Last weeks City Hall column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Surrey LRT plans scary expensive!

In the iconic movie Field of Dreams, farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice whispering every time he walks through his corn field: “If you build it, he will come.”

But only in the movies could a farmer plow a cash crop, build a baseball field for ghosts and have everything turn out OK. In reality, while a vision mocked by others can result in great achievements, just as often that vision results in hardship — often financial.

With voters in the region smacking down an increase in the sales tax to fund the Mayors’ Council transportation vision, it’s clear now that there really was no plan B.

Why the Mayors’ Council had no credible back-up plans for funding in a vote that was doomed to fail remains unanswered. In the corporate world, any CEO without a plan B, C and, last resort, D, would be shown the door.

Enter Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, who finds herself in the awkward position of having promised to have LRT running in the city by 2018, but has yet to find an economically viable way to do that.

With the city carrying a debt load of approximately $245 million, borrowing to finance a $2-billion-plus project isn’t an option. That has the city grasping at straws to locate funds, and Hepner making headlines again for suggesting she might “take back” the city’s share of gas tax that currently goes directly to TransLink.

Hepner’s lastest suggestion has critics once again raising questions as to whether LRT is really even the best economic or logistical option for rapid transit in Surrey.

In a post yesterday, Daryl Dela Cruz of Better Surrey Rapid Transit, claims that even a public-private partnership deal for LRT would not recover operating costs and require the city to subsidize the line to the tune of $100 million a year.

While Dela Cruz is pushing for SkyTrain, another group called Rail for the Valley has been advocating for years to upgrade the existing interurban rail line that runs from Chilliwack into Surrey — at a fraction of the cost of Hepner’s plan.

Their release of the highly regarded Leewood report in 2010 presented a compelling argument to support the idea, yet remains largely ignored by politicians in favour of plans with more cachet.

The no vote should give Surrey council pause to reflect and re-assess what the city’s actual transit needs are, versus what sounds nice to build — otherwise it’s just another field of dreams with the taxpayers on the hook.

This weeks City Hall column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Regional politicians deserve more scrutiny

If you’ve ever played roulette, you might have heard the old phrase describing the popular game of chance: “Round and round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows.”

It also describes how I feel when I look at the many ways local governments go about spending the hard-earned tax dollars we all contribute. In last week’s column, Chris Campbell wrote about how the never–ending antics of TransLink really take the heat off the activities of other local governments — including the regional body known as Metro Vancouver.

Formerly known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District, Metro Vancouver manages and delivers services for the entire region. Comprised of four separate corporate entities, regional essentials like drinking water, waste-water treatment and air quality monitoring are included in their mandate.

The 2015 budget estimates expenditures of $657 million, and some of this money comes from you. The cost to the average household in the region is estimated at $427 a year, so it only makes sense that you should be paying as much attention to Metro Vancouver as you do TransLink because the two are similar in terms of governance.

In fact, Metro Vancouver is yet another reason you really need to pay attention to candidates and who you vote for in your municipal elections — the board of 38 directors are all elected officials, appointed to their positions by local councils.

It’s anything but democratic, and there is little accountability to the public in terms of oversight. Starting at the top, the pay and expenses are enough to raise eyebrows. Board chair Greg Moore, mayor of Port Coquitlam, makes $71,858 and has $2,412 of expenses reported for 2015 — this is in addition to his mayor’s salary of $91,148.

Vice-chair Raymond Louie — a Vancouver councillor whose city pay is $68,552 — brings in an extra $35,929. It’s only July but he’s already racked up $8,841 on conferences and workshops since November of last year…

Read the rest of this weeks column, HERE:


2014 expenses for the board:

2015 expenses for the board: 

Last weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Transparency hit new low during plebiscite

Twenty-three is the number of elected representatives in Metro Vancouver who are members of the Mayors’ Council on Transportation — 21 members are mayors, one represents Electoral area ‘A’, and another is the chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation. Collectively, they are supposed to represent the views and interests of the citizens of the region — you.

The $5.8 million is what the Mayors’ Council spent to promote the Yes vote in the transit plebiscite.

As for 44.7, that is the average percentage of people who took the time to vote. And while the turnout was higher in most cities in this vote than the last civic election, it’s still indicative of how few voters even care.

It’s outrageous — all of it. But that’s not all. Some of the cities in Metro Vancouver spent even more public funds, out of their own city budgets.

It’s been reported that Vancouver spent an additional $292,705 while Surrey coughed up an extra $240,500. New Westminster tossed in another $20,00, but Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said nothing extra was spent — the city simply jotted down a reminder of the ballot in the property tax notice that was already being sent out.

None of these figures even include things like time city staff spent on Yes vote activities.

The Yes side, including the Mayors’ Council, declined to be transparent about their spending during the plebiscite and didn’t release where and how these millions were spent until last week.

And when you consider that the Mayors’ Council is part of the TransLink governance model, it raises even more questions as to their accountability as well.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner both aggressively campaigned, despite Hepner’s own obstacle at having earlier promised LRT running by 2018 even with a no vote.

West Vancouver,Burnaby and Maple Ridge mayors were the only two to oppose the plan — citing lack of TransLink spending oversight — while Jackson chose to ask Delta residents for their feedback rather than taking any position. A wise move.

It’s a sad day when elected officials can ask for, receive and then waste millions of public dollars trying to convince us that TransLink can be trusted to spend even more money wisely.

When this much accountability is lacking, we’ve all lost — regardless of the outcome of this vote.

Translink FOI release of untendered contract extension begs the question: Which is the easier ride: Skytrain or gravy train ?

A Freedom of Information request released yesterday by Translink after an extended delay, finally shows the details behind one of the contractors involved in providing services relating to the Mayors Council strategic plan and Transit tax plebiscite.

Where to start ?

How about with how long it took for this FOI to be released.

The initial  FOI request was filed on January 9th, 2015. On February 23rd Translink advised they were using a 30 day extension to further consult with a third party and that a response would be given no later than April 8th, 2015. ( the interoffice memo between Translink staff about this release, indicating any highlighted areas are to be redacted is dated January 20th, 2015- which seems to imply that at that point, it was ready for release)

On April 8th a reminder was sent to the Information Access manager at Translink of their prior commitment to respond on that date. Yesterday – April 15th- the information requested was finally released with an apology for the delay,a week post-deadline

Earlier this year, Bob Mackin wrote a post on Translink rolling out the contracts:

Counterpoint scores

On Jan. 2, Counterpoint Communications got a new year’s gift. Its “Business and Stakeholder Outreach” consulting contract was extended indefinitely by TransLink without a bid, because of tight timelines and Counterpoint’s “unique expertise.”

Said the notice of intent: “The Supplier has provided focused stakeholder engagement services to raise awareness of the Mayors’ Council vision, developed a strong understanding of the Mayors’ Plan and provided an important liaison between TransLink/Mayors’ Council and stakeholders.”

Mayors’ Council chair Richard Walton, who is also Mayor of North Vancouver District, was unable to answer about the budget for the contract when I contacted him.

The FOI on this contract is rather open-ended,with few concrete deliverable in place other than what is dictated in the  Schedule A ( pg 8) and a proposal letter sent from Counterpoint to Translink VP Bob Paddon in June of 2014 ( Pg 9)

services (2)

The timeframe for the original contract was June 2014 – December 2014 for $70,000 fees and &4,000 expenses.

An amendment to that contract was signed December 31st,2015 ( pg 15) extending the contract to July 31st 2015, for an additional $100,000 dollars.

No further changes to services were amended.

Also of note is section 17 which notes the following:

nopromotion (2)

While not unusual, it brings to mind the many tweets of Counterpoint principal  Bruce Rozenhart and Counterpoint senior consultant Bob Ransford, both of whom have been very involved in tweeting Yes side links and material on Twitter during the campaign period. I wondered if those tweets are part of the services provided in this contract, and sent an email asking for clarification and comment on this  to Rozenhart.

As of the time of this posting, I have not received a reply, but I’ll post one if he does respond.

If this is any indicator of the kind of contracts being handed out by Translink, it’s alarming on many levels.

What exactly does it mean to ” stimulate/facilitate discussion and information exchange” on the Mayors Council strategic plan and referendum development?

How is this objective measured? What are the deliverables? Where is the concrete plan written into the contract to ensure the best value for money paid is achieved? Are promotional materials involved? Where is the list of stakeholders to be met?

What exactly is Translink paying for? Conversations? Meetings? Tweets? I really don’t know.

A look at Schedule B (pg10) gives us this:

Fees (2)

“…Fees will be paid by Translink in the fixed amount of $74,000 regardless of the amount of time actually expended by the contractor to perform the services.”

Keep in mind, this was extended until July 2015 and for an additional $100,000.00.It’s all very open-ended and frankly, alarmingly vague – it makes me wonder if there are more contracts out there like this!

This is the kind of thing that drives taxpayers batty. We get fixed price contracts and we get the need for public relations and communications strategies. But $174,000.00 for a contract that has no measurable goal-posts in the contract and pays out regardless of how much time was actually spent on “stimulating and facilitating ” discussion and information exchange on the mayors transportation plan and goals?

Which begs the question: Which is the easier ride: Skytrain, or the gravy train?

Left, Right and the space in between: Conquering the Great Divide in politics.

As many readers know, I grew up in a rural area just north of Prince George and enjoyed a childhood that I look back on with fond memories now, as an adult living on the coast.

It’s because of that rural upbringing, that I have often feel like I have a unique perspective to bring to the table on many issues, and one of those issues is the great political divide between the “Left” and “Right”- a very sweet spot that I think holds a lot of power in any vote.

British Columbia is a pretty interesting place when it comes to politics. With a lot of traditionally left leaning big labour,union back industry, one would think an NDP government would always win provincial elections, but they don’t. Many union members will vote for the Liberals despite leaders saying they should vote NDP – happens up north all the time, and many non-party voters afraid of change will vote Liberal too.

In fact we’ve had a Liberal government for over a decade, much to the frustration of the BC NDP, who’ve changed leaders/strategists/faces/clothes and still can’t pull in the votes. Why?

It’s my opinion that the majority of people in this province, and this country, really spend most of their lives residing in the space created by the Great Divide between left and right political parties. They don’t care to join a political party, they might not follow politics at all unless it’s the morning of voting day, or perhaps they limit it to paper headlines and coffetime chats.

If you were to ask them where they stand on various issues politicians like to use as emotional tools during elections (crime,taxes,jobs and education) you would likely find they lean left on some issues and right on others. To them, it’s the issue and how that issue is addressed that matters, not the political ideology behind the party trying to get that vote. Whatever  party happens to hit that nerve for them will likely get their vote.

It’s what makes the space between Left and Right, the sweet spot to aim for in politics. So far, the left hasn’t been able to conquer the great divide in BC and it’s because they can’t get those non-party,slightly conservative centrist votes no matter what they do. And when I use the word conservative here,I don’t mean the political party kind of conservative,I mean cautious – likely to err on the side of being careful.

The current transit tax plebiscite here in Metro Vancouver, has raised the ugly specter of partisan politics once again and as I’ve previously written, it only serves to further remove those in centre further away from politics:

” To be honest, I’m very concerned about where the labels assigned to political leanings have taken us. What I am seeing in the press and among regular people on social media, is a compete discounting of any ideas, policies, or changes.. based not on the merit of those items… but based on the label assigned to the person it originated from. Frankly, it’s a bit frustrating because in the end, it is the voters of this province that suffer the most from all these partisan politics.

I guess if you had to label me, I would be a leftie with a small L. But when it comes to finances, I am very conservative and I say that not to indicate the party, but that I think government needs to be really, very cautious when spending public money. But if you say you are a fiscal conservative, well, frankly, in some left factions, the world comes to an end.

Likewise, if you are a rightie BC liberal, and actually care about poverty and education and civil rights, you again cause worlds to collide.

Sadly though, for so many covering and living politics in BC, as soon as the label LEFT or RIGHT appears, the ears and mind close to anything further.

Doesn’t matter if the NDP have a good idea, the Libs or Cons will never accept or acknowledge it.

And God forbid those socialist NDP’ers come up with a good idea, because as Bill Bennett will tell you, they are a bunch of Commies.

So what the hell does a person like myself, who is sick of party politics, but is “left” on most issues, “Right” on others to do?

Hell if I know!!

It’s appalling to me on so many levels that public and political discourse has come to this in BC, leaving so many people discontent, unengaged and bereft of a political home because of partisan politics.

Both the Liberal and NDP leaders have spoken about bringing change, and bringing people back to politics, but I am just not seeing it…”

That was from 2013 and from the looks of the divisiveness that has been and continues to be created by the transit tax vote, it proves to be still an issue with long-lasting repercussions.

Progressives like myself are being labelled Right-wing operatives for voting No by others on the left…some of whom are working side by side with developers and others who stand to benefit directly from more Translink funding!

Cities and regions are divided because of vastly different needs and values and insults are flying left, right and centre. I’ve seen people told they must be stupid not to understand what is at stake here,that their opinions and their realities are wrong. It’s insane.

The single resident in Vancouvers West-end who’s never lived outside that area in their life, is often so far removed from the realities of families or couples in the suburbs south of the Fraser,it’s a complete disconnect between the two. Neither is wrong for their view,but neither can win in this ballot or this political climate.

It’s likely to be remembered for being one of the best examples of what poor leadership and policy making can accomplish,along with a good dose of partisanship served up on the side.

It’s all more than a bit sad and disappointing to see. Frankly I often wear my heart on my sleeve and my readers know very well where I stand on issues of social change and betterment. It’s all here on this blog. I’ve documented more than a 100 reasons the Liberals need to go and this plebiscite I’m still voting No in, is one more to add to the list.

Do our political parties really even want to conquer that great divide? Considering the extent of the partisanship on both sides, I don’t think so.Clark snipes at Horgan in the legislature and he snipes right back.Shes out playing to media at soccer games and he’s having coffee with people outside of Metro Vancouver who are telling him they can’t make ends meet. But does anything really ever change?

A wise man once said that one of the reasons people hate politics so much is that truth is rarely a politicians objective. Getting elected and power are.

I’d like to believe that’s not true- in fact I know it isn’t in many cases. Let’s prove that wise man wrong. Let’s open our ears, move things forward in a non-partisan manner and bring the people back into politics.


This weeks column for 24hrs Vancouver: ‘The ‘Yes’ vote not worth saving

Perhaps I’ve been a bit persuasive but this week it appears that Brent’s support for the Yes side is waning…. this is my response to his argument that only Jordan Bateman can save the Yes vote at all.

This week’s topic: Can the ‘Yes’ vote be saved in the transit plebiscite?

Well, knock me down and call me Christy Clark because when I read my Duel partner’s column this week it confirmed to me that the growing feeling of contempt over this transit funding vote is ready to boil over.

When long-time champions of this government find it hard to continue to support what Brent refers to as an expensive opinion poll, it should sound alarm bells for everyone in Metro Vancouver. However, the argument that Jordan Bateman – poster boy for the No campaign – can save the Yes vote is clearly a half-hearted, last-ditch attempt to deflect culpability from the premier to the only convenient target.

Suggesting that Bateman and his campaign should redefine what voting yes would mean to include governance and oversight of TransLink is shortsighted at best in addressing how egregious this entire “congestion tax” vote really is.

It was April 2013 when the BC Liberals promised voters that any new funding for TransLink would be put to a regional referendum. It was a promise that has been criticized by former transportation ministers and transit advocates alike and rightfully so. Leadership is as much about making hard decisions when it comes to government policy as it is about listening to voters and even seasoned politicians will tell you it’s a fine line to walk.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

However, from the beginning the premier’s promise has been less about good governance than it has been about setting up the mayors of the region as targets she can point her finger to and say: ”Don’t look at me, this was their idea!”…


READ the rest of this weeks Duel, comment and vote at:

This weeks column for 24hrs Vancouver: Transit tax’No’ vote sensible

This week’s topic: Is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s argument to vote no in the transit referendum persuasive?

My duel partner begins with a great idiom this week, sage advice that warns against passing over something workable, in the quest for something perfect.

However, when it comes to the proposed transit tax, the No Translink Tax team has done well to date showing why Metro Vancouver residents should avoid “throwing good money after bad” – the mayors’ proposal is far from perfect. I don’t completely agree with the solution the no campaign has outlined, but I do think they’ve done an excellent job of addressing the elephant in the room the yes side wants you to ignore.

TransLink is the organization that will be making the decisions and expenditures with the funds received from the proposed transit tax. The only foolhardy move is to pretend that its record of accountability and transparency shouldn’t be under examination when it comes to the administration of taxpayers’ money.

Much like political campaigns leading up to an election, the No TransLink Tax team has been releasing examples of TransLink waste and questionable spending bit by bit for impact. Helping their argument is that there is no shortage of examples, but even more alarming is the questionable management decisions that lead to that waste.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere:

In many cases, the money spent can’t be recovered – economists refer to this as a sunk cost. It’s money that’s gone for good. Poodle on a pole? Paying rent on empty buildings you sold at a loss? Those costs are not recoverable. A savvy businessperson knows the amount of sunk costs should never dictate decisions on future investment, but sadly, government and Crown corporations often get caught up in what is referred to as a sunk cost fallacy…

READ the rest of this weeks Duel, comment and vote now at:


This weeks column for 24HRS Vancouver: Oversight needed to fix Translink

This week’s topic: Do recent SkyTrain failures show TransLink is failing riders?

With two massive SkyTrain failures and a couple of smaller system incidents creating commuter chaos in Metro Vancouver recently, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for TransLink officials.

The first major breakdown occurred during afternoon rush-hour passenger traffic and was ultimately found to have been caused by a card failure in the system’s main communications computer — a once-in-a-blue moon failure that wasn’t anticipated, nor planned for. With passengers stranded in between stations on elevated tracks, the problem was exacerbated by frustrated riders breaking open SkyTrain car doors and walking along the tracks back to stations. The entire system had to be powered down to avoid any injury or death from a passenger inadvertently coming into contact with the track.

Just a few days later, the system once again came to a grinding halt for hours and the chaos began all over again. Incredibly, the second outage even shut down the public announcement systems and TransLink wasn’t able to communicate with stranded passengers. Again, in frustration and panic, passengers took matters into their own hands and walked back along tracks to stations – a situation that by any perspective is a recipe for disaster.

One would expect that after two major outages, TransLink would have had things quickly whipped into shape, but yet another “minor systems delay” impacted the morning commute between stations in Vancouver just two days later.

To be accurate and fair, SkyTrain is a pretty reliable form of transportation overall. But as any regular rider will tell you, minor “glitches” happen often that never make the news, and questions are being asked whether or not maintenance for the 30-year-old system is being funded properly. Last year, a major failure was blamed on aging parts and a major project was undertaken to replace aging power rails.

While TransLink officials initially said a review wasn’t needed, its CEO Ian Jarvis subsequently came forth in the media and acknowledged several points he personally considered failures to be addressed.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

While I applaud his acknowledgement of failures and commitment to bring in outside experts for a review, concerns about maintenance plans, funding and inadequate emergency response were reason enough for local mayors to call for more governance and accountability – and I agree.

READ the rest of this weeks column, vote and leave your comments at:

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: B.C. premier should get rid of referendum and work out a proper transit deal

Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on marijuana laws was Laila with 61%.

This week’s topic:

Should the premier cancel the transit referendum and leave planning and funding to the existing process?

A dream has been repeating itself lately in my mind, one in which politicians sit down and actually engage in productive discussions with each other. A dream in which politicians put good policy and process ahead of unrealistic, vague demands and pointing fingers. A dream in which it’s possible to get from point A to point B without a vehicle.

Then I wake up.

The reality is that while commuting in Vancouver is incredibly easy — in Surrey, Langley and other suburbs taking the bus often isn’t a viable option. In far too many areas, transit is still as much of a dream as the one I’ve been having about politicians working together. As Metro Vancouver grows by leaps and bounds, so do the number of cars on the road because the bedroom communities are vastly underserved by other forms of mass transit.

Read Brent Stafford’s column

Vancouver is already served by more than one SkyTrain line and a plethora of bus routes, and yet the city is also lobbying hard for rapid transit out to the University of B.C. along Broadway — a goal at odds with the desperate need for transit south of the Fraser. It’s been clear for a long time that due to the vastly different transit needs of the region’s municipalities, reaching a consensus on funding wouldn’t come easy.

More gas taxes? Higher property taxes? Tolling every bridge in the region? Premier Christy Clark only announced the transit referendum last year before the election in the hopes of appealing to the populist ideal of avoiding higher taxes. Well done! Now we have a forced referendum, with a question that will be designed to deflect any blame from the provincial government onto you, the voter, and the mayors who failed to deliver…

Read the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote for who you think should win this weeks duel at


“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: .

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 :


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.

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… )

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  :

“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.

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

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