(Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Surrey business groups dig in heels on LRT

Mayor-elect Doug McCallum and his coalition aim to cancel LRT in favour of extending SkyTrain

Asked what he thinks of Surrey’s civic election results, there’s a long pause.

Philip Aguirre, executive director of Newton Business Association, is weighing his words.

“Luckily, your newspaper and my long pauses don’t show on live radio or TV,” he chuckles. “We were literally just saying about 30 seconds ago about what my actual action plan was going to be. Was it going to be vocal, supportive, a wait-and-see?”

Vocal it is.

The Newton BIA, which represents 386 Newton businesses, has been supporting light rail transit for “the last five years of our existence, the belief is that LRT was going to be a huge revitalization project for Newton, and when we put that in jeopardy I feel like Newton is going to be negatively impacted by investment dollars going to a different community.”

Doug McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition, which will dominate the new council following Saturday’s election, aim to replace the Surrey RCMP with a city police force and nix light rail transit in favour of extending the SkyTrain line further into Surrey, from the city centre through Fleetwood and Clayton, into Langley.

“The Newton community has been waiting a long time for revitalization, and I worry that this is going to delay that process again.

“In 1994 rapid transit came to Surrey and Newton was promised then that they would be next because of the population, because 146,000 people live in Newton,” Aguirre said.

“Newton’s larger than Langley, and to bypass Newton again I think would delay the process of really revitalizing the community and that’s a concern for the Newton BIA.”

“For the mayor of Surrey to be investing in infrastructure to another city, the city of Langley, I believe that we should be putting Surrey first,” he added.

“In the Newton BIA we are less concerned about the development of Langley and we’re more concerned about how are we going to build the community within the city of Surrey.”

Meantime, Surrey’s new council-elect and the Surrey Board of Trade do not see eye-to-eye on some big issues.

On Monday morning the board of trade sent out a press release indicating it will continue to advocate for LRT, the RCMP and ridesharing “despite” the election results.

“I think they will have to be open for dialogue as public servants of the city, so they just can’t ignore other perspectives,” its CEO, Anita Huberman, told the Now-Leader.

McCallum doesn’t want ridesharing or Uber in Surrey.

“We are such huge advocates at the board of trade for ridesharing alternative transportation solutions, but also having a level playing field for our taxi industry at the same time, which is what our current position articulates.”

On the matter of policing in Surrey, Huberman said, “We want the RCMP to stay in Surrey. There’s no evidence a municipal police force will reduce the gang activity.”

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