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Embattled Surrey mayor addresses ‘doubters and naysayers’ in annual speech

Click to play video: 'Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum delivers ‘State of the City’ address' Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum delivers ‘State of the City’ address
In the face of numerous calls for him to step down, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum delivered his annual State of the City address Wednesday morning. As Jasmine Bala reports, McCallum says despite the controversy he believes he still has the support of the majority of Surrey voters – Jun 1, 2022

Two days after a council meeting was adjourned due to the jeers of hecklers, the embattled mayor of Surrey has made his 2022 state of the city address.

Doug McCallum spoke Wednesday of record-breaking growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, and of keeping his election promises, including the controversial transition to a municipal police service.

“There has been no shortage of critics, doubters and naysayers. I have always said you need to have a thick skin to do this job,” he told the crowd.

“To the council members that have stood fast, I want to thank you. The promises we made to the people of Surrey we have kept and we have delivered.”

Click to play video: 'Surrey mayor addresses council meeting chaos, calls to resign' Surrey mayor addresses council meeting chaos, calls to resign
Surrey mayor addresses council meeting chaos, calls to resign – Jun 1, 2022

Read more: Surrey, B.C. council meeting erupts into chaos as mayor asked to resign

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McCallum touted more than 20 capital projects underway in Surrey under its $428-million investment program, including a new athletic centre and community centre with an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The city boasted housing starts resulting in more than 5,800 new units in 2021 — six per cent more than Vancouver said McCallum — and building permit values adding up to over $2 billion.

“Senior levels of government are investing in our city, from funding new housing to rapid transit expansion, from replacing aging bridges to a new hospital,” he said. “Surrey is on the radar.”

Since the introduction of council’s guaranteed building permitting timeline last fall, McCallum added, the average permitting wait time in Surrey has decreased from 15 weeks in 2021 to just under nine weeks.

The pace of growth brought 1,500 new businesses to Surrey during the pandemic, said the mayor, proving “the days when Surrey was a feeder community have fallen by the wayside.”

“For a city to thrive I believe we all share a responsibility to better the place we live and work in. There is no question that starts with council.”

Click to play video: 'How provincial government is reacting to situation with Surrey mayor' How provincial government is reacting to situation with Surrey mayor
How provincial government is reacting to situation with Surrey mayor – Jun 1, 2022

Read more: Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum refused to step down as chair of Surrey Police Board: reports

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McCallum was barraged with calls to resign at a council meeting on Monday, resulting in its adjournment until Wednesday evening. Many members of the public, and a handful of council members, have repeatedly asked him to step down until his public mischief case is concluded in court.

After his state of the city address, the mayor told reporters it is “of course” appropriate for him to stay on as mayor, as he’s “innocent until proven guilty.”

“I have certainly understood that but I think a lot of it’s political,” he said of calls for his resignation. “We’re in an election time right now and I will not step down.”

McCallum said he has seen “tremendous public support” in the past few weeks — the kind of support he has never seen in his “15 years of being mayor.”

Click to play video: 'Surrey mayor still silent on public mischief charges and refusal to leave the Surrey Police Service Board' Surrey mayor still silent on public mischief charges and refusal to leave the Surrey Police Service Board
Surrey mayor still silent on public mischief charges and refusal to leave the Surrey Police Service Board – May 26, 2022

He also said there will be additional security present at Wednesday night’s council meeting to ensure “all people respect each other.” He doesn’t want meetings to be closed, he added.

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“People have differences of opinion. I respect that and we need to listen to those people. Our only request is not for them to be shouting and swearing in council chambers.”

Speaking with reporters, McCallum addressed “all the cultures” that choose to make Surrey their home, estimating it is “probably the most multicultural city in all of Canada,” and “probably could be one of the most multicultural in all of the world.”

“These cultures have all difference (of) opinions on how to live and how to bring their families up and so forth,” he said. “And we say to all the different cultures, let’s listen to each other. If we listen to each other then maybe we can learn from each other.”

Read more: Woman at centre of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s public mischief case speaks out

Click to play video: 'Surrey council meeting adjourned after calls for mayor to step down' Surrey council meeting adjourned after calls for mayor to step down
Surrey council meeting adjourned after calls for mayor to step down – May 31, 2022

McCallum’s public mischief charge stems from his September 2021 claim that a woman ran over his foot with her car at a Save-On-Foods parking lot.

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Police documents related to his case, recently unsealed in court, have questioned the credibility of that claim. According to their authors, McCallum’s statements about being “pinned up against” his vehicle and “limping” after his foot was run over, are at odds with what appears in surveillance videos.

McCallum claimed the woman who ran over his foot was canvassing for signatures to oppose the city’s planned transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service. The woman, Debi Johnstone, later told Global News she was “falsely accused.”

None of the allegations against McCallum have been proven in court.

Wednesday’s council meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m.

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