British Columbia

Scrapping RCMP and a SkyTrain to Langley: How one candidate's big promises are defining Surrey mayoral race

Crime and transportation are the hot-button topics of the campaign as CBC prepares to host a debate between the three main candidates on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. PT.

CBC hosting debate between 3 front-runners Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. PT

From left to right: Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum, Coun. Tom Gill and Coun. Bruce Hayne. The three men are the leading contenders to become the city's next mayor. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

If an election campaign is about getting other candidates to talk about your issues, then Doug McCallum is doing quite well for himself in Surrey. 

Crime and transportation are the hot-button topics. McCallum has promised to get rid of the RCMP in favour of an independent police force, and scrap proposed light-rapid transit lines to Guildford and Newton to ensure a SkyTrain line gets built to Langley. 

They're bold proposals. But McCallum, who served as mayor from 1996 to 2005, believes his resume will give voters confidence.

"That's why the people asked me to run," said McCallum, who resurrected his Safe Surrey Coalition after his failed 2014 bid to become mayor.

"I have the experience. I was mayor for nine years, I was chairman of TransLink for five years … so the people of Surrey know my background, they know my experience, and they know if we say we're going to do something, we're going to do it."

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Eleanore Sturko says the detachment is accountable to the City of Surrey — not to Ottawa. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

How plausible the ideas are is likely to be a topic of discussion at Tuesday's mayoral debate, hosted by CBC British Columbia and UBC, at the Newton Cultural Centre at 7:30 p.m. PT. 

On stage will be McCallum and his two main rivals for the job — sitting councillors Tom Gill and Bruce Hayne. 

Gill: Pro-LRT, referendum on RCMP

On policy, Gill contrasts with McCallum the most. He promises a referendum on an independent police force instead of a council vote, and passionately champions the plan to begin an extensive network of streetcar-type lines across Surrey with the Guildford and Newton extensions, which come with an estimated cost of $1.65 billion. 

"We finalized some of these plans well over a decade ago," said Gill, the Surrey First mayoral candidate. 

"We've been working with researchers, we've been working with educators around the world as what is the best service for Surrey. We believe the LRT will shape our city."

As the candidate representing the party that has led Surrey for the last decade, Gill has gotten criticism for decisions made by Mayor Linda Hepner and past mayor Diane Watts. 

But he defends the policies and legacies of Surrey First, which has won every council seat in the last two elections.

"We have been able to address a number of major issues over the last decade that other councils have not," he said, an implicit criticism of McCallum's tenure.   

"We on Surrey First are all individuals, we all have our own values, and the diversity we offer is unlike anything else." 

TransLink is scheduled to begin construction of LRT lines to Guildford and Newton in 2020. (TransLink )

'Not going to dumb down these issues'

If Gill is a contrast to McCallum in terms of policy, Hayne is a contrast in terms of governing philosophy. 

"I'm not going to dumb down these very complex issues to one-line sound bites to try and get votes," said Hayne, who this summer left Surrey First and started his own party, Integrity Now. 

"Saying that I'm going to get rid of the RCMP and start a municipal force the day I'm in does not begin to look at that equation in any kind of depth."

Hayne promises further studies on LRT before making a decision, and takes a similar stance on whether Surrey should have an independent police force.

"Moving to a municipal police force is not nearly as simple as some would have you believe," he said. "We're looking at six to seven years … I think the people of Surrey deserve solutions much quicker than that."

In a race where billion-dollar decisions are front and centre, Hayne's position may not get splashy headlines. 

But he's hopeful his stance is one that will resonate. 

"We can't just have a one-line sound bite that's going to fix all the problems in Surrey, that's just impractical," he said. 

CBC's mayoral debate will begin at 7:30 p.m. PT on Oct. 9. Tune in to CBC Radio OneCBC British Columbia's website, or CBC Vancouver's Facebook page for a live broadcast.

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About the Author

Justin McElroy


Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.


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