Steven Pettigrew. (Now-Leader files)

Steven Pettigrew. (Now-Leader files)

Environment, finance top of mind for new Surrey Councillor Steven Pettigrew

Unexpected advocacy led to political mentorship, says first-term councillor

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the seventh in a series on Surrey’s eight newly elected city councillors. To read the preview on poll-topper Brenda Locke, click here. For the profile on community advocate Doug Elford, click here. To read the profile on Laurie Guerra, click here. For the profile on former RCMP officer Jack Hundial, click here. To read the profile on naturopath Allison Patton, click here. For the profile on the lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis, click here.

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Steven Pettigrew didn’t always see himself as a politician, but figures it’s the place where he “can do the most good.”

Pettigrew said the journey began when he received a letter in the mail last spring, alerting him of the planned connector road that the previous city council intended to build through Hawthorne Park, a stone’s throw from his home.

One could argue Pettigrew led the charge rallying against the road – which has now been completed – with the Save Hawthorne Park group.

Pettigrew and other opponents delivered a petition of 12,244 signatures to city hall in September, 2017. But ultimately, it wasn’t enough, as they were tasked to come up with 30,372 signatures in order to stop the civic government from proceeding with the project.

See also: VIDEO: ‘Save Hawthorne Park’ group delivers petition to Surrey City Hall – complete with a song

“It was a very enriching experience, because when I started off I was very much an isolated person. Happy to stay at home and grow my vegetables,” said Pettigrew, who was elected to Surrey council with 30,820 votes in the Oct. 20 election.

“It really pushed my boundaries, going from being comfortable, to being out on the streets holding protest signs. It was really a stretch for me. I met some really interesting people along the way. I found it invigorating to be around people so passionate about things, and wanting to make a difference.”

His advocacy didn’t stop with the road, as Pettigrew also took part in pipeline protests.

Pettigrew said his unexpected advocacy led to being mentored by political people. After being encouraged to run, Pettigrew said he took a long time to mull over his decision.

“I was thinking about where I could do the most good. That was my objective, always, to be in a place where I can serve people and help people. That seemed like a good place to be: to be a councillor.”

Pettigrew said Mayor Doug McCallum sold him.

“He went around personally recruiting people. The big thing it came down to was Hawthorne Park and what happened in Hawthorne…. I was crying out to politicians to help us and get involved. Nobody would get involved. He came to help, and that was one of the most powerful things.”

McCallum, Pettigrew said, is a “solid guy” and that his “views and beliefs, they line up with mine.”

Naturally, the environment will be a big focus for Pettigrew as a first-term councillor.

“I’m still very much impassioned about that,” he said.

“But one of the things many people may not realize about me is I’m very good with numbers and details things. So another thing I’m very interested in is finance. I can blow through a 200- or 300-page report. The even more bizarre thing is I actually enjoy doing it.”

Social issues are also in the forefront of Pettigrew’s mind.

“Because I live in Guildford, on the border of Guildford and Whalley, I’m looking at the neighbourhood, and there’s all these people that are hurting. That’s another area I very much want to help people: socially,” he said. “Help them be able to improve their situation. Everybody needs to do that, but there’s a lot of people in our city that need help. I’m a big believer in equality: Everybody should be treated the same.”

Before jumping into the political arena, and before trying to stop the former city council from building a road through his beloved Hawthorne Park, Pettigrew said he spent 20 years teaching and home-schooling his children.

His two sons are now in their second year at Trinity Western University, and live at home with Pettigrew and his wife of 23 years.

“We home-schooled our two sons, and it ended up that I was the one who did the teaching. It was a good 60 hours a week. It was a regular classroom environment at our home,” said Pettigrew. “We decided it would be a better environment for our family. My one son is very interested in computers, so we were able to customize a programming curriculum for him, including five years of computer programming.

“My other background is I was trained as a programmer. I graduated from BCIT Computer Systems program in 1989. I did that for many years, teaching at Langara College, night school courses, and advanced web programming design and programming, for 17 years,” he said.

Back at city hall, Pettigrew said it’s the first time he’s ever had his own office.

“I’ve had work spaces,” he elaborated. “But it’s all very strange. Very surreal.”

Pettigrew said his Safe Surrey Coalition slate, which won eight of nine council seats in the Oct. 20 election, has a “very solid base.”

He says McCallum and Councillor Brenda Locke bring political experience to the table, but the team also has fresh blood.

“We’re very passionate about what our focuses are because each one of us has a slightly different focus,’ Pettigrew noted. “Brenda (Locke) with the social. Jack (Hundial) with the RCMP. Everybody has a different flavour, which is exactly why Doug (McCallum) recruited them.

“The big thing we have is new people,” he continued. “Myself, councillors (Allison) Patton and (Mandeep) Nagra, we’ve never held office before. We’re coming in with new ideas, no political alliances. Our alliance is the City of Surrey.”

Pettigrew’s early days in office have been controversial, after he and fellow Councillor Laurie Guerra attended a meeting that was reportedly “secret” and “anti-SOGI.”

While Pettigrew has not returned the Now-Leader’s request for comment on the meeting, Guerra did. She denied the meeting was anti-SOGI or secret, but admitted there were people in attendance who were not in favour of the SOGI 123 resource.

See also: Surrey councillor defends SOGI 123 stance after resigning from AutismBC

Guerra said her understanding was the meeting was a celebratory party for politicians of faith who ran in the civic election. She said it was a private, ticketed event at John Volken Academy and was called “Freedom of Faith in Politics.”

Amid growing pressure, and a petition, Guerra resigned as a director of AutismBC director, but told the Now-Leader she was “going to do it anyway” and didn’t resign “because anybody bullied me.”

In audio from the event recorded by News1130, Guerra can be heard saying: “This whole SOGI movement is all over the world, not just British Columbia, and so, Christians, stand up. Just stand up…who cares what anybody says? And just stay strong.”

In a subsequent interview with the Now-Leader, Guerra insisted she’s not against SOGI inclusivity (sexual orientation and gender identity), just the SOGI 123 resource in schools.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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