A rendering of Surrey’s planned LRT line. (Photo: surrey.ca)

A rendering of Surrey’s planned LRT line. (Photo: surrey.ca)

YEAR IN REVIEW: Surrey stories with ‘legs’ in 2018

No more LRT, RCMP contract clipped, election fraud, Trudeau’s unwanted guest, 135A St and peacocks

While we always aim to write stories worth remembering, there are those that especially stand out.

There is of course an element of subjectivity as to what constitutes a memorable story. Some appear elsewhere in this issue of the Now-Leader, and those presented below by no means comprise an exhaustive list. That said, here are six stories that certainly “had legs,” as they say, in 2018.

It’s an issue that’s been knocked about for many years, but 2018 saw the nature of the relationship between this city and the RCMP – our police force since May 1, 1951 – come to a head.

The catalyst is Doug McCallum, who served as Surrey’s mayor from 1996 to 2005 when he was defeated by Dianne Watts.

Before July, when McCallum announced his intention to reclaim the mayor’s seat in the Oct. 20 civic election, the idea of Surrey forming its own police force was little more than a side issue courting some conjecture. Within a matter of months, facilitated by his election, with eight of nine council seats now occupied by his Safe Surrey Coalition, McCallum was in a position to bring this issue to the fore.

The very night the new council was sworn in, on Nov. 5, it served notice to higher levels of government the city will end its contract with Canada’s largest RCMP detachment to set up a new city force within two years, an ambitious deadline to say the least.

homelessphoto

Mounties in red serge. (Photo: Dan Ferguson)

The impact this epic transition will have on Surrey, in terms of economy, public safety and sheer scope of the undertaking will be generating headlines for years to come. An RCMP-related transition of this scale is unprecedented. Terry Waterhouse, the bureaucrat tasked with overseeing it, told the Now-Leader that “a police-in-transition of this size has not happened before in Canada.”

The move has both champions and critics, but few are riding the fence.

READ ALSO: Policing in Surrey — what exactly is the plan?

Another issue that came to came to a boil this year was the ending of Surrey First’s pet project, light rail transit, again on the night of McCallum’s swearing in.

He instead intends to expand SkyTrain in Surrey to Langley. His old rival Watts, at her State of the City Address in March 2012, dismissed this as “far too expensive” and further, a bad idea as it would slice through Green Timbers forest, Surrey’s Agricultural Land Reserve, and cut “right through the middle” of Fleetwood’s town centre.

Building light rail transit in comparison, she argued, would be “cost effective and efficient.”

homelessphoto

A rendering of Surrey’s once-planned LRT line. (Image: surrey.ca)

Watts did not seek re-election as mayor, embarking instead on a successful campaign to become the Tory MP for South Surrey-White Rock.

Her Surrey First successor, Linda Hepner, defeated McCallum in 2014 for the mayor’s seat and picked up the LRT torch from Watts, promising to see it through.

What followed was months and years of acrimonious public debate on the virtues and failings of SkyTrain versus LRT while Hepner and the Surrey First-dominated council increasingly took flak for its adamantine stance on seeing LRT through regardless of public dissent.

By this past June, the city’s vision for LRT had expanded to a spiders’ web of LRT lines, up to 150 kilometres’ worth, running through this city. Many years of dramatic build-up was effectively erased within minutes on Nov. 5, in the form of a motion council approved to abandon LRT in favour of SkyTrain. How McCallum and the Safe City Coalition fare in this high-stakes turnaround favouring SkyTrain expansion represents a story that will “have legs” for years to come.

READ ALSO ZYTARUK: Surrey’s dynastic approach to light rail

Another especially memorable story in 2018 was, and still is, the Surrey RCMP’s investigation into widespread election fraud involving the city’s South Asian community connected with October’s civic election, spurred by Surrey anti-gang grassroots organization Wake Up Surrey lodging a complaint in late September alleging vote buying, misuse of absentee ballots and a scheme to solicit registered voters to fill out mail-in voting forms with a total target of 15,000 eligible voters.

READ ALSO: Surrey’s chief election officer assures voters integrity of elections process is intact

READ ALSO OUR VIEW: Fraud answers must come quickly

Surrey’s Chief Election Officer Anthony Capuccinello Iraci, who raised his own concerns with police, set out to assure voters the integrity of the elections process remained intact.

“The deputy chief election officer and I had sufficient cause to suspect unlawful activity associated with the mail ballot voting process,” he told reporters.

homelessphoto

Surrey’s Chief Election Officer Anthony Capuccinello Iraci. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Sukhi Sandhu, a leader of Wake Up Surrey, told the Now-Leader a “certain element in our community seems to think political participation is a ticket to financial wealth. Well maybe in the Third World it’s like that; not in Canada.”

Political candidates rallied during the election campaign to condemn election fraud.

McCallum was one of them.

“I think it’s terrible; it affects our whole democratic system,” he said a few weeks before election day. “To think who in the world would do something like that is really disturbing. I certainly would encourage the RCMP to move very quickly on this and try to get to the bottom,” he said.

“It’s important that the people of Surrey find out who’s behind this. It’s critical, and it just makes me sick to my stomach that somebody would ever do this in a campaign.”

Roughly a week before the election, Surrey Mounties said 67 of 73 vote-by-mail applications they’d examined were fraudulent but investigators had not found evidence linking any political candidate or slate to it. They also interviewed two “persons of interest” and said more investigation is required to determine if charges under the Criminal Code or Local Government Act are warranted.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” Sergeant Chad Greig said Friday, Dec. 28. “It’s still under investigation — no update.”

Meantime, in February Surrey was dragged into international news after a Sikh extremist found guilty of trying to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister in 1986 was invited to attend a reception with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in India. The request for an invite went through Liberal MP Randeep Sarai’s constituency office in Surrey.

READ ALSO EXCLUSIVE: Surrey MP Randeep Sarai speaks out for the first time since Atwal controversy

READ ALSO: Former B.C. premier decries ‘religionization’ of Canadian politics

READ ALSO ZYTARUK: What other costumes has Mr. Trudeau in his tickle trunk?

Jaspal Atwal was photographed posing with the prime minister’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, as well as Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Sonia Sidhu, Liberal MP for Brampton South.

As a result Sarai, MP for Surrey Centre, stepped down as chair of the Liberal Pacific Caucus.

Atwal in an unrelated matter is expected to be tried in June 2019 on a charge of uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, stemming from an incident alleged to have occurred on April 23, 2018 in Surrey.

This past year also saw what many thought to be the unachievable in Whalley — the removal of Tent Row on 135A Street. This story of human suffering along this crime-ridden strip of road, which was populated with drug addicts and the homeless camped out there, dates back well before McCallum’s first tour as mayor. In 2003, he had street barriers set up to block traffic from accessing the street between 106th and 108th Avenues.

After years of hand-wringing by politicians, police intervention, social work and paramedics saving people from fatally overdosing on drugs, authorities in June cleared out roughly 80 tents occupied by an estimated 173 people from the sidewalk, relocating many of them to modular housing units and shelters nearby.

The verdict is still out on whether this move is a permanent fix or if the human tragedy will re-manifest itself on 135A.

OUR VIEW: Memories of the ‘strip’ still fresh

OUR VIEW: Applause earned for Surrey strip cleanup, but too early to claim victory

Our sixth most memorable story, though on a much lighter note, also involves the controversial occupation of a neighbourhood — by peacocks, in Sullivan Heights.

OUR VIEW: Surrey peacock chaos for the birds

SIMPSON: Peacock problems dragged on far too long in Surrey

READ ALSO: Mr. Peacock from Iowa willing to take Surrey under his wing

The peacocks had been roosting there for about a decade; refugees, as it were, from a hobby farm that closed down.

Their presence set neighbour against neighbour, with some delighting in the colourful exotic birds and others fed up with their noise, mess, and damaging of parked vehicles.

A peacock expert from Iowa who helped Hugh Hefner deal with some problem birds at the Playboy Mansion in California said he’d help Surrey for a fee.

Dennis Fett, aka Mr. Peacock, charges $1,500 a day plus expenses for his services. But the City of Surrey — which had looked to Florida and Hawaii for advice — did not take him up on his offer.

In June city council determined to have the 100-or-so birds caught and relocated to the Surrey Animal Resource Centre — with trapping set to commence this past September.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram  and follow Tom on Twitter

SurreyYEAR 2018Year in Review

Just Posted

Old trucks are seen in the yard at the B.C. Vintage Truck Museum in Cloverdale June 14, 2021. The Museum is reopening June 19 after a seven-month COVID closure. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Cloverdale’s truck museum to reopen

B.C. Vintage Truck Museum set to open its doors June 19

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Surrey council to consider $7.3 million contract for street paving projects tonight

A city staff report recommends Lafarge Canada Inc. be awarded $7,326,667.95 for 15 road projects in North Surrey and one in South Surrey

Luc Bruchet (left), shown here competing at the 2016 Olympics, went under the Olympic qualifying standard in the 5,000-m at the Harry Jerome International Track Classic last weekend in Burnaby. (Laci Perenyi/Sportphoto photo)
Personal-best run launches South Surrey runner back in Olympic contention

At Harry Jerome Classic, Luc Bruchet hits Olympic standard in men’s 5,000-m

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

Most Read