ZYTARUK: With Watts as crimefighting ally, Hepner’s only obstacle is denial

Zytaruk

So let it be written…

This year could prove to be a pivotal one on Surrey’s crime front. At the very least, we should learn to a moral certainty what a couple of our local politicians are really made of; namely the mayor and former mayor. But before that can happen, two things must occur.

The first, being Dianne Watts’ election as Conservative MP for South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale in October. This is likely to happen, if historical trends continue, considering a conservative in some form or other has held the seat since Progressive Conservative MP Benno Friesen’s days, and he was MP for 18 years.

The second thing is for the Tories to win yet another shot at government.

Watts, at least at the civic level, proved herself to be a force to be reckoned with in opposition, having set about mayor Doug McCallum with hammer and tongs before inevitably defeating him as an independent candidate for the mayor’s chair back in 2005.

Notably, she rallied during that campaign for better co-operation between Surrey and senior levels of government to deal with crime on this city’s streets (the Now, Oct. 8, 2005, page four).

"People don’t feel that their voices or concerns are heard at city hall," Watts said at the time of McCallum’s government.

"That’s wrong. We need to make people feel that mayor and council are listening."

As mayor, Watts found herself on the receiving end of similar slings and arrows, as did her successor Linda Hepner last week after a news outlet protested she refused to speak about local shootings and instead deferred comment to the Surrey RCMP.

Anyway, the possibility of MP Watts, in a Conservative federal government, working in tandem with a Surrey mayor and council that consider her the professor emeritus of their slate, Surrey First, is intriguing indeed.

Such a scenario would harken back to the days of Surrey mayor Bob Bose’s Surrey Civic Electors slate, which was a local government extension of the provincial New Democrat government in the 1990s, working alongside said provincial government.

Not long ago, Watts was widely considered to be a strong potential contender for Premier of B.C. But if elected to a Tory federal government, would she rise above backbencher?

If elected MP, Watts and her former council running mates could theoretically present a formidable voice for Surrey in Ottawa, and more so if she finds herself sitting on the government side of the House.

That said, it would be more than interesting to see if Watts, if sent to Ottawa in the fall, will be able to distinguish herself from the party toadies.

And if she can, and does, distinguish herself, will her voice be heeded in Ottawa or humoured as simply another yawp from the Wild West?

Let’s hope it’s the former.

Also, much would depend on Hepner and her council’s willingness to admit Surrey does have a crime problem that needs fixing

For many decades, Surrey has been divided into two camps – relentless community boosters versus those who only see the city’s social ills. It’s the dichotomy of Surrey. Both camps speak a different language. For decades, these two forces have been grinding against one another like continental plates.

Clearly, Hepner resides in the booster’s camp, which is all great. But for her city government to make real strides in curbing crime here in Surrey, with a canny MP Watts as ally, she and council must first be willing to admit, without reservation, that a crime problem does indeed exist.

…So let it be done.

Tom Zytaruk is a staff writer with the Now. He can be reached via email at tzytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

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