Welcome to “Cloverdale In Conversation.” This month, Paul Orazietti is our guest. Paul is the executive director of the Cloverdale BIA. He recently took a run at municipal politics in an attempt to win a seat on city council with the Surrey First slate.
Although Paul didn’t snag one of the eight seats that were up for grabs, he said he found the campaign both exciting and inspiring.
Paul reflects on his run, the people he met, and what may be in store for him in the 2026 Surrey municipal election.
Malin Jordan: Let’s talk politics. You recently made a run at municipal office in an attempt to become a city councillor. How was that experience?
Paul Orazietti: It was an exciting experience. It gave me a great opportunity to door knock a lot. I actually visited quite a bit of Cloverdale’s neighborhoods. I got a really broad sense of what people are thinking. So from that standpoint, you get a better feel for the community.
MJ: What sort of feel were you getting?
PO: I found there was a lot of frustration out there. People are affected by local politics in a great way, but their participation becomes a little tempered and limited. People are dealing with massive inflation, prices are going through the roof, and people are less comfortable about what’s happening.
MJ: What was the main issue you were hearing from people?
PO: The policing transition. It raised a lot of concerns because the previous government destroyed our relationship with the RCMP. We had a very dynamic relationship. And during the pandemic it fell apart.
Now we add to that the fact that we’re in a bit of a crisis in this province. My involvement with the provincial BIAs shows that there’s a huge uptick in nuisance disturbances right across the province, and rational behavior is out the window. So in dealing with all of that, it’s mixed in with a health-care crisis, people overdosing, and people, generally, just going crazy.
MJ: So what does that mean?
PO: What that means is, basically, we need a stronger police force. And we need a better model. The current RCMP model, which puts one officer in a vehicle, is insufficient.
MJ: How so?
PO: Well, it’s probably one of the wrong things to try to save money on. We spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to Vancouver. And based on the numbers they have, we should have 1,100 officers. To date we have 800. And we want to save money?
MJ: Would you say your experience running for city council broadened your understanding of local issues?
PO: Yes, very much so. Look at something like funding cuts. People want funding cuts here or there, but the problem for a politician is they are a manager of scarce resources already. So when people talk about cutting costs, it all sounds viable, but will it work? It can be very difficult, especially when you need to build partnerships with different levels of government.
MJ: Just reflecting on your political run now, in terms of both high points and low points, tell me about one of your campaign low points and how you overcame whatever problem it was you faced.
PO: I think a low point for me was simply a lack of time. One thinks people are really plugged in and know what’s going on, but many aren’t—they too don’t have a lot of time either—but you need time to talk to everyone, explain issues, bring people up to speed. If we had more time [campaigning] and we door-knocked longer, I think the outcome of (the election) may have changed. But issues really need explanations. A lot of people were plain and simply angry with the mayor and his council. And because one group had jumped out early, a lot of votes were cast in the election over one issue.
MJ: That issue being the policing transition?
PO: Yes. And that issue had early momentum. So from that standpoint, unfortunately, part of the election was focused on only that one issue.
MJ: Who loses in all of that?
PO: I think we all do because I think we’re back to, “What does Surrey need?” There are a lot of other issues that need to be solved: transit, the environment, housing, health care, the list goes on. But it’s hard to make everyone happy. So we each do our best.
MJ: What about the other side of the coin? What was one of your campaign high points or highlights?
PO: I got to learn a lot. I got to meet some very dynamic people. And I got inspired. There is a need for talented and quality people and I want to keep trying. So from that standpoint, I don’t want to give up.
I actually met with the group recently and the Surrey First group didn’t want to dissolve or walk away. They wanted to actually see whether or not they could carry on. So that part of it now, you’re starting to see commitment.
MJ: You mean working toward running as a slate again for the next election?
PO: Yeah, so it’s already initiated. So some of this now is to come back and say, “All right, some of the things that we had in mind, we didn’t share with our competitors, but if we can continue—along with our day jobs—to do them, then it’s time to carry on.”
MJ: When you say “carry on,” what does that look like for now?
PO: I’m not sure how it will shape up as of now, but it will shape up as time progresses.
MJ: What do you, personally, want to focus on?
PO: I think there is a real need for us to talk about the rental housing, low income supportive housing, and there is a real need to get locals to buy into it, before we even go out to the province to ask them to move on it. Because then you can say the need has been acknowledged. And then everyone can work together on it.
MJ: So, Surrey First is staying together and you guys are going to start working towards 2026?
MJ: How will you approach that with the elections being four years away and you working full time for the BIA?
PO: I’ve always been grounded in the local area and advocating for my area. I have to be careful that I don’t overstretch myself. I do have a passion for dealing with health care. That’s the part where the [new Cloverdale] hospital makes me emotional because it shouldn’t be a victim of politics. So both groups needed to explain things in greater detail. Fraser Health recently reached out with a survey on the hospital. Some of the questions they’re asking now should have been answered two years ago. That’s why there’s a shortfall on maternity wards. The ICU seems to be undersized too.
MJ: So you think aspects of the new Cloverdale hospital need to be changed?
PO: Adjusted. Not changed. Adjusted.
MJ: Final thoughts on your run at politics?
PO: There are still dynamic people in politics. That’s the part that I enjoyed the most, working with them toward a common goal. It was important for me to see what is happening, how people are helping people. It’s not meant for everybody. When you do have some special people, you want to run with them.
One person that got me into all of this is the one that inspires me. This wonderful lady named Linda Annis. She is selfless. She’s gone out and knocked on more doors than all of us combined. And she continues to go out and help people. It’s inspiring because she’s not doing it for profit. She’s doing it because she cares.
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