Opinion

EDITORIAL: Coleman called out over casino

Residents can be forgiven for presuming the casino/hotel/convention centre planned for South Surrey was a done deal long before last week’s public-hearing process.

Turns out, the provincial minister responsible for gaming assumed exactly the same thing.

Minister Rich Coleman said as much after two marathon public-hearing sessions ended early Saturday with the rejection of Gateway Casinos and Entertainment’s gaming facility in a controversial 5-4 vote by Surrey council.

He – and the BC Lottery Corporation – has wasted little time in the days since advising that the City of Surrey has been relegated to the backburner when it comes to future projects by the Crown corporation.

Even more shockingly, Peace Arch News learned this week that Coleman called individual council members in between public-hearing sessions to advise that this was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition – there would be no new casinos elsewhere in the city, regardless of local wishes.

Appalling.

While Coleman’s understanding of civic process and his own ministry’s mandate is lacking, his seeming disdain for due process is worse.

No, minister, the land in question was not already zoned for a casino. And no, a government official consulting with the very people who sit as judge and jury to deliver any sort of private message – during what is supposed to be a decidedly public process – is not acceptable.

Hundreds turned out, and thousands more tuned in, to take part in the public hearing that was to help decide the fate of a planned “entertainment centre” on 168 Street at 10 Avenue.

Speakers on both sides lined up to take their numbers and await their turns in what turned into two overnight sessions, talking into the wee hours.

Surrey politicians listened, city staff advised, media reported and – in the middle of it all – a provincial minister blusters through the backdoor to issue what can only be interpreted as an ultimatum.

If this is the sort of shameful behaviour Premier Christy Clark encourages of our leaders on the provincial stage – from the same government that vowed to leave casino placement up to each community – the May 14 election will not come soon enough.

A side-note to councillors who were placed in a potentially awkward position when Coleman made his calls: the minister should have been forced to take a number, like the rest of us.

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