Politics can be a messy business. Sometimes figurative, and sometimes literal.
Surrey Liberal MP Randeep Sarai has seen both. Earlier this year, he found himself in the middle of a controversy over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s junket to India.
This week, it’s about junk.
Whalley residents raised a stink about garbage left behind following the MP for Surrey Centre’s third annual summer community BBQ, attended by more than 500 people this past Saturday afternoon in Holland Park, near the corner of 98B Avenue and 134th Street.
Sarai, who was in an emergency Citizen and Immigration Committee meeting in Ottawa on Monday, told the Now-Leader his family cleaned up the trash after he received a complaint on Twitter from someone named Gian Pandher.
“I had to fly to Ottawa but my kids and family went and cleaned it up,”a contrite Sarai told the Now-Leader Monday. “I was notified yesterday afternoon that either animals or someone else ripped open the garbage bags that were left beside the waste bins and a mess was made.
“My family, including my children, immediately went out and cleaned it up as I was en route to the airport.”
Randeep Sarai, Liberal MP for Surrey Centre. (File photo)
Sarai said he had a city permit for the picnic and says the city told him to put all garbage beside the waste bins and that they will pick it up.
He said the park was left clean on Saturday.
“Our staff picked up all the garbage, bagged it, and put the bags of garbage next to the waste bins already in the park,” Sarai told the Now-Leader. “My staff thought the city collects the garbage from there. However, someone – or something, raccoons – tore the bags apart and threw everything out and left them on the grounds.”
Local resident Barbara Tessier called it “a disgrace.”
“I was disgusted. It was their paper plates all over the place, because the crows of course ripped everything apart,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that somebody would leave that amount of garbage in the park. I mean, if you have a picnic in the park you don’t go and overflow the garbage cans and then dump everything around.”
If anybody else did that, Tessier said, they’d be fined.
Dawn Mattson, also a Whalley resident, said it was “Not the best example from one of our leaders.”
Mattson said garbage was still left behind Sunday, leaving “a feast for the crows.”
“It started out as a beautiful day with them having a nice meet-and-greet picnic there in the park,” Mattson said of Sarai’s community BBQ. “That was Saturday morning, and then Sunday morning when I went for my walk all the garbage was left there, and the crows were just having a heyday.”
Mattson told the Now-Leader that she “was a fundraiser for years and did a lot of carnivals and stuff at the local parks, especially Whalley Ball Park.
“The city made sure that no matter what we did, we had to make sure we took all our garbage with us, not leave it behind,” she recalled. “We had to take our own garbage and dispose of it; we were not allowed to leave it in the garbage cans at the parks.”
“We just found it very odd,” she said, “that a Liberal leader or a party leader of some sort from the city would leave that stuff behind because I know we would have got fined if it was us doing that when we had our fundraisers and our local things that we did with the children of the community.
If crows could vote: Trash in Holland Park from MP’s barbecue party. (Photo: Dawn Mattson)
“If it was you or me or any average joe, we’re not allowed to leave our garbage behind,” Mattson said. “Somebody needs to address this.”
So has, or will, MP Sarai be fined for the trash dump in Holland Park?
“The quick answer would be no.”
That’s from Richard Ryan, Surrey’s acting manager of parks, recreation and culture. He said Sarai was issued a permit, and according to it the event area needed to be kept tidy throughout the day and “all litter generated from the event must be picked up and removed from the site.” Moreover, the clean-up “must be completed immediately” following the event, “including all supplies, equipment and garbage.”
Trash in Holland Park after MP’s event. (Photo: Barbara Tessier)
“Apparently they weren’t able to keep on top of the number of people they had there,” Ryan said. “We didn’t receive any complaints through the bylaw office and the city didn’t incur any costs as a result of this.”
The city didn’t have to send out a crew to clean up, Ryan noted Monday afternoon. “Typically in those cases we would bill the group for cost recovery. We wouldn’t be fining them as such, we would just simply be trying to recover our costs but in this case we didn’t have any costs and I’ve had a number of staff visit the site this morning and it’s all been cleaned up.
“We don’t tend to take a punitive approach with these groups,” he said. “We have lots and lots of events in our parks and the number of cases where we’re trying to recover from groups is quite small, really.”
MP’s trash in Holland Park. (Photo: Barbara Tessier)