Former mayor Doug McCallum hadn’t planned to re-enter politics again.
However, he says he was impelled to by escalating crime in the city and the neighbours he spoke to who were stricken by fear.
“It’s the number-one reason I decided to run. Our communities are scared,” McCallum says. “When I felt that our communities were feeling that way, I decided I wanted to do something.”
He says a shortage of police officers is the biggest problem. He vows to add the 142 officers being requested by Surrey RCMP Officer in Charge Bill Fordy.
He say he will also insist those officers operate on the streets – as beat cops, bike cops and other officers who will police the communities on the ground rather than from within offices.
McCallum says another huge problem is the number of unregulated drug and alcohol recovery homes.
What happens, he says, is drug dealers ply their trade right in front of the homes. Then gangs show up because it’s lucrative. Soon rival gangs begin warring for the business and people get killed.
When questioned if all this arises from a recovery house, he says, “That’s right. They’re the source of people who are buying the drugs.”
McCallum, a South Surrey resident, says problem drug homes aren’t just in Whalley or Newton. They are a blight on the entire city.
He acknowledges the problem isn’t new, but he believes it’s gotten worse over the years.
“There hasn’t been any action on it to speak of,” McCallum says.
He says he will disband the city’s police committee and create a transparent Mayor’s Integrated Public Safety Council.
He says the public is tired of police business being conducted behind closed doors.
The new entity will consist of police, city staff, politicians and members of the community.
As for the 142 new police officers, he says they will be paid for in the short term by selling the Surrey City Development Corporation (SCDC), which owes the city $70 million in dividends. He will hive off $10 million annually for seven years, then use the tax income from growth to pay for the $10 million cost annually.
He also vows to free up three-per-cent savings in city departments, an amount he insists can be found.
In addition, he will end the annual Surrey Regional Economic Summit, which he believes is costing the city a substantial amount of money.
Then there will be enough money to double the number of bylaw officers from 24 to 48, McCallum says, and they will be responsible for taking down errant recovery homes.
He is also promising to create what he calls “crime prevention through social development.” He will invest $5 million for four years into not-for-profits that are working with people to prevent them from getting into criminal activity in the first place.
He will also work with community groups willing to volunteer for public safety endeavours, such as the Surrey Crime Prevention Society.
“Since we’ve announced it we’ve had many people approach us and say, ‘we’ll volunteer, just ask us, where do we go?’ ” McCallum says.
Transportation is the second most important issue in Surrey, as McCallum sees it.
He wants to see at-grade rail brought here as soon as possible.
He doesn’t like the idea of a transit referendum, and doesn’t believe the funding proposals put forward by TransLink will pass.
“I’m saying the funding for light rail should be the same formula for the Canada Line,” McCallum says, adding it should be shared equally between the private sector, province and Ottawa. It could be paid for with each contributing $750 million.
While that’s being organized, he wants more buses on the road immediately.
McCallum – who in his tenure as Surrey mayor was also the former chair of TransLink – says he knows which buttons to push with the authority to make that happen.
“We pay $144 million to TransLink every year and we get virtually nothing back,” McCallum says. “We want more community buses, better service and more frequent service.”
McCallum’s third platform item is fiscal responsibility.
That can be accomplished by cutting departmental spending by three per cent, freezing property taxes for two years, selling off the SCDC and ending Surreys’ plans for district energy in North Surrey.
The system would distribute thermal energy, in the form of heated or cooled water, through a network of pipes.
“All the big developers in City Centre have their projects on hold right now because they don’t like (district heating),” McCallum says.
He also says he will cap the debt, which he says was $245 million last year, costing this city $6 million to $7 million per year to service.