“Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependent upon popular opinion?” ~ William Lloyd Garrison

This is the ship my grandparents and mother came to Canada on,according to the immigration documents I’ve found on my mother and grandparents.

My maternal grandparents, were a huge part of my life growing up. My poppa, was my everything.Both immigrants who had overcome big challenges in their lives in Germany and Denmark, they came to Canada for a better life for their children… one of whom was my mother.

I’ll never forget when as a teen, already insatiably curious and never one to follow the rules of never asking too many questions, I asked my grandparents what it was like when they came to Canada.
“Ach!” my Nani said: ” We could not buy anyting dat did not haf  a picture of the food on it!”
There were no ESL lessons, no immigrant support services when my grandparents came to Canada, and it was hard for them. Very hard. They made their way to British Columbia and Prince George was where they settled.

My grandfather used his carpentry skills  to build northern BC, as did my father who worked on one of the Peace River dams where I spent a summer with my mom and brother living in a tent trailer in a campground in Hudson’s Hope.

Somewhere along the line, one or both met  Koazi Fujikawa, who I only knew growing up in the north as ‘Uncle Koazi’ 

Even when Koazi moved from PG back to Mission, friends used to ask me how I had a Japanese uncle when my family was all white!  The funny thing is, I never questioned his presence until someone else did.

Koazi came up several times a year to bring us smoked salmon,blackberries, and it was from him I learned the need and value of the ooligans. When the runs were good, he would harvest them with his friends in local First Nations, smoke them and bring them to us up north.

Looking back now, it may not seem like the most conventional childhood, but really, it was. Unless you are Inuit or First Nations, we all came from somewhere else. Some of our families were immigrants, some were refugees, some have fled wars of their own. And I am thankful every day for where and how I grew up, and the people who shaped my life then, and now.

Would I be here, if my mother and her parents had not come over from  Europe? Would I be the person I am if I had not been born and raised in the north,experiencing sustenance hunting, fishing? Learning at times from a Canadian born Japanese man who was always thought a foreigner because of the colour of his skin?  A man  I only ever knew as my uncle?

My point is this. Today I had a bit of a rant on twitter, and again on Facebook because I feel such a negative  and hypocritical push-back  on  social media when it comes to Syrian Refugees.

I now make my home in Surrey. I have been a long,vocal and at times,the only critic of civic policy because I could see where it was leading.For years, Surrey has banked on having the lowest taxes in Metro Vancouver as a selling point to negate the negative press.

That has come,sadly, with a huge cost.

Instead of having reasonable,marginal property tax and DCC increases, we now see the large increases, because apparently the cost of policing in such a huge area, is a surprise. ( It is not, unless you are a dolt)

And of course, we see again now because our budget crisis is happening at the same time as our incoming refugees are in the news, a flurry of racist crap. And yes, it is crap.

But should any of the failures of  our city government, of our provincial government, or our federal government…be the concerns of many fleeing a war we in Canada are helping to perpetuate?

No. No, this is not their fault, or their doing.

What I find so appalling… and you know who you are… is that many of the same people who are freaking out about accepting refugees because  we are overloaded in our schools,clinics, hospitals etc….  are the same people who voted our current city council in. They have been silent since the last election except for talking about how great everything is… and suddenly now they are bringing up these issues as a reason why we should not let refugees into Surrey.

Yousuddenly have an issue with overcrowding? Talk to your city council who approved it all. In the face of people calling for restraint…. for years. Where were you when we were talking about this?

You have an issue in Surrey with refugee’s who do not have support services? Talk to your local Liberal/NDP MLA and find out why there is no funding.  Did you ask about this before voting? No???

You think we should take care of our own? Great! I do too…but where were you when people were calling for support for a winter shelter?

Where were you when good women were feeding the homeless our city was trying to get rid of? When our Pop Up Soup Kitchen led by a woman who does not even live in Surrey… was being kicked out by our bylaws officers?

Have you been advocating and pushing for shelters, or trying to stop them? Have you been pushing for more funding to support our youth so they don’t head down the wrong path?

Where are you now, when good people leaving lives of pain and anguish, are wanting more for their children like our families wanted more for us? You get the idea.

I have been the one of the longest and loudest critics speaking out against the manner of development in our city.But I have always been on the side of what is right. And if you said nothing in the face of all the rampant development in Surrey when it was clear the province could not keep pace… you are part of the problem.

We all own this.

We are a village and yes it takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a village…. to raise a village. Not just a child, but a city.

Why the hate on for Syrian refugees in Surrey right now? Because I can assure you as local RCMP can, that they are not behind the 60+ shootings-many with restricted weapons- that have happened in our community this year. Nor has all this crime been committed by refugees, period.

I welcome  Syrian families and their children, despite the issues in our city,because they are fleeing war, bombs…..oh yes….war??!! The majority want to be at home. But their country is fast disappearing into a pile of rubble.

They are not responsible for overcrowding, parking ,crime in Surrey or anything else you might want to use them as an excuse for.

Blaming refugee’s is convenient, and it is easy. But they are not the cause of our problems.

Look to your elected officials for that. And if you must, look in the mirror.


“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important.

You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit.

But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

Mahatma Gandhi



Your amuse-bouche for the day. A prime example of why you should never,ever pay any attention to campaign promises.


This is the pre-election campaign sign used by Surrey First and Hepner during the municipal election campaign in November 2014. Note, it states LRT will be complete in 201,not started by 2018. This promise shocked many Surrey residents familiar with the reality of major transportation projects,because the planning stage alone can take years. But the promise persisted even after the election that at minimum, the first ten kilometres would be running by 2018. 

Fast forward 10 months and yet another campaign promise for the upcoming federal election, and this is the new reality:

Hepner, who promised to build the first leg of the light rail line by 2018, now says that’s unreasonable, blaming the failed plebiscite. The city hopes to have the first leg under construction by then instead.

She said her city continues to investigate funding options, which could include partnerships similar to those used to build the Canada Line or private financing.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Tories+promise+million+Surrey+light+rail/11395609/story.html#ixzz3n9Fk4VOP

Ahhhh yes. It’s the plebiscites fault that the mayor concocted a completely unrealistic campaign promise.

The business plan is still not complete,and the city still has no method of paying for their portion of this highly questionable legacy project. Keep in mind that the current council faced significant outrage when shortly after being elected, they raised property taxes and a variety of fees and levies significantly -it worked out to be the equivalent of a 10% tax increase- yet there had been no mention of this during their campaign. In fact, finance chair Tom Gill claimed it was because there were cost pressures that came as a’surprise’to them…

It’s a lesson voters should heed with the promises flying left,right and centre during the campaign leading up to the federal election next month – often,it’s what they don’t tell you that matters most once the election is over.

“Campaign promises are like helium balloons. They’re big, full of gas and once the party is over, absolutely useless.” ~ Susan Gale

Newton residents left in the dark over proposed community court in Surrey with no response from Attorney General Susan Anton

It was back in January 2014, following the death of Julie Paskall, that both Mayor Watts and the NDP renewed calls for a community court in Surrey.

Watts met with Attorney General Susan Anton in February, where it was agreed that a steering committee would be set up to gain input from the judiciary, the province and city staff.

However, the prospect of a community court greatly concerns many Newton residents, who worry about the impact this would have on a community already ‘overloaded’ with social services.

They’ve been asking for answers as to whether or not members of the community will be included in the consultation process, but to date, have not received any response.

This is a copy of the email sent to Attorney General and cc’d to NDP MLA Harry Bains on July 10th:

Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2014 03:41:37 -0700
To: suzanne.anton.mla@leg.bc.ca
From: Liz Walker ( email removed for privacy)
Subject: Community Courts in Surrey
Cc: Harry.Bains.MLA@leg.bc.ca

9 July 2014
Attention: Hon. Suzanne Anton
Minister of Justice
Room 232
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4
Dear Ms. Anton,
RE: Community Courts in Surrey
Earlier this year Mayor Watts alerted Newton community members to an Advisory Committee meeting regarding the proposed Community Courts expected to locate in Surrey’s Newton community. We are concerned about this initiative as our community has not yet received any formal notice from the City about it. To our knowledge there have not been any open houses or other avenues of consultation regarding it.
The Newton community has suffered a serious decline, both economically and socially, for more than a decade. Newton has come to be described as the new “Whalley” or Vancouver DTES of Surrey. Our community continues to observe this decline as we are either disregarded or excluded from decision making processes.
Many perceive Newton to be the low income, socio-correctional component of Surrey. With the concentration of social services that have located in the Newton area we have concerns that those, serviced through the community court, will be directed into Newton for its’ availability of services. This will add more troubled individuals to our streets and transit services without the stabilizing effect of an increased police presence.
We would like to see local citizen representation on committees/task forces related to proposals with the potential to directly impact our communities. We believe the Surrey specialized court task force is such a committee, as you have stated in a Hansard, CSC debate, “they are determining the needs of Surrey, because there is no cookie-cutter approach on courts. It’s to determine the community needs and do a needs assessment”. Newton is only one community in Surrey yet we have been encumbered with the responsibility of providing the bulk of correctional services to all of Surrey’s other communities.
We did ask our MLA, Harry Bains to determine why there was no invitation to the local community to be part of the task force and he did present the question to you, “I would like to ask the minister why any member of the community was not appointed on that”.
Unfortunately he did not receive an answer so we are left to ask the question again, and request local citizen representation on the task force/advisory committee for the Surrey specialized courts.
We welcome your reply. We hope that you will be able to provide us with a “Terms of reference” for the Surrey Specialized Court Task Force and a task force structure that recognizes the importance of local citizen involvement, i.e. citizen representation.
Yours truly,
Liz Walker
Newton Community Association

nb: copy of letter also included as an attachment for your convenience.

This same email was again forwarded to Attorney General Susan Antons office for response yesterday:

Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:15:53 -0700
To: suzanne.anton.mla@leg.bc.ca; harry.bains.mla@leg.bc.ca
From: Liz Walker
Subject: Sending again for response 

Dear Ms. Anton,

Members of the Newton Community Association would truly appreciate answers to our questions posed in the following/attached correspondence.

Thank you.

Yours truly,
Liz Walker
NCA Chairperson

I think all residents understand that there may at times, be delays to response from city or government officials due to holidays, vacation or other important events.

However, one would think that with all that Newton and other areas of Surrey have endured, and continue to endure, the respect would be given to respond accordingly to the very real concerns of local residents.

Once again, Newton appears to be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to consultation on the issues directly impacting our community.

The only indication I can find in the city of Surrey references to this agreement to form a steering committee was in this document, which is quite the read and worthy of a blog post in itself, is copied below.

Newton residents deserve to know one way or another:

1)  if indeed the province is genuinely engaged in this effort as both our mayor and Attorney General announced earlier this year, or if this was just noise to soothe worried residents

2) if the province and city indeed are engaged in such consultation on a steering committee, whether or not the community will be consulted and engaged as part of the process.



From Page 43/44, April of this year :

Specialized Courts in Surrey


A means of addressing the inherent delays in the existing Court system would be the establishment of a

Community Court, Drug Treatment Court, and Night Court in Surrey. The idea of establishing a

Community Court and Night Court was raised in the City of Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy in 2006

[Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy (2006) Section 2.3- Prosecuting and Sentencing Offenders- pages


This issue received some media attention in late January following the PASKALL Homicide with Mayor

WATIS stating her support and offering the former Surrey City Hall as the location for a Community

Court. Mayor WATIS made a significant push for a Community Court in 2011 and indicated that she will

continue to champion this initiative.






“Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” Ambrose Bierce

Normally at this time of year, political chatter dies down as politicians and media take their vacations and give everyone a much needed break. In Surrey however, the political scene just keeps heating up, as former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum tossed his hat officially into the ring again today.

To the thousands of new Surrey residents who’ve come to the city in the years since he’s been gone, he appears to be making a great deal of sense. In fact, the large majority of his basic points touched on today are remarkably similar to the platform and vision presented in the last election by mayoral candidate Ross Buchanan.

From the move and costs of the new city hall, the real state of crime in the city,to trimming costs and dealing with the horrific state of roads in the city, Doug McCallum hit every single issue Ross campaigned on and the buzz today among those unfamiliar with the issues that lead to his eventual loss to Dianne Watts, was definately one of curiosity.

However,the reaction of many long-time Surrey residents to this news, has been anything but curious – many have told me they feel so strongly opposed by his return to the political scene that they will put their homes up for sale if he were to win. McCallum is a polarizing figure to many: you either like him, or hate him,and there is no in between.









The anger runs deep and long among his critics, not unlike a stubborn wound that refuses to heal, and for good reason.

Many of the issues the city still struggles with are the direct result of policy and planning decisions made during McCallums time as mayor. This article from the Vancouver Sun written in 2006 about Dianne Watts, touches on where and how it all went wrong for McCallum before his stunning defeat:

…Her (Watts) penchant for speaking frankly put her on a collision course with Mayor McCallum who didn’t suffer dissidents on his own team gladly.

Watts and McCallum clashed in April 2003 over his troubled relationship with the Surrey RCMP. An e-mail was leaked to the media in which McCallum criticized an RCMP superintendent for sending out news releases that McCallum thought portrayed Surrey in a negative light.

Watts quit SET after McCallum removed her from the public safety committee. Watts said at the time that she would sit as an independent because of McCallum’s “abusive behaviour” and because the mayor told her “that I should bring motions forward to have RCMP officers fired.”


Watts described McCallum’s style as “aggressive and domineering,” and added that “the more you stepped out of line, the more domineering and aggressive he became.”


Watts decided to take on McCallum because “like many of the residents in the city, I really saw the city at a crossroads and we just could not continue down the path we were going.

“In prior years it was development at any cost: tens of thousands of trees being destroyed, development over natural areas, strip malls at every corner.”

Indeed, there was growing unease with the city’s excessive growth. People were finding, for example, that it was taking them 20 minutes just to drive through a four-way stop intersection like the one at 32nd Street and 168th Avenue.

Many south Surrey residents were concerned with the new mega-mall development called Grandview Heights with its three big-box stores.


But by the autumn of 2005 many Surrey insiders sensed that the city’s political landscape had shifted, he added.

What set off the tremors was McCallum’s handling of an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against a senior manager at city hall.

The harassment scandal received huge coverage in the local media throughout August and into the fall — to McCallum’s detriment. The mayor was seen to be operating in a heavy-handed manner without regard to proper process or to the community’s wishes.

School trustee Heather Stilwell, a long-time SET member, and party president Gordon Schoberg quit the party over the scandal. So did SET founder Gardner who became Watts’ campaign manager…

Full stop for me, right in those paragraphs.

The city of Surrey is still growing tremendously, and the struggles of unchecked development at a pace that has exceeded the ability of the provincial and federal governments to keep pace with funding, are stark. It did not stop with McCallum, but continued under Watts.

Crime is still very much front and center for most residents, and it’s not just Newton feeling the concern. We’re a border city, and with that comes the associated issues of being an entrance/exit point for drugs,weapons and money laundering. The trickle down impact of that creates a large amount of petty crimes, which are hard to get a handle on.

Neighbourhoods and high density housing are popping up everywhere, and when a new school is finally opened, it’s already over capacity. Older schools are losing play area to portables. Many areas of the city don’t even have sidewalks and seeing moms with strollers walking alongside roads is not unusual…. nor is it safe. The roads are indeed in a horrible state, a patchwork quilt in fifty shades of grey from being dug up, repaired and dug up again the next time a new home or development goes in.

We have city planning that allows new development in the middle of nowhere, completely inaccessible by transit and instead of a cohesive city, we have, in essence, many small towns competing with each other for dollars and infrastructure. And competition between resident associations doesn’t create community, it divides it.

At some point, someone has to say it’s time to step on the brake and slow it all down.

It’s not acceptable for local politicians to abdicate their personal culpability for creating this situation by saying it’s the provinces fault for not keeping pace with our growth…. how about planning growth around and in conjunction with the provincial ability to provide?

It’s just commonsense, something that Surrey at times, is sorely lacking.

But here is the fifty million dollar question…

Where has  Doug McCallum’s voice of outrage been all these years, as a Surrey resident, calling for change?

Where was he in the last election when the costs and the move of city hall were first brought up?

Where was he when in 2008/2009, the city was under siege in a gang war that left local politicians under heavy fire in the media?

In fact, in talking to involved residents throughout Surrey, no one has really ever seen him at any community meetings, or forums, or holding the current mayor and council to account…until it became an election year.

Suddenly, he’s outraged,concerned and everyone’s new best friend….and he’s going to save the city from the very same issues he left it with the last time he was in power.

It will be up to the voters to decide if McCallum is worthy of another run, and to examine his past record and his work or advocacy in the community since then( or lack of it), because as the old adage states: “Actions speak louder than words.”


City staff recommend third reading be granted to draft Official Community Plan Monday March 31st as development continues at a breakneck pace.

City staff have now completed the corporate report Surrey council asked for following the recent public hearing of the Official Community plan (referred to as the OCP) , and are recommending that council grant third reading. http://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2014-R048.pdf

While city staff acknowledged merit to many of the speakers comments and suggestions at the public hearing, regarding concerns on many aspects of the draft OCP, no significant changes have been suggested or made. This is likely to result in growing discontent in many communities represented by community associations and groups at the public hearing, as breakneck development continues to outpace school capacity, parking, street upgrades and amenities.

None of the community associations, groups and just regular residents are opposed to progress. Change is born of progress. However, one common thread being voiced by every group is that development needs to slow down in some areas, or the unintended consequences mentioned above prevent communities from being able to flourish as they should. Residents become stressed, overwhelmed and angry as they deal with impact of poor planning decisions made in recent years.

While the city has committed to focus on a few town centres in the coming years,it is this disconnected approach to rejuvenating one area at a time,that has contributed to many town centres issues. It just makes sense to develop a cohesive strategy where small but consistent changes and efforts are made in rejuvenating all the town centres at the same time, to avoid what has happened in Surrey time and time again. Communities shouldn’t have to wait years for ‘their turn’.

In response to a call from a resident in South Surrey last week who was alarmed to find some clear cutting having been completed along with new development application signs going up in a completely rural location, I took a drive out to the area to see exactly what they were talking about.

The first set of photos were taken off 168th st, just south of 24th avenue, between about 21st and 22nd ave. They show a new development site of estate homes which was nearly completely clearcut, with the exception of a few large trees along the back of the site. Hover your mouse over the photo to start the slide show.

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Further down the street is another very large acreage which has yet to be fully cleared and appears to be in the process of having trees chosen for retention.

The properties in question are currently undergoing a development proposal, with an OCP amendment from suburban to urban, and a NCP amendment to redesignate the site from a school site to medium density residential!!!

One site is proposed to have  min. 39 townhomes, the other min. 19 single small lot homes. In the middle of what is more rural and farmland than suburban in the first place. A farm with pasture sides the property, currently accessible by a single lane road.

What is most striking is the juxtaposition of having a min. 39 townhomes, and 19 small lots homes, plunked down in the middle of rural area, with a single lane for access.

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Yes, if you build it, they will come… and in the next set of photos you see the massive clearcut that occurred recently along Hwy 10, just east of King George. I also discovered another large cut of trees on a lot just off King George right below it as well, that’s quite new.

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I don’t know how where any of the children and youth who will eventually move into these particular developments will go to school, because despite having a new school in the Sullivan Heights area, all the schools are still far over capacity. Yet even in the following proposal, the city is likely to ok the increase in townhomes- it happens all the time. http://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/PLR_7912-0155-00.pdf

Last, but certainly not least, a look at the now more than half empty strip mall where the Newton Bingo Hall is located. After having written extensively about this bingo hall and slots for years, I was ecstatic to hear BCLC was pulling the slots, but immediately wondered what the impact would be on the proposed redevelopment of the site, which had to be done in order to keep the slots.

Sure enough, Gateway wouldn’t commit to continuing the redevelopment, despite having given notice to several businesses in the mall -there are only a couple that now remain. It would be incredibly tragic and would very visibly demonstrate Gateway as a bad community neighbour, in particular because of businesses having left so this redevelopment could occur.

The following photos show the current state of the strip mall housing the Newton Bingo Hall, one portion of the mall has already been demolished and another fenced off. The last photo is of one of the working girls who regularly work along the street right behind the mall.

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While the still controversial build outs of the Grandview Heights NCP Area 4 begin,the rest of Surrey is left wondering how sustainable this is, when we aren’t keeping pace with policing and other vital infrastructure. While these photos tell the story of the impact of just three developments, there are hundreds of other clear cuts that have occurred just like this all over south Newton and south Surrey.  It would be telling to see a comparison of the city from an aerial view, taken 5 years ago to now. Vast tracts of forest are being cut constantly.

As the community of Newton and others continue to struggle on a daily basis with serious issues and growing pains that have no end in site, council will again be faced with making a decision at Monday night meeting that voters are not likely to forget by the municipal election in November.

You can find the schedule for Mondays full council and committee meetings at this link, and it will be the first meeting in the new city hall. Pay parking only in the parkade, unfortunately,


We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men. ~ Herman Melville

68th avenue blocked off to traffic as police investigate reports of shots fired near the scene of Friday nights shootout
A major Surrey avenue blocked to traffic follow a past,non-fatal shooting in Newton

A wise man once said that as soon as you see a mistake and don’t fix it, it becomes your mistake.

Surrey city mayor and councillors would do well to hold this proverb close to their hearts.

Never could that be more true than when looking at the ongoing state of affairs in the community of Newton.

Surrey RCMP asked the public for help yesterday( March 18th, 2014), after a brazen, horrific beating and theft against a 72 year old senior in Newton Athletic park took place….last Thursday, ( March 13th, 2013)

This latest announcement, is both a joke and an insult to the people of Newton, and to both the city of Surrey’s and Surrey RCMP commitment to improving the situation in the community. A wait of 5 days between the horrific incident and the time the RCMP advised the public,is unacceptable. Families use that park. Kids use that park. Knowledge is not only power, it’s crucial to safe communities.

As the old proverb states: ‘Better a thousand times careful than once dead.’

I’ve heard the shots of rifles and shotguns, seen prostitutes beaten while everyone turned their face and taken the brunt of those past posts personally.

At the first public meeting in January, it was identified by residents  that  increased communication between the RCMP and the community was essential.. yet at a later, February council meeting, Mayor Watts stated that in order to free up RCMP resources, she would be reducing the amount of RCMP officers attending community meetings, events and crime reduction meetings.

Ironically at the followup February meeting hosted by the Newton Community Association but quickly overtaken by the city of Surrey- it was Bill Fordy himself that stated neither the mayor or city staff had any ability to direct or deploy RCMP resources.

One thing is clear. With the announcement that the Harper Conservatives were getting rid of the Community Safety officer Program, the city is left holding the bag for how to deal with that loss. Their solution seems to be to look to hiring security guards to fill those  positions  as reported by several media outlets, as their own pseudo-police force.

Give me a break. The last thing Surrey needs is more security guards. I might not be popular for saying it, but we need more RCMP, and right now. Why? Because as fast as the city approves them, townhouses, new developments and mega homes are going up all over south Newton, which includes the Sullivan Heights and Panorama Ridge area.

It’s insanity in action  – we won’t even talk about the new Grandview, ‘Area 4’ new development out in the middle of rural south Surrey, currently unserved by sewer,water or transit! We are building out areas with intense densification that have no business being built out until the rest of Surrey is appropriately taken care of.

That means ensuring  municipal development and population increase is on par with the provincial timelines for schools, healthcare provisions and other services that are vital to the livelihood of every community. You can’t cut down all the trees to make a park,plant small trees that offer no shade as replacement and put a tiny playground in and call that servicing a family driven neighbourhood! Nor can you build out 3500 townhouses knowing full well the schools in the area are already overloaded and no new school is planned.

Those decisions are fully and completely under city jurisdiction. And why they are knowingly outpacing a provincial and federal  government that has been claiming austerity for some time, is a question every Surrey resident should be asking. When someone invests in buying a home in this city, it is in essence, an unofficial contract between them and the city. And when the city fails to provide essentials like sidewalks, usable parks and a sense of safety, everyone suffers.

Safety is a cornerstone to a successful community, as is access to education, recreation and healthcare. Sadly in Surrey, many communities have been overdeveloped to the point that they are now revolting, hence the ongoing creation of many community associations. In Newton, the commitment from the city to move forward has produced cosmetic changes, as shown by the planting of new trees along King George Blvd south of 72nd ave, but not much else.

We still have an influx of residents both at the poverty line and above. We still have a growing population that is outpaced by the number of RCMP on staff. We still have  an RCMP force that cannot keep up with the willingly promoted growth of Surrey!

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you something has to give. At what point do we look back to the city that is pointing to the province, and the feds, and say:  “Hey, you approved all this development! Hey, you know how long it takes the province to approve a school! Hey, you know we need to put the brakes on for a bit to play catch up!”

I don’t think I am alone in saying I am appalled at this latest assault in Newton. Not because I expect crime to suddenly disappear in this area, but because I, like many Newton residents, expected more from the city and the RCMP in terms of policing following the early meetings in January and February.  Prostitutes still hold reign around the Newton Gaming Centre. Crimes are still occurring in central Newton.

I am happy to report seeing the RCMP bike team in action on a crime in progress, but its not enough. With over 1000 new residents coming to Surrey each month, we must keep Surrey RCMP levels at par with the population. Particularly because we as a city, as a community, owe that to the residents who make Surrey their home.

This isn’t about who can get the most press, and this isn’t about a political agenda. I have no interest in running a campaign, or running for council, despite what some with vested interests have been saying to negate the stark truth that exists for all with access to Google. To pull a Bertuzzi, it is, what it is.

I haven’t just taken my children to preschool in Newton, I shop there, I support businesses there, and unlike many, I pay attention to the people that have been there for years on the streets. Have you met Eric? Did you walk by and turn your cheek like many do to avoid this very real part of your community?

We can’t just continue the way we have in Surrey. It isn’t working. In fact, it’s failing. Since I moved to Surrey, I have been an advocate of a cohesive effort to move all town centres forward in a synchronized effort that doesn’t leave one area behind others. It just makes sense. The cities method to move one area forward at the degradation of another, doesn’t work.

To build a community, you can’t avoid conflict, you need to address it, and welcome, head on, the conflicts that come with it, whether you are neighbours, politicians, police or social service agencies.

Those who do not feel safe, are evidence of your failings. You want to be real? Then join those less privileged on a day in their life.

Making decisions from an office in the sky, protected from those who you are deemed to serve,  is nothing like making decisions based on experience in the streets. This is what separates the good leaders, from the great.

And this difference, is what has defined Newton, more than anything else.


“You are what you do…not what you say you will do.” ~ Carl Jung

“We tend to treat politics as a game, as if the people living and dying by the policies set by those in power are less important than the stories generated by colorful characters…” ~ Tyler Clark

I’ll never profess to know everything about politics, but there is one thing I feel I do know with certainty: for many politicians, it’s become a past-time more about political posturing, strategy and public relations than serving the people who elected them to their place in the first place.

Generally speaking, of course, because according to every politician in Surrey, all they want to do is serve the people.

Another thing that I know from speaking to and communicating with many Surrey residents over the last couple weeks, is that people are angry, confused and most of all, fed up. They are fed up with promises. They are fed up with public relations and they want action, not platitudes.

Today the BC NDP announced the Surrey Accord, a five point plan to address the issues  that Surrey “is currently facing”, according to their press release. The plan addresses several issues that Surrey has actually been facing for a very long time, such as the deregulation of recovery homes, lack of social and supportive housing, and less than optimal policing levels. None of these issues just popped up in the last couple of weeks- they’ve simply just been pushed to great public attention via recent events.

The plan is for the NDP to host a public forum shortly – and I am told possibly a number of public forums around Surrey in various neighbourhoods – then press the Liberal government to adopt the accord when the legislature resumes in February. (If the Liberals and Surrey council go along with it.)

When questioned by the press today, Surrey Cllr/MLA Marvin Hunt said the suggestions weren’t new and that they were something Surrey had been lobbying for, for some time. How long the city has been lobbying for all those suggestions, I don’t know – this was news to many Surrey residents I have talked to this evening.

In fact,Hunt, who is also Liberal MLA for Surrey-Panorama, also said he was pleased to see the NDP agreeing with Surrey council, and looking to work together with other levels of government, but emphasized again, that these aren’t new ideas.

“These are things that Surrey council has been lobbying for for a while, so it’s nice to see that they’re on board with what Surrey council has been saying. The problem, of course, is that there’s nothing particularly new there,” Hunt said.

“However, my mind also has enough history to remember when the NDP were in power and we were trying to work on the issue of bylaw courts – now it’s community courts – but back then it was bylaw courts. Ujjal Dosanjh said we’d have it in three months and we got it under the Liberal government because the NDP never did anything.”

He said the promises were not kept.

“So it’s one of those ones where it’s nice to see the opposition agree with us, but of course, the opposition is just that. They have no power to enact things. But it’s all part of a growing consensus as to what’s needed out here in Surrey and that’s good.”

Umm. Ok Marvin. Take credit, point fingers, blame the NDP, deflect Liberal promise for community courts then say its all good? I don’t think that works for Newton in your position as councillor, or MLA. And it certainly is not productive or conducive to working together.

Surrey mayor Dianne Watts welcomed the support but mentioned she hadn’t been contacted by the NDP at all – in fact this announcement took many community associations and organizations by surprise. The Newton Community Association had already booked a public forum for February, which has been discussed in the press at length following the first meeting. Newton MLA’s are invited, along with the mayor,council and other representatives from stakeholders in the area.

Of course, with the exception of Cllr./MLA Marvin Hunt -whose riding the Newton rec centre, arena and bus loop are actually in – the reigning BC Liberals have remained largely silent on the long standing problems of Newton,including Premier Christy Clark.  Sadly, Hunts only remarks to the press prior to this have been that he doesn’t consider inches of column space an indicator of what he’s done, or his effectiveness.

That might be true, but sadly, the state of his portion of Newton shows he hasn’t done a hell of a lot as an MLA or perhaps as a councillor who lived in Newton for a very long time.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

What has been going on in Newton is not a new problem. Newton has always been.. well.. Newton. More poverty, more crime, more squalor, but still Newton. Gang shootings have little to do with poverty in Newton,or the horror of the Newton Bus loop, or the lack of the city to follow through on the Newton plan.

What needs to be healed in Newton – and I say healed because Newton is indeed, hurting – is a totally separate issue and a complex one with many short term and long term action plans needed that require a full and non-partisan commitment to cooperation between every level of government.

Yes, you read that correctly. I said a:  ‘non-partisan cooperation between all levels of government.’

No political grandstanding, no political posturing, and no agenda’s. Yes, that is asking a lot considering it is an election year and everyone is pointing fingers right now, but that is what it is going to take to get this done. It must be a cohesive and coordinated effort.

The city can’t pass the buck to the province because of refugees… seriously? And while unregulated recovery homes are  an issue for all of Surrey, they are not solely to blame for everything that ails Newton. The city has been facing some serious criticism and questions on growth and the ability to keep pace with it – and how that has impacted Newton in particular.

The NDP who have had, until this past election several seats in Surrey, can’t  just pass the buck to the Liberals, because, well they are here, and have been for many years, in the thick of it.  Yes, we know how the Libs work, but change doesn’t always require a political office, it requires community leaders who see issues, raise the alarm and don’t stop. It’s been done. There is no excuse for not pouncing on issues simply because one sits in opposition!

The Liberals can remain in hiding all they want, but will not escape the examination of local residents who want answers – answers that have been a long time in coming. As the governing party in BC for more than a decade, they don’t have anyone to pass the buck to on many of these issues… although that doesn’t stop them from trying.

With all this passing of the buck, with all this posturing and positioning, where are the people of Newton left? Does anyone remember what this is all about, why people in Newton are so angry?

With so many people from so many different political backgrounds and leanings all professing to want the same thing for Newton, where are the phone calls between the power brokers?

Why is there a press opportunity instead of a meeting in a conference room in a neutral location if needed? Why all the grandstanding and talk about action… instead of real action and collaboration?

What is so damn hard about taking a few moments to say: ‘ It’s time to do the right thing, instead of the easy thing.’ ?

I want to believe that every politician, at every level, wants the best for the people in the community of Newton, regardless of what party or what direction they are headed. But none of this is possible working separately.

It’s easy to call a press conference, it’s easy for politicians to point fingers at each other and claim absolution and solutions that are responded to with more opposing claims and finger pointing.

It’s not so easy to pick up the phone and call your political adversary and say: ” Time to talk -Let’s get it done.” Yes, laugh. I’m sure you are.

But for the sake of every Newton resident, that is what needs to happen.

Because more often than not… “the secret is to gang up on the problem, instead of each other.” ~ unknown.

And that, my friends, would really be revolutionary politics.

“We don’t need more task forces, we need results” -Esmir Milavic

Strong words from Community Relations Strategist at @Surrey604, Esmir Milavic, on how to address the issue of violence and safety in Newton, as the community copes with the tragic death of Julie Paskall.

I agree with Esmir completely. And this is why.

                                        What happened to the Newton Town Centre Plan?

As I detailed in my prior post, the city of Surrey promised it was Newtons turn for rehabilitation and rejuvenation back in 2008, with sweeping changes to combat crime and rejuvenate the area: http://www.canada.com/surreynow/news/story.html?id=8a34dcda-bc8b-491e-91e2-5cc8c88b9a67 .

In fact, the Surrey First Slate even campaigned on a safe streets philosophy in the last election, committing to a new District Police station being built near the Newton Transit Exchange : http://surreyfirst.ca/issues/


Sadly, very little of any of those plans came to fruition, because the core changes that plan was based on, hinged on a promise made to the city of Surrey by the former owners of the Newton Bingo Hall, Boardwalk Gaming.  That promise was not required to be fulfilled when the new owners took possession of the assets and left the city exposed in a manner they did not anticipate :

“After winning approval for a mini-casino in Newton, Boardwalk Gaming has sold the property to another company, leaving Surrey council angered about failed promises for the property.

In 2009, Boardwalk promised a $25-million investment that would see a revitalized mall and community policing station at 7093 King George Blvd. in exchange for a lucrative zoning change that would allow slot machines at Newton Bingo Country. The rezoning was in violation of Surrey’s existing gaming policy, but it passed on a five-to-four vote.”

Let’s not talk about the fact the city broke its own policy to get some freebies.

The facts remain, the Newton bus loop didn’t move to King George,there was no new Newton District Police station…and the city was left holding the bag for making promises they actually had no intention of keeping on their own dime. http://www.surreyleader.com/news/129840228.html

And for the next 5 years, Newton continued a downward spiral, becoming ever more the new Whalley with every dollar invested in Central City. Surrey did become host to the new billion dollar RCMP headquarters – never mind that no city in BC wants to pay for it -even though it could potentially cost the city of Surrey nearly a million dollars in extra payments every year, to cover administration costs. ( you tell me where that money is coming from… ) http://blueline.ca/articles/bc_and_cities_balk_at_paying_higher_policing_costs

What do we know?

We know that doing what the city has been doing for years in Newton – which is increasing police presence only in reaction to incidents, not proactively – isn’t working.

We know that the while the city has invested heavily in many other areas of the city, no effort was made to rework the Newton Town Centre plan once the promises of Boardwalk Gaming were no longer a reality.

We know that in fact, the city  instead went ahead with preliminary concept plans for another area of Newton far less in need than Newton Town Centre.

We know that despite Translinks quick rehabilitation of the Newton Bus Exchange to accommodate our new B Line, the energy-efficient lighting is considered by most transit users, to be completely inadequate at night. The amount of light given is weak in comparison to traditional lighting.

We know that the lighting in the parking lot and surrounding the Newton Rec Centre and Arena is completely inadequate, and in combination with several heavily treed areas, provide ample cover for criminal activity of all kinds.

We also know that Newton is a hub for social service agencies, corrections offices,bars,numerous beer and wine stores and the Bingo Hall with slots. Addiction, poverty and drugs are huge issues.

We know that the budget the city of Surrey has presented for this year, allows for 12 new police officers for the entire city. Hardly enough to keep pace with nearly 1,000 new residents every month.

We know that even by the RCMP’s own assertions, that the crime stats reported, may not match the actual amount of criminal activity in an area. Here is why, from the Surrey RCMP’s own site http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=103&languageId=1&contentId=32591  :

“It is important to keep in mind that reported crime does not always correlate with actual crime. While some crimes are never detected, of those that are, not all are brought to the attention of the police. For various reasons, some crime types are more likely to be reported (or detected) than others. Information on consensual or what some might term ‘victimless’ crime (i.e., drug use, prostitution, gambling) will likely not be reported, and detection by police will require significant investments of time and energy.”

They go on further to state:

The data presented here may vary from previously produced reports and numbers may continue to change on a daily basis due to the dynamic nature of offences being reported, investigated and/or cleared. Further, Statistics Canada redefines criminal offence codes on an ongoing basis, which may result in changes to how crimes are recorded within PRIME.


Caution should always be taken when comparing crime data extracted at different times or by different agencies using different data sources and/or methodologies.

This explains  completely why the perception of crime is often higher than the crime stats the city relies on. How many people report drug deals going down? Prostitutes? An addict shooting up? If I called the police every time I saw a drug deal go down, I would be dialing all day.

Crime is not just perceived to be higher than the stats show… it is higher.

Many people don’t even report minor break-ins anymore because the RCMP in Surrey do not have time to respond to every call, and no one wants their house or car insurance to go up due to repeat claims.  This is the reality of Newton town centre residents, among other neighbourhoods including my own in the southern part of Newton.

Sadly, we also know that what isn’t working in Newton, all played as contributing factors to the death of Julie Paskall, because the city was well aware of every single point I make here. Newton residents have been calling for help for years, but not one level of government has been listening.

Where do we go from here?

I didn’t know Julie Paskall, had never met her and as much as I would like to, I can’t bring her back. No one can. But I feel a tremendous personal responsibility as a long time Newton writer who has extensively covered the issues of not only Newton, but all of Surrey, that I too, contributed to this situation. I should have written more, put more pressure on local governments, not let up. I know this damn area she was in, went in and out of that building twice a day for over 6 months.

I knew how bad it was.

The city knew how bad it was.

So did the RCMP right across the damn street.

Esmir is right when he says that we don’t need more task forces, we need results. ‘Fordy’s 40’ is a joke and the punch line is Surrey.  We don’t need more committee’s, we don’t need more consultation – there are years of documentation/consultation for the city to look to – the people of Newton have been crying out for help for so long they don’t remember what hope looks like anymore.

There are things the city can do immediately to improve public safety in the area- lets forget about beautification efforts right now. On New Years Eve, I spoke with Simi Sara on her show, and said the city needed to improve lighting immediately around the entire Newton Rec Centre  and either remove or light up the grove of trees that provide cover for criminal activity between the city facilities, Coast Capital Credit Union, and the mall. They  need to limit access/flee points to the arena and rec. centre – there are so many places and points criminal activity flourishes and is hidden.

Councillor Barinder Rasode has been interviewed since and agrees the city has not done all that it could for Newton, and needs to do more. http://soundcloud.com/shane-woodford/interview-surrey-councillor

Translink needs to install brighter lighting immediately at the bus loop – the high efficiency lighting is simply not bright enough for the area. Assign a team of two or four ‘beat cops’ on foot or mountain bike to the town centre permanently. Highly visible, known to all merchants, and city staff. Quick to action, anytime.

These are immediate fixes that will improve public safety right away. In conjunction, the city needs to reprioritize it’s goals, and look at the load of the officers of the Newton Detachment.

They are overwhelmed many times, and that comes from a friend who is an officer in the Surrey RCMP. God help us if flu strikes the force with any ferocity. Even 12 new officers spread over the entire city won’t make a dent in what the city is dealing with in terms of calls. The RCMP also need to ensure that in all cases of any serious assault or robbery, they err on safety and let the public know – Knowledge is not only power, it’s safety.

 I would like to see the city make an immediate commitment to investment in the town centre in some manner. Re-prioritize public infrastructure investments or utilize the Capital Legacy Reserve Fund as a resource for investment.

With businesses leaving,and national coverage of this heinous crime, no one is going to invest in Newton Town Centre unless the city uses some of that “visionary planning” to initiate it. And this time, not via a deal to approve slot machines in one of the most at risk neighbourhoods, in exchange for a new police station etc. Slots have no place in Newton.

It’s not a cure, but it is a start. Newton is broken and the city needs to pick up where they left off in 2009.  A woman died because someone felt confidant enough that no one would see them rob her. And apparently, no one did. She had children, she was loved,  she had dreams…and I am willing to bet she gave far more than she ever asked for.

Residents of Newton must reach within, conquer fear and stand together against violence and city neglect. Alone you are drops, together you create a tsunami capable of toppling walls.

****Surrey RCMP offers the following reminders to residents:

If you are walking alone:

  • Be Aware- Know your surroundings and remove your headphones.
  • Trust Your Instincts-If something does not feel right, remove yourself from the situation.
  • Walk with Confidence-Keep your head up and know where you are going.
  • Only Essentials-Carry only the necessary identification, money, or cards that you need.
  • Keep in Touch-Bring your cell phone so you can make emergency calls.
  • Stay Visible-Stay in well-lit areas and don’t wear dark clothes at night.
  • Keys Ready-Have your car or house keys ready before you reach the door.

Minimize your risk:

  • Don’t carry large bags or purses
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash
  • Don’t carry important documents like a passport or birth certificate
  • Don’t make your valuables visible

If you are approached: If you are approached and verbally threatened or physically assaulted you can avoid further confrontation, by giving the perpetrator all the property they want. Do not fight back. Never engage in an altercation as it increases your chance of getting physically harmed. Although it is not essential, try to observe the perpetrator’s shoes, clothing, or visible markings like scars, tattoos or piercings to help the police in later identifying the suspect. When the robbery has ended and the perpetrator has left, call 911 to report the crime.
IHIT is asking anyone with information or who was in the area of the Newton Arena, Newton bus loop and the Newton Wave pool, between 7:00-11:00 p.m., on December 29 and may have seen any suspicious activities, persons, or vehicle to please call the IHIT Tip line at 1-877-551-4448 by email at ihittipline@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

If you wish to remain anonymous you can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or leave a tip on their website at Solvecrime.ca

The price to pay is far more than Newton residents should have to.

My heart stopped at news today that a woman had been severely beaten in what appears to be an attempted robbery outside of the Newton Arena. http://www.thenownewspaper.com/woman-not-expected-to-live-after-savage-beating-near-surrey-s-newton-arena-1.774064?utm_source=hootsuite&utm_campaign=hootsuite

Foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with her, her family and her friends – this was a senseless crime that in my opinion, should never have occurred. While Surrey residents who do not live in Newton are passing this off as a random incident that could happen anywhere, both longtime residents and businesses in the area are outraged – but sadly none of us are surprised.

Both the RCMP  and the city of Surrey have long been aware of the growing issues in Newton, which has suffered greatly as a direct result of the ongoing gentrification of Whalley and the northern portions of King George Boulevard, ( known as City Centre in recent years).

In news clips and reports today, both the Mayor and councillor Hepner declined to talk about the issues in Newton, saying it was a conversation for another day. With respect to them, and to the victim – it’s not. It is a conversation that must be had today and for very good reason – preventing further crimes in this high risk area.

It was June 2008 when after reaching a level of concern over the degradation of what was then my neighbourhood of Newton, I called CBC news to see if they would be interested in doing a story about the situation. After touring around in a van with Susana da Silva and her cameraman, the city was contacted for a response and was told by Mayor Watts that Newton had not been forgotten and that it was in fact, Newtons turn to be the focus.

The Newton Plan was unveiled at the June 16th council meeting and within a few short weeks following the story it was endorsed by council. A mural was painted on the Newton Rec centre building, planters were placed along 72nd avenue and well, we got some funky decorations for Christmas glamour. http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/1337.aspx

Time passed – years in fact – and nothing else came to fruition. Back in 2008/2009 there were meetings – I attended a few that went no where – and that is where the Newton Plan ended.

The bus loop was never moved, and although it was recently redone, the lighting is terrible and it’s not a place you want to wait for a bus for alone after dark. Sometime, waiting alone during the day is bad enough. Crime continued to escalate in the Newton core and surrounding areas, reported to Block Watch captains, but rarely to the public.

I’ve been in receipt of many emails from the community policing contact in Newton and have shared the concern of the lack of reports to the public in different situations. A couple of years ago there were ongoing assaults and robberies in the Unwin Park  area, yet the public wasn’t warned until many had happened. Same thing with the jewellery heists that were happening early this year- it wasn’t until a few occurred that RCMP warned the public.

I’ve written far too many times about the issues of Newton, the lack of security, the changes that could and should be made. The ice rink, the rec centre, the bank and the mall are all located around a treed area that while lovely to look at, is without a doubt welcome cover for criminals and drug related activity. The volunteer youth patrols do nothing to deter the drug and criminal activity. And the RCMP? Are quite simply too overwhelmed to really make a dent. With nearly 1000 people moving to the city every month,it is logistically impossible to maintain the standard of policing, even if the city does add 12 more officers.

Ironically, in 2012, the city started the Central Newton Cultural Commercial District Plan in a mainly industrial area of west Newton http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/12125.aspx, which looks wonderful,grand and visionary… but once again leaves Newton Town Centre out in the cold! Why?

This latest tragedy strikes close to home for many today. The victim is a mom, who was just going about her business being a mother and part of her community. It could have been anyone who uses the facilities. It could have been me, or your loved one. As contact and fellow Newton activist Jude Hannah told the Now today:

“We have been calling on the city to take action and this is absolutely the worst nightmare. And I feel so upset, I feel so angry, I’m so disappointed… This was what we feared would happen, and we warned them.”

The building that houses the ice rink, also houses a city operated pre-school, with a fenced in area where the children play out back – along side a deserted road where criminal activity happens constantly. Parents come and go to drop off their children, in the midst of the epicenter of  Newton town core.

And while we all share our prayers for todays victim, let us not forget the first, December 16th victim, and extend our prayers and healing to them as well.  We know nothing about the  first victim – no details are available.  Why is that? Should the first victim be any less deserving of our outrage? My thoughts are with them today, as well. ( update: this Province story tells us she was a woman in her twenties who got off the bus at Newton Exchange and was assaulted, suffered some injuries and went to hospital. She was later released )

No one can say what would have happened had the RCMP reported that first assault ( which is reported to have shared similarities to this one, which makes me wonder how badly that victim was hurt) but I firmly believe a forewarned public is a forearmed one.

Newton isn’t just an un-fulfilled plan sitting in a file in cabinet at city hall, it’s a community of working families and businesses who were promised in 2008 that it was their turn to be the focus. They’ve been waiting ever since and they deserve better. They deserve to be safe when they take the bus to work or school. They deserve to be safe in their own workplaces, and they deserve to be safe in their homes and places of recreation.

The transformation of Whalley into Central City and Innovation Boulevard are certainly visionary ideas on the part of the city…and have been lauded as such by the city and unknowing media who can’t or haven’t seen the entire picture. But how visionary is it to simply move one communities problems ( Whalley)  into another (Newton) a few kilometers away? It’s not.

Unfortunately, Newton has become the new Whalley, and  Whalley’s Woes have become Newton’s Nightmares.

**** are you a Newton resident? To get involved in taking back your community, email newtoncommunityassociation@gmail.com *****

“Political Incompetence Kills.”

As a community of students, families, teachers and friends mourns the loss of a teenage girl killed in the horrific accident yesterday in Surrey, questions are rising as to why this happened in the first place. Yes, the girls were crossing outside of a controlled intersection- the question should be,why is that?

For many years, the city of Surrey has been rapidly growing, and moving forward with ambitious development plans for the City Centre area deemed as the new metropolitan core. While such development has been deemed visionary, as with anything, it has not come without a cost: in many areas of the city, streets are in terrible condition and pedestrians access and mobility has not kept pace with demand.

As an example, the Sullivan area of Surrey has undergone rapid growth in the past 5 years as townhouses have filled nearly every vacant bit of land available. However, along 152nd street between Highway 10 and 64th avenue, there several long blocks where there is only one sidewalk – the other side of this major artery has a tiny bark path. When I called the city to find out why I was told it wasn’t in the budget and not a priority.

In my own neighbourhood,it took over a year for the city to agree to put a crosswalk in at a heavy traffic crossing, and far longer to get it actually installed. Thankfully while there have been many close calls, no one has been killed.

I’m a passionate person and I strongly advocate that liveable communities must first be safe communities. Safe from crime, safe to travel in, safe to walk as a pedestrian in. And in a city that encourages families to move to, how our children get around is a huge concern for many.

So why isn’t the city making that a priority? Daryl Dela Cruz is a Surrey resident, and at 17 years old, shows wisdom beyond his years. As Surrey residents, he and I have been in contact for a couple of years and he attended the political writing workshop I was a part of earlier this year. I’ve always been impressed with his ability to think out of the box, as well as his ability to address issues with a huge dose of reality. And to be honest, he gives me faith in our future.

In the midst of a communities grief, Daryl took on the issue of the lack of safe crossings in Surrey, while addressing why cities need to take into consideration the inability of youth to always process information and make the choices adults would.

The resulting post, is something every municipal politician in the province should read, and heed. And I might add,Daryl is but 17 years old:

 It has only been a few months since I took notice of an incident this past summer in Fleetwood that sent a 5-year-old boy to the hospital. The incident gained particularly big attention from the media as it was a hit-and-run. I was just reading the news today and it struck me that the accident occurred in a place that is within easy biking distance of my home. So, the next day, I decided to head out on my bike and check out what the area looks like.

  • One side of the road does not have a sidewalk, which is violating city policies that mandate that collector roads have sidewalks on both sides of the street.
  • Despite a downhill approach, there is absolutely no measure on the road for slowing vehicles down – something that is especially heinous, given that the downhill direction is the side without a sidewalk.
  • Despite that the road crosses commute paths to a local school, and borders its grass sports field, there are no markings or signs to facilitate safe pedestrian crossings.

Although nearby signage points out that children may be playing in the area and advises drivers to slow to 30km/h, there is absolutely nothing ensuring that drivers will be actually at that speed, and so this stretch of 92nd Avenue is a recipe for disaster.

I wrote a letter to the editor denouncing that city policies caused this accident, citing the low investment in pedestrian and cycling facilities and the stringent process for applying for traffic calming, and also forwarded this letter to the nearby school’s principal and parent advisory council.

It was never published on the newspaper.


Yesterday, I heard the news that a teenage girl from Princess Margaret Secondary was killed in an accident not one block away from my current school (Kwantlen Polytechnic University).

I know many friends personally, who go or went to Princess Margaret Secondary, and who know the girl that was killed in a recent motorcycle accident during the lunch hour. It caught my attention when an R.I.P. post appeared on my Facebook news feed. So, I decided to look into the incident and the area where this accident occured.

This is what I found:

  • 128th Street is a four-lane arterial road signed at 60km/h. Despite the nearby presence of both a post-secondary and a secondary institution, there is absolutely no signage to notify drivers that they should expect students.
  • There are no crosswalks on the entire four-lane stretch of road.
  • There are no crosswalks fronting the local business cluster, despite the school, significant residential and transit stop on the other side.
  • There is nothing else on the road stretch that compromises the right-of-way and could possibly slow vehicles down. It is a straight stretch of completely unobstructed road, signed at 60km/h, and an enticing environment for over-speeding.

64th Ave carries 13,000 vehicles daily, which does not even necessarily warrant a four-lane road to begin with.

Yet whoever at the City of Surrey decided to pursue an expansion of this road anyway, and so, it is possible to go 60km/h or over on 64th Ave very easily, as there are no obstructions to face. On the entire four-block stretch of road, there are no crosswalks.


How the City responded

The CBC article reports that the nearby secondary school (Princess Margaret) where these students attended requested a crosswalk in this area three years ago, and were told “no” by the city.

At a community association meeting in Fraser Heights today, I noticed how much emphasis was being put on feedback having been received from the city that stated that “there is no money in this year’s budget” to solve a safety problem on a section of 156th Street in Fraser Heights.

At 128th Street, the city rejected the crosswalk on the basis that according to a study, a crosswalk was not appropriate.

But, is it really that a crosswalk is not necessary, or that the city spends far too conservatively for a crosswalk to be acceptable in their eyes without meeting a minimum standard, except in certain circumstances?


I have been saying for a long time that our Mayor and Council need to realize that there can be serious consequences to Surrey’s minimal taxes and spending policies, which do not offer much leeway for proactive spending. Their failure to realize this is part of why we are hearing of this unfortunate reality that a girl is dead.

I watched a recent and excellent documentary called Speed Kills your Pocketbook (you should all watch this) that explores how and why speed can be better fine-tuned to improve safety. Still, while speed can kill your pocketbook, it can still kill lives. A crash with a pedestrian is more deadly if the driver is going faster, an indisputable fact that is reported in many studies.

Political incompetence can be very much the same way. Political incompetence, in the sense of a politician being both a wasteful and extravagant spender, kills your pocketbook. Political incompetence in the sense of being too ignorant and dismissive can kill lives.

However, political incompetence is also unlike speed. While the issue of speed killing pocketbooks and lives can both be solved, in the case of political incompetence, you can only solve one or the other. Saving lives might come at the expense of killing pocketbooks (okay, perhaps killing would be a bit extreme, but it could be painful). It’s a fine line – and a very significant one – that ultimately the residents of this city are going to have to think about.

A girl is dead.

“Unnecessary” should not be an excuse.

Families of Surrey, I hope this makes you think about whether this could be your child in a future incident.

Read the rest of this exceptional post at http://darylvsworld.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/political-incompetence-kills/