Surrey mayoral candidates weighed in on Cloverdale concerns Tuesday night, kicking off the all-candidates meetings for the 2018 municipal election.
The meeting was hosted by the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce and the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association at Kwantlen Polytechnic University Tech Campus in Cloverdale. Attendees had to pre-register, and attendance was capped at 70 people. The evening was sponsored by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and KPU.
Another all-candidates meeting, for council candidates, was held simultaneously across Surrey by the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Task Force.
All eight mayoral candidates were present: Proudly Surrey candidate Pauline Greaves, Surrey First candidate Tom Gill, Surrey Integrity Now candidate Bruce Hayne, People First Surrey candidate Rajesh Jayaprakash, Safe Surrey Coalition candidate Doug McCallum, Progressive Sustainable Surrey candidate Imtiaz Popat, and independent candidates Francois Nantel and John Wolanski.
We got a full house, folks. All eight of Surrey’s mayoral candidates are here tonight. pic.twitter.com/hi2Km63Mt0
— Sam Anderson (@sam_andrsn) September 26, 2018
In the wake of the recent proposal and withdrawal of a major supportive housing project in downtown Cloverdale, candidates were asked what they considered to be proper public consultation, and how they proposed development be determined in the future.
Francois Nantel proposed that each consultation process should begin with public gatherings, and that online voting should be an option for Surrey residents. For larger questions, he would like to see referendums with each election.
Rajesh Jayaprakash agreed with the idea of an “e-vote platform,” and emphasized that “the consultation should be made before the decision is made.” For Imtiaz Popat, the supportive housing issue in Cloverdale was handled “very badly” and it was “very sad” when the process was abruptly ended.
The supportive housing project “is a perfect example of where there simply hasn’t been enough public consultation,” said Bruce Hayne, pointing to the three information sessions held before the scheduled open house, which were capped at 25 people each. Two of those three sessions were held during work hours. “That to me, is simply not consultation,” he said.
Pauline Greaves made a distinction between consultation and community engagement. “Community engagement is the more dynamic way to meet, in the community, with the interest group with all the stakeholders that are in the community before it goes to council.”
Doug McCallum would like the current process in Surrey to be reversed, so that public hearings are held before a proposal goes to council. Wolanksi did not offer a solution to the public consultation question, instead maintaining that “all the housing should have gone down on Colebrook Road” as the alternative would have “screw[ed] up the town centre.”
(Colebrook Road is, notably, the location for the Bill Reid Memorial Shelter, which opened in May of this year.)
Gill emphasized the importance of effective public information meetings, and he said, in this particular case, there was a lot of misinformation that circulated in the Cloverdale community, and that there is an opportunity to “tighten up the controls, tighten up some of the process, to make sure that the information that is being conveyed the community is accurate.”
When candidates were asked about how they would develop arts and culture in Surrey, some offered Cloverdale-centric plans.
Hayne said he would like to see an events centre or a performing arts centre on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, as did McCallum. Popat proposed developing the film industry in Cloverdale, perhaps by creating a film studio. He also pointed to the fairgrounds as an opportunity for arts and culture, and said it would be a great location for a week-long Vaisakhi celebration.
Wolanski said he would like to see more gallery spaces in Surrey, to showcase local talent; Jayaprakash proposed “strategic investment” in programming to support the city’s young and developing artists; Nantel said artists should be featured in local festivals and events.
Gill reflected on Surrey First’s work in the arts community since the last election. He proposed that developers contribute 0.5 per cent of total build costs to the arts in Surrey — an increase of 0.25 per cent over current practice.
Later in the evening, the conversation turned to what candidates planned to do with the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.
McCallum mentioned that the “lease is coming up with Great Canadian Casino [Great Canadian Gaming Corporation], giving us the opportunity to consider redeveloping the fairgrounds.” He also spoke out against the city’s current project of building a $2.2-million road through the fairgrounds.
Hayne also pushed for redevelopment of the fairgrounds, and also noted a possibility of developing the lands currently used for harness racing. “I think we really need to take a close look at the long-term future of harness racing, because that’s going to dictate the land use on the fairgrounds for years to come,” he said.
The harness racing track at Cloverdale’s Fraser Downs is the last standardbred racing track in the province. It has been an industry in Cloverdale for more than 40 years.
Popat reiterated his earlier idea of a Vaisakhi festival on the fairgrounds, and said Surrey should make the fairgrounds a “PNE.”
Greaves said that the fairgrounds gave the option of redevelopment, and that, as well as entertainment space and space for community and youth activities, the city should look at mixed-use buildings for the land as a way to increase housing availability.