Surrey election: Can mayor-elect Doug McCallum deliver on transit, policing promises?
Published Monday, October 22, 2018 7:07PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, October 22, 2018 7:20PM PDT
Surrey's newly elected mayor ran on a platform to scrap already approved light rail plans and replace the RCMP with a dedicated municipal police force, but it's quickly becoming clear that Doug McCallum is in for a tough fight before he can make good on those promises.
The 73-year-old's commitment to expand SkyTrain service in Surrey rather than continue with the LRT project is a complicated and costly one.
About $50 million have already been spent on light rail plans. And if Surrey wants to opt out, McCallum would have to convince the Metro Vancouver Mayors' Council that the SkyTrain is a better option, despite the money that has already been spent.
"Our government committed to fund 40 per cent of the capital projects of Phase 2 of the Mayors' Plan and it's up to the mayors' council to see if there's any changes," said B.C.'s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson.
Critics say switching to the SkyTrain plan would move Surrey's plans for transit expansion backwards rather than forward.
"SkyTrain is going to keep us behind another 10, 15 years while they figure it all out," said Anita Huberman of the Surrey Board of Trade, adding that there's also the question of funding.
"SkyTrain costs at least three times more to build than LRT," Huberman said.
The board doesn't think the funding promised for LRT can be repurposed for SkyTrain expansion, but McCallum believes otherwise.
"The prime minister has committed verbally, publically that the money will stay in Surrey at $1.65 billion," said McCallum, who previously served as the city's mayor between 1996 and 2005.
McCallum ran again against outgoing mayor Linda Hepner in 2014, but lost by more than 20,000 votes.
The mayor-elect's other big promise was to bring in a city police force, but Surrey has a contract with the RCMP until 2032.
The city can end the agreement early, but needs to give at least two years' notice and have the move approved by the province.
"My responsibility as solicitor general is to ensure there is an effective policing model in place for Surrey and if Surrey does want to change, they need to have an alternative plan," Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said Monday.
Richmond considered moving to a city police force back in 2016, but ultimately decided the costs of the transition would be too high and the process too complex.
There is one promise McCallum can immediately fulfill: getting rid of paid street parking around Surrey Memorial Hospital.
For everything else, he said he's already working on a plan.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro