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Surrey mayoral candidates have their say on violence, LRT and growth

Hundreds of bylaw violating election signs that have been confiscated by the City of Surrey. .
Hundreds of bylaw violating election signs that have been confiscated by the City of Surrey. . Janet Brown / Global News

With each passing week and each incident of gang-related crime, the issue of public safety seems to dominate the race to replace Surrey First mayor Linda Hepner.

Earlier this year, more than 1,000 people attended a rally against gang violence following the deaths of 16-year-old Jason Jhutty and 17-year-old Jesse Bhangal in what police described as a targeted shooting.

Last week, the killing of a known gangster close to an elementary school in Surrey prompted strong reactions from several mayoral candidates.

Traffic and transit also remain major issues in the province’s fastest-growing city.

WATCH: All you need to know about the 2018 Surrey election

All you need to know about the 2018 Surrey election
All you need to know about the 2018 Surrey election

Last month, the federal government formally announced funding for the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT project, the province’s first light rail transit system aimed at providing services in areas of Surrey not connected by SkyTrain.

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Following the announcement, there was plenty of discussion about whether the money for the LRT would have been better spent elsewhere.

Global News sought the mayoral candidates’ views on violence in the city, transit and transportation, population growth, and any other issue they believe to be important.

The responses from the candidates who replied are posted below, unedited. Global News has also identified those who are running but did not respond to the questions before deadline. Candidates were asked to answer each question in less than 100 words.

READ MORE: Full coverage of the 2018 municipal election

Tom Gill – Surrey First

1)      Gang violence has long been a contentious issue plaguing Surrey — and it is arguably the biggest issue in this municipal election. What will you do to combat the growing epidemic of gang violence plaguing the province’s fastest growing city? How does Surrey’s police force play a role in this plan?

Keeping Surrey safe is my number one priority. Surrey is a safe city, but you only need a single shot fired to shatter that sense of safety. I’m committed to a plan that adds 125 police officers, pushes for a handgun ban, creates our first Surrey Police Board, letting voters decide if we should have our own police force and adding more programs to help keep kids out of gangs. Our five-year $50 million plan includes prevention, enforcement and intervention. For instance, more police is only part of the answer. We’ve already added police and have not seen a major shift in response times. I want to make sure we’re using our police resources properly, and I want more local authority and control of policing. We’re also going to give children and teens in our city free access to our pools, rinks and gyms to help keep them busy and out of the reach of gang recruiters who are targeting kids as young as 10. And we’re going to give parents a 1-800 number to call so they can learn about programs and services if they think their kids are heading in the wrong direction. Most parents wouldn’t know who to call if they thought their kids were getting into trouble. This central hub will be a great resource for parents. Tackling guns and gang violence means taking gangs head on, but it also means making sure our kids are not headed into the gang lifestyle. Our plan does both.

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2)      Transit and transportation infrastructure is another flashpoint in this election — and the $1.65-billion LRT project is a contentious issue. How will you address this issue, as mayor?

It has taken us 10 years to secure funding for transit in Surrey. We haven’t added any major investment in transit for more than 30 years. Now, we’re ready to get to work building the first phase of our LRT line. SkyTrain is great for connecting cities, but LRT is the best system for connecting our neighbourhoods and that’s what we need in Surrey. LRT will make it faster and easier for all of us to get around our city and it’s less expensive and faster to build than SkyTrain. There’s a reason that LRT is used in more than 300 major cities around the world — it works. I want to see 150 km of LRT built over the next 20-30 years so that getting around Surrey is fast and easy. The federal and provincial governments have come to the table with secured funding for LRT, not SkyTrain. If we turn that money down, we’ll be at the end of the line for another 10 years. We’re about to become the largest city in the province and transit needs to be a big part of our future. I’m committed to getting on with transit construction and when you look at the best system to help connect and build our neighbourhoods it’s definitely LRT. Both of my opponents campaigned for LRT and now they are suddenly turning it into a political football and jeopardizing transit in Surrey.

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3)      In the next 30 years, Surrey is expected to see its population grow by 300,000 people — and the city is already facing a growing housing affordability and supply crisis. What will you do to make living in Surrey attainable and affordable for its residents?

For our Surrey First team, this election is all about families and keeping Surrey a great place for families to live, work and play. The key to affordability is supply and that has been our focus here in Surrey. We want to ensure that we have a strong mix of housing options in our city. For instance, in city centre we’re looking at 65,000 people living in a high density neighbourhood and the creation of a real city centre, something we’ve never had until recently. Another element that will help make things easier for families is reducing the wait time for building and renovation permits. We need to move quicker at city hall to make getting a permit faster and easier for those kinds of projects.

The addition of transit to our neighbourhoods will also go a long way to building and connecting neighbourhoods — and when it’s easy to get around, without needing your car, it adds to affordability. Going forward I want to make sure we’re delivering smart development that provides plenty of housing options and prices. Another key is making sure we have the amenities that go along with growth. Surrey has made record investments in parks, rinks and pools, all of which are first class. More are on the way and I want to make sure that we’ve included these sorts of amenities and schools as part of the mix. I want amenities, transit and transportation to keep pace as we plan and approve any future developments. We have 300 families moving here every month — they like what they see here and that includes more affordability than other cities in the region and the best pools, rinks and parks anywhere in the Lower Mainland.

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4)      What issue — not covered above — are you hoping to address in your community?

Our focus has been on building the Surrey of the future. When I came here from Kamloops as a young man more than 30 years ago there were all kinds of Surrey jokes. We’re not that city any more. In 30 years, one in every four people in the Lower Mainland will be living in Surrey. A third of our population is under 19 and we speak more than 100 languages. For generations we have been a bedroom community, but all of that is changing. We open about 2000 businesses a year in Surrey and I want to see more because I want our people to be able to live and work right here at home without the long commutes that keep people away from their family. So, this election we asked voters to imagine the Surrey of the future. At the end of the day it boils down to civic pride, which is something we have in spades here. Now, I want to put that pride to work to create the very best city for our kids and grandkids. We’re definitely on our way, but there’s much more to do. So, for Surrey First the biggest opportunity is to help define and build the Surrey of the future.

READ MORE: Nanaimo mayoral candidates have their say on cleaning up city hall, homelessness

 Pauline Greaves – Proudly Surrey

1)      Gang violence has long been a contentious issue plaguing Surrey — and it is arguably the biggest issue in this municipal election. What will you do to combat the growing epidemic of gang violence plaguing the province’s fastest growing city? How does Surrey’s police force play a role in this plan?

I believe that we must target young people before gangsters do. Free community programs for youth and free transportation to get children to those centers is part of our platform. Yearly presentations should be made to all children and parents in an effort to enlighten them of the various means gangsters use to draw in new recruits. We will work in partnership with the school board to help achieve this, and we will create and phase in our own locally hired police force where we will compete aggressively for graduates in criminology, social work, and other interventions professions. We will ensure that the police force has the tools and resources to connect with the community. We will increase community policing approach and put more cops on the beat.

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2)      Transit and transportation infrastructure is another flashpoint in this election — and the $1.65-billion LRT project is a contentious issue. How will you address this issue, as mayor?

My position and that of my slate is to stay with LRT and go with Skytrain in phase two. Reasons include the fact that LRT enhances retail and commercial business accessibility and helps build neighbourhoods. Secondly, the money has been awarded to Surrey for LRT, the cheques have been written. Ottawa has not officially indicated that the money will still be available should we delay our transportation plan indefinitely while we debate and design another system be it Skytrain or something else. I have also made it clear that I will do all I can if elected, to slow down development until infrastructure, including transportation infrastructure, catches up.

3)      In the next 30 years, Surrey is expected to see its population grow by 300,000 people — and the city is already facing a growing housing affordability and supply crisis. What will you do to make living in Surrey attainable and affordable for its residents?

Metro Vancouver including Surrey, has a housing crisis. It affects many residents in the lower mainland. Along with extremely high prices for those able to purchase, rental stock is low. Many homes, be they condos, townhouses or single family homes, have been purchased offshore and sit empty; they should be put into the rental pool. If elected, I will implement an empty house tax to help alleviate the pressure. Additionally, developers must be pressured to provide a certain number of social, rental and lower cost housing within their developments spread all over the city; permits will be issued based on such an agreement.

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4)      What issue — not covered above — are you hoping to address in your community?

We need to rethink municipal governance and rebuild public confidence in municipal government. This election has highlighted the need for electoral reforms such as the best tool to delivery a proportional system.  Setting for criteria for individuals who might pose a conflict of interest in council based on their profession. For example, should real estate agents be allowed to run for office when most of the council’s business would place them in a conflict of interest? It may be looking at them giving up their license for 5 years before they are eligible. If we want to get corruption out of city hall we need to reform the system, and now.

READ MORE: Victoria mayoral candidates have their say on housing, public consultations

Bruce Hayne – Integrity Now

1)      Gang violence has long been a contentious issue plaguing Surrey — and it is arguably the biggest issue in this municipal election. What will you do to combat the growing epidemic of gang violence plaguing the province’s fastest growing city? How does Surrey’s police force play a role in this plan?

Immediately create a transparent, appointed Surrey Police Board with citizen representation, replacing the current Public Safety Committee which is comprised of only Mayor and Council.

Develop a new working relationship with the Surrey RCMP including hiring 40 additional police officers per year over the next four years for a total of 160 officers in this term. Enhance youth and community programs aimed at giving Surrey youth quality indoor and outdoor programming options in every neighbourhood in Surrey. Integrity Now commits to building a youth recreation hub in Newton, a neighbourhood underserved with civic facilities, in particular indoor recreation facilities. 

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2)      Transit and transportation infrastructure is another flashpoint in this election — and the $1.65-billion LRT project is a contentious issue. How will you address this issue, as mayor?

There is no doubt Surrey needs infrastructure investment with respect to mass transit, but we question the process and the logic of moving forward with such an unpopular approach and technology. An Integrity Now council will push pause on the LRT approach in order to do a full and transparent analysis as to what is the best technology for the people of this city. We need to give LRT a sober second thought before it is too late and really look at how we can get Skytrain in to serve Surrey. Skytrain works everywhere we put it.

3)      In the next 30 years, Surrey is expected to see its population grow by 300,000 people — and the city is already facing a growing housing affordability and supply crisis. What will you do to make living in Surrey attainable and affordable for its residents?

We need to take a leading role in Metro Vancouver’s Regional Prosperity Initiative, working with regional partners to attract business, conventions, sporting and other events. Confirm that infrastructure from senior levels of government keeps up with the pace of growth in our city as well as improve community amenities, such as recreation facilities and daycares that come with development. Ensure we have enough rental housing built to help keep rent affordable as we grow. As well, we will work with the school district and province to ensure adequate school planning and funding are in place prior to residential development.

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4)      What issue — not covered above — are you hoping to address in your community?

We believe governance is one of the core issues that needs to be addressed. Now more than ever we need leadership that will make courageous decisions over comfortable ones, do what is right instead of doing what is easy and practice values rather than just talking about them.

In recent years the people of Surrey have become disillusioned with the leadership of our city. It has changed from the open, collaborative, vibrant and inspirational government it once was. We need thoughtfulness, openness and integrity, not political answers and simplistic solutions. Surrey needs a change in political culture.

READ MORE: Live B.C. election results 2018: Find your riding and candidates

 Rajesh Jayaprakash – People First

1)      Gang violence has long been a contentious issue plaguing Surrey — and it is arguably the biggest issue in this municipal election. What will you do to combat the growing epidemic of gang violence plaguing the province’s fastest growing city? How does Surrey’s police force play a role in this plan?

We need solutions that can be implemented immediately and without raising taxes. Our innovative solution is to bring in a strategic security camera network. Every intersection and every high crime point, including school surroundings will have security cameras installed and they all connected to a centralized network. If not crime spots, the escape routes of criminals can be traced with this and evidence can be produced to courts to avoid catch and release. This will not be a high tech system but a low tech system with no monitoring etc. and controlled by city hall team — Not police. Privacy will be preserved by managing system with published rules and documented access lists.

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RCMP or City police force does not make any difference when crime data is compared with other cities like Vancouver, Abbotsford, Langley city etc. Plus, it will also take several years to create own police force and at least 20 per cent increase in property taxes etc. We support a study on RCMP Vs Municipal force, publish crime impact and costs and then a vote. Till then modernize crime prevention with the mentioned strategic camera network.

2)      Transit and transportation infrastructure is another flashpoint in this election — and the $1.65-billion LRT project is a contentious issue. How will you address this issue, as mayor?

We need Sky-train! Period. We will do a vote by mail in ballot for surrey residents and publish the results. This will clearly prove to Federal and Provincial governments that community need and want Skytrain – Not LRT. However, either Skytrain or LRT is several years away. We need to start with lot more buses in Surrey immediately. If there is $3B funding for 6 km Broadway tunnel, Skytrain for 40K population Port Moody and 70K population New West, there need to money for Skytrain for 550 K population Surrey. PEOPLE FIRST team will stand firmly for Surrey on this and go to any extent to get it for Surrey.

3)      In the next 30 years, Surrey is expected to see its population grow by 300,000 people — and the city is already facing a growing housing affordability and supply crisis. What will you do to make living in Surrey attainable and affordable for its residents?

We have a “Build up – Build more” policy which is focused on bringing more entry level housing to market. The more supply to be concentrated around transit corridors and will make the first home dream of renters a reality. This will have ripple effects on housing spectrum and make housing more affordable.

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4)      What issue — not covered above — are you hoping to address in your community?

Transparency: PEOPLE FIRST is the very first party in Canada that displayed all our income (not just donor lists) to our website daily to ensure we are practicing clean and honest politics. We will bring in a similar level of transparency to city hall if elected.

READ MORE: B.C. municipal election 2018: Surrey results

 Doug McCallum – Safe Surrey Coalition

1)      Gang violence has long been a contentious issue plaguing Surrey — and it is arguably the biggest issue in this municipal election. What will you do to combat the growing epidemic of gang violence plaguing the province’s fastest growing city? How does Surrey’s police force play a role in this plan?

There are two parts to the solution. We need to make it much tougher for gangs to do business in Surrey and we also need to protect our youth from being drawn into the gang culture.

It’s clearly time for Surrey to have its own urban police force governed by a local Police Board. The RCMP are, by training, a rural police force.

We need to invest in a Surrey Police Force that’s better able to deal with the ongoing crisis on our streets. Officers that spend their careers living and working here will be motivated to tackle the problems.

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2)      Transit and transportation infrastructure is another flashpoint in this election — and the $1.65-billion LRT project is a contentious issue. How will you address this issue, as mayor?

This election campaign is the first meaningful conversation with the public regarding Light Rail Transit (LRT) versus a SkyTrain extension with Rapid Bus Lines. Up until now the public hasn’t been adequately engaged or listened to about this critical project.

It never should have gotten this far.

But, it’s not too late to unwind the mistake. The funding will be there. I will immediately call for a halt in LRT construction and then start working on the SkyTrain extension along the Fraser Highway through Fleetwood and Clayton Heights. Rapid Bus Service will connect Cloverdale and other communities along the route.

3)      In the next 30 years, Surrey is expected to see its population grow by 300,000 people — and the city is already facing a growing housing affordability and supply crisis. What will you do to make living in Surrey attainable and affordable for its residents?

Well designed, high density areas are the solution. The sprawl can not continue. Recently development have not been well thought out. Too many developments aren’t even connecting residents to the basics like schools and transit.

Developments often add congestion to local road networks. Residents are experiencing longer and longer commutes. The Safe Surrey Coalition will pause development and introduce smart development guidelines.

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Smart developments connect people and communities to transit, schools, recreation, shopping, healthcare, nature. It creates places to enjoy life.

We need to pause and rethink the scattered approach to development which has become the norm in Surrey.

4)      What issue — not covered above — are you hoping to address in your community?

The Safe Surrey Coalition will focus on implementing all practical solutions to the affordable housing crisis. Resources are available. The Canadian government has a $40 Billion ten-year National Housing Strategy & the province has also budgeted $6.6 Billion over 10 years for affordable housing. Private sector companies also needs to be part of the solution.

Surrey needs to bring effective affordable housing projects to the table and get them built. We’ll start a Fast-track Innovations Team (FIT) consisting of staff and councillors (plus industry professionals as required) to reduce red tape, remove barriers, make connections, and move vital projects towards completion.

 Francois Nantel – Independent

1)      Gang violence has long been a contentious issue plaguing Surrey — and it is arguably the biggest issue in this municipal election. What will you do to combat the growing epidemic of gang violence plaguing the province’s fastest growing city? How does Surrey’s police force play a role in this plan?

First, we have to staff the police force correctly. Second, the country needs to look at decriminalization of hard drugs as Portugal has done. The mayors meeting at the UBCM must form a consensus to bring to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to put pressure on Ottawa to adopt such strategy. Ottawa also needs to be tougher in sentencing these type of crimes, as well as white collar crime.

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Police officers should have a weekly schedule to go talk to students from grade 3 to colleges/universities to talk about the risk of gang life style, and crimes.

2)      Transit and transportation infrastructure is another flashpoint in this election — and the $1.65-billion LRT project is a contentious issue. How will you address this issue, as mayor?

First, I will hold off on the LRT project. Second, then meet with all the mayors in the Lower Mainland. Third, I will convince them that my solution, a suspended rail system (see Shonan Monorail on YouTube), is better, cheaper, 100 per cent reliable in the winter, not in the middle of the road, and bears a smaller footprint.  As well, it’s compatible with the Skytrain, while LRT is not.  Further, we will engineer, right here in Surrey, the pylons, which will support the rails, with existing lamplighters, and telephone poles, + integrate and protect the cables running alongside of the lines.

3)      In the next 30 years, Surrey is expected to see its population grow by 300,000 people — and the city is already facing a growing housing affordability and supply crisis. What will you do to make living in Surrey attainable and affordable for its residents?

Assess what lands the city owns, and strike partnerships with builders to build rental stock that may, or may not be based on the market rate (which have been affected, to our great detriment, by outside factors), whereas in some cases they will be income based.

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These can be in the coop housing models, but it is the city that will own the lands and the structures. By the same token, we will have ask of the builders to hire apprenticeships when building these new homes.

4)      What issue — not covered above — are you hoping to address in your community?

The Pattullo Bridge Replacement project calls for a 4-lane bridge, expandable to 6. The present bridge is a 4-lane bridge built in the 1930’s. There is zero rational to build a new bridge still for 4 lanes when crossings went from 5000/day to 80.000/day.

Further, since 2015, the cost has ballooned from 980 million (p.25) to an extravagant 1.377 billion (p.2 of PDF) in 2018 for a 1.2 km bridge. Yet, the new Port Mann Bridge, according to the Journal of Commerce’s constructconnect, cost 820 million for a 10-lane, 2 km bridge in 2015 $.  The whole thing does not add up.

 Imtiaz Popat — Progressive Sustainable — did not respond by deadline

John Wolanski

1)      Gang violence has long been a contentious issue plaguing Surrey — and it is arguably the biggest issue in this municipal election. What will you do to combat the growing epidemic of gang violence plaguing the province’s fastest growing city? How does Surrey’s police force play a role in this plan?

First and foremost to answer the gang violence question.hire more police officers as the population increases. Another approach is to have more big brother big sister role models in our community as many a young person has been diverted from bad choices because somebody cared.

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2)      Transit and transportation infrastructure is another flashpoint in this election — and the $1.65-billion LRT project is a contentious issue. How will you address this issue, as mayor?

The existing funding model for light rail is already financed, but for phase two my preference is for Skytrain down Fraser Highway.

3)      In the next 30 years, Surrey is expected to see its population grow by 300,000 people — and the city is already facing a growing housing affordability and supply crisis. What will you do to make living in Surrey attainable and affordable for its residents?

City owned non industrial lands will be put to use as rental only designation. Senior levels of government would contribute the construction funds for these projects. A means test on percentage on income would determine the rental rates

4)      What issue — not covered above — are you hoping to address in your community?

My website http://johnwolanski.ca/ has a basic platform covering additional issues.