Locke and her husband John have been married for 43 years. They have two daughters, a grandson and a granddaughter.
In the next Now-Leader, we will feature incoming Surrey councillor and longtime community advocate Doug Elford.