South Surrey residents packed Rotary Field House this evening for one of the last all candidates meetings before voters hit the polls next weekend, and to this observer, one thing was clear.
Surrey residents know what they want this year and they aren’t afraid to ask the questions that matter to current and potential candidates for the mayoral and council positions soon up for grabs.
Hot topics of the night – based on crowd reaction to answers- were how candidates would handle the Semiahmoo Town Centre plan, George Bush and the continuance of Economic Summits in Surrey and crime.
So where do the candidates stand on some of the issues from this evening? Here’s what stood out for me. The two biggest areas where opposing political slates and independent candidates were nearly polar opposites were whether or not they agreed that reported( key word there) crime is decreasing in the city, and George Bush.
With respect to crime, all Surrey First candidates agreed crime is decreasing in Surrey, and nearly all SCC candidates disagreed with that statement.
Surrey First candidates who chose to speak to that issue, used statistics as the governing reason why crime is down, as well as the crime reduction strategy.
Surrey Civic Coalition candidates who chose to speak to that issue, mentioned the flaws and misinformation in the statistics, which do not report all crimes, count all crimes the same way, and use qualifiers that make some of the statistics virtually useless. Ross Buchanan mentioned that in some cases, crime is actually up and Grant Rice pointed out that in the case of Violent crime, its a near flat line over several years.
Candidates were asked a) if the presence of George Bush was beneficial or not to the city locally, nationally and internationally and b) if elected would they continue the summits and who they might invite.
Bob Bose: No, and showed a lack of good judgement by the city.
Ross Buchanan: No, invitation despite opposition ruptured trust between citizens and city hall. Questioned true cost to city of hosting event
Rina Gill: No, gave city a bad reputation and questioned policing costs.
Bruce Hayne: Yes – ” takes unpopular position” and states yes, he is a businessman, takes staff and sometimes clients, paid for his own ticket and theirs, so important for local economy in Surrey.( Bruce is the new man on Surrey First, is not currently elected, with hopes to win over Bose’s seat which would make our entire Surrey council, all Surrey First.)
Linda Hepner- Absolutely yes a good idea to have Bush and yes it was big benefit to Surrey. States summits are part of Economic Investment Strategy
Barinder Rasode: Yes, states we need to listen to those we don’t agree with so we can learn from their failures.
Grant Rice: No, states no way Bush benefitted Surrey, questions how Muslims in Surrey must have felt about Bush coming. ( Watts shook her head and said” Oh my God” to that)
Watts: Yes, mentioned again how other things were talked about, and that what our American neighbours do affects us, would continue summits and stated that a muslim person at the back of the room was at the summit and she didn’t believe he was offended.
Unfortunately, I had to leave before the last two questions were heard and prior to the candidates one minute pitch to the crowd why they should vote for them, but the undercurrent of the evening definitely spoke to a strong feeling of change and discontent in the city, one that might make this years election a crucial one for some candidates feeling the heat. With only 5 days to go, it’s everyman, or woman, for themselves.