Surrey is a one-party town, with Surrey First and its allied Surrey First Education slate winning all seats on council and the six Surrey seats on the board of education in Saturday’s election.
The potent effect of endorsements from outgoing mayor Dianne Watts and the well-oiled campaign machine ensured that Surrey First and Surrey First Education candidates mowed down anything in their path, with decisive victories. No one else came close.
Rina Gill of the Safe Surrey Coalition came ninth in the race for the eight council seats. She was more than 8,000 votes behind eighth-place candidate Vera LeFranc, one of three newcomers on the Surrey First slate to be elected. Also elected for the first time were Dave Woods and Mike Starchuk.
In the trustee race, incumbent Charlene Dobie finished ninth, but was more than 24,000 votes behind the sixth-place Surrey First Education winner, former councillor Gary Tymoschuk.
Linda Hepner won almost 50 per cent of the votes and crushed her main rivals Doug McCallum and Barinder Rasode to win the mayor’s chair, and more than 100,000 people voted, which is almost certainly a record.
Hepner has vowed to get to work immediately on dealing with crime, the main thing on Surrey voters’ minds. She said Monday she will appoint a general manager of public safety at city hall – a long-overdue step which ensures that council hears from more than just the head of Surrey RCMP on crime-related issues. A more cohesive and comprehensive approach to crime issues is necessary. There must also be continued lobbying of federal and provincial representatives to help deal with issues such as mental health, long-term offenders and halfway and drug recovery houses.
She is also vowing to have at least part of an ambitious LRT line built by the time the next election rolls around in 2018. The first phase will connect Whalley to Newton, with another leg to extend along 104 Avenue between Whalley and Guildford. While this project is part of the ambitious list presented by Metro Vancouver mayors to be funded through new taxes, if a TransLink referendum proposed for next year passes, Hepner said the project will go ahead even if the referendum fails.
She cited the possibility of getting private sector funding and a federal infrastructure grant.
Given that Watts will almost certainly be elected as a Conservative MP in the October federal election, if the Conservatives win the election, that grant may indeed be coming.
There is no doubt that transportation issues must get significant attention. Surrey cannot continue to grow without the inadequate transit offered in the city being addressed.
TransLink has been hampered by lack of funding and if the referendum passes, it should be able to expand bus service in Surrey quickly. The LRT lines will take longer to build.
SkyTrain advocates oppose LRT, saying it will not be a great deal faster than driving a car. They are correct, but if LRT is used for trips within Surrey, speed isn’t really the issue. SkyTrain is not used for trips within Surrey, except by very few people. LRT, on the other hand, would be and would take a significant number of cars off the road.
Study after study shows that most trips within Surrey involve driving, because of inadequate transit. LRT has the potential to change that.
Hepner and her Surrey First teammates on council have a lot of work to do in the next four years.
Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader