“While there are some concerns about safety after dark in the city as a whole, most people feel quite safe in their own neighbourhoods. “
– Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts responding to a 2007 Crime Survey in which 71% of respondents said they don’t feel safe at night. Diane Watts believes it’s a case of perception over reality, with Surrey residents responding to the city’s cliched image of a crime-plagued municipality and not actual fact.
Upon sitting down to my computer this morning, I opened the link to the online edition of the Province and immediately spotted this headline:
” Mayors meet to map out action plan on gang violence” http://www.theprovince.com/news/Mayors+meet+action+plan+gang+violence/1303679/story.html
Great, I think, more meetings. More talk. More smoke blowing in the wind. That is exactly what we need right now, Dianne Watts hosting more meetings, affecting her ‘very concerned mayor’ look for the cameras. Of course she is concerned!
The violence that has (and is) happening in Surrey doesn’t exactly jive with the image she is trying to present to the public and the media.
The quote above clearly shows how far removed she is from the residents she represents, and I don’t want a letter from her supporters who like to talk about her landslide victory. When only half of the population turns out to vote, that is hardly a landslide victory.
From reading the comments below the article link above, it is shockingly clear that I am not the only one in Surrey tired of the political bravado being tossed about lately. Other Surrey residents are starting to pay attention to the political scene here, a move which I applaud wholeheartedly, because only when we demand accountability as a whole will the status quo change.
Although the gangs are here among us 24/7, all the time, the violence seems to come in spurts – the last period of intensity dating back to late 2007 and early 2008. I travelled back to that time via the wonder of the internet through which news items and stories remain forever as if forged in stone. Politicians must hate the fact that their past promises and quotes remain floating around the net, just waiting to come back and haunt them. The quote above from Dianne Watts is a prime example of that. It highlights just how far removed from the average citizens reality she is.
But, I was able to find some gems from Gordon Campbell and Wally Oppal as well. Read on, my friends, and soon you will see why it costs so much money to get nothing done in BC…
Let’s start with a Macleans interview done with Gordon Campbell after a period of gang violence in the lower mainland – last year . http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20080508_130247_3640
When you read it, without looking at the date, you would think this interview was done yesterday. I would advise him to hire a new communications person, because he seems to be using the same lines now, that he was back then.
One portion of this interview really stood out for me:
“And, as I say, they will do whatever they can to have their way and ignore the law and create damage.
I think that we have be just as relentless and just as focused and try to protect our communities, our values and the quality of life ”
– Gordon Campbell, May 2008
Campbell is referring to the dedication these gangs have to violence and criminality in BC, which is an international centre for the drug trade. But think again, this interview was done in May 2008.
Obviously,Campbell and Oppal completely dropped the ball on this one. One would question if they ever had the ball in hand? Just what happened since that last period of intense violence dating back to 2007, when 6 people where shot in a penthouse in North Surrey? Can you guess ?
Ahh, that’s right! You have it!
Let us move on now, to another gem I found.
This particular article from CBC was done in November 2007 : http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2007/11/07/bc-gangsolutions.html
Back then, Dianne Watts was calling for changes. She did all the requisite PR photo opps. She appeared righteously angered and outraged at the horrific violence.
So did Wally Oppal.
And Premier Gordon Campbell.
One would think such powerful and respected politicians could channel all this outrage and anger and get something tangible done, would you not?
But alas, nothing constructive arose from any of those meetings or press opps. It was just more political bravado for the cameras.
In fact, it would appear that all the same politicians are still talking about all the same problems – nearly two years later.
How could all of these fine politicians let this one go when the violence died down? Did they think the criminals left BC? Did they think that maybe it wouldn’t happen again, and that we , the people, would just forget about it?
Let’s take a closer look at the man we call Attorney-General, Wally Oppal.
This fellow just put forth a budget that demonstrates lofty goals for improving public confidence in the justice system in BC.
He plans to do this by decreasing the time to wait for trials, and by increasing the number of cases processed – all while cutting his own budget to court services.
How he plans to do that, I don’t know. Read this budget yourself – a teenager can see the mockery it makes of his office. http://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2009/sp/pdf/ministry/ag.pdf
Two years ago, Attorney General Wally Oppal had this to say about gang violence:
“ Gang members “clearly” seem to think there aren’t any consequences for committing crimes, and that impression needs to change.
I think some of the sentences at the early stages of some of the careers of these people who turn out to be gang leaders may have to be stiffened because we see cases where a person, the fourth, fifth, sixth time around, still gets a suspended sentence, I think maybe in those circumstances we have to get tougher with those people so that they get a message. ” – Wally Oppal, November 7th, 2007
So what happened with that thought, Wally?
Where did all your political bravado get us?
To the following bit of insanity:
“ The people need to know the streets are safe.” – Wally Oppal, February 4th, 2009
Then, a mere 6 days later, Wally Oppal flip-flopped and was forced to appeal to the public for help in curbing the violence on the same streets he had just insisted were safe, saying:
“ We’re very concerned, very, very concerned with what’s going on. ” http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20090210/BC_gang_violence_090210/20090210/?hub=BritishColumbiaHome
Gordon Campbell then chimed in with this bit of shocked anger( obviously forgetting that he told Maclean’s just last year( see link above) that he was focused and vigilant in his attention to gang violence in BC) :
“I think this is just not something any of us ever imagined would take place in Canada. We’ve got to do whatever we can to stop it.” -Gordon Campbell, February 1oth, 2009
Which leads us back to the start of this blog post, the latest meeting hosted by media darling, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts.
Two years later she has done nothing more to curb gang violence in her city than she did back then, other than talk.
She talks on CKNW, she talks to the Province, The Sun, the Now and the Leader… and once again, I suspect nothing will come from all of this other than she can say she what she has been saying all along – that she asked for help, but didn’t get it, and municipalities can not be asked to carry the burden of the cost or the work.
This is how I see it:
Clearly, the only time anything constructive gets done is right before an election,when vying for the approval of the voting masses becomes the bloodsport of choice among politicians. The fear of losing those (still cushy despite the recession) expense accounts or the reins of power are powerful motivators to appease the people. The upcoming election is the only tool the average citizen has at our disposal right now.
Clearly, Wally Oppal is not the man cut out for the job of Attorney- General.
Two years ago he saw a problem, two weeks ago he said it was fine and now it’s a mess and he needs help. His appointment is a position that should be elected instead, in order to ensure some form of accountability. Until that happens ? Look back to Gordon Campbell as the source and the solution.
Clearly, Dianne Watts rose-tinted glasses – although not visible in press opps – remain firmly in place on her nose, evident in her continual denial of the deeper issues that plague the city of Surrey and its very tarnished reputation – one that is based on fact, and not a flawed public perception as she would rather have some believe.
And clearly, Gordon Campbell – as the leader of our province and Wally Oppals minder – must have his motives and sensibilities questioned if he continues to allow our Attorney General to waffle back and forth on issues that demand immediate and harsh action. When you catch the premier making all the same noises as he was over a year ago – and yet there is nearly nothing tangible to show for it, something is horribly wrong in Victoria. Something needs to change.
They say you can’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.
I agree. It’s time for our leaders to get out of their offices and homes, and walk a mile in our shoes. Then, and only then, will they experience the fear and anger and uncertainty that we do – on an entirely different level.
( check out this post for more details on the court budget cuts : http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/time-for-wally-oppal-and-gordon-campbell-to-go/ )
**** This quote from Dianne Watts, concerning this mornings meeting of mayors, just in from The Sun:
“As mayors and councils, we’re there on the front lines every day. We are the go-to people for the residents and they want us to act on their behalf and it can be really frustrating.”- Dianne Watts
The front lines? The front lines of what – the counter at City hall? When was the last time Dianne had to wait at the Newton bus loop, or Surrey Central, among the addicts and the dealers and the whores, clutching her purse tightly under her arm? When was the last time she tried to stroll in Unwin park, only to leave in fear of the roving gangs of young men looking for trouble? When was the last time she had to chase an addict out of her garbage bin, or dodge a prostitute begging for cigarettes while waiting to cross the street?
On the front lines? Give me a break. Again, an open invitation to walk the neighbourhood with me , off the record and to see what “being on the front lines ” is really like….and then you will have a greater understanding of “frustrating”.