It’s all about connections.
That’s what Surrey councillors Jack Hundial and Brenda Locke say about their new slate, called Surrey Connect.
While the pair, who both ran with Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition before parting ways in 2019, established an online presence for Surrey Connect (surreyconnect.org) about two months ago, Hundial said he figured it was time to go public with it, “especially after this budget vote.”
For her part, Locke said council’s two contentious budget votes “were the tipping points for us.”
“If there was one message that we had when we started in 2018, it was that we really wanted to give residents their voice back at city hall,” she said.
“We wanted to let people feel that they were a part of this great, big city and this great, big build that we’re going to be doing, and that hasn’t happened.”
Moving forward, Hundial said, the new slate hopes to give Surrey residents “hope that there’s an opportunity for a better future.”
“Certainly with all the division that we’ve seen in council this last year… is that Surrey should not be a divided community,” he said.
“It needs to be very united and very connected community and that’s what we’re hoping to do, is to create that opportunity for a vision for a better future for also a community that is connected together from the different town centres, but also connected on different issues as well.”
He said part of that will be going out and “connecting” with the different town centres, doing their own public consultation and meeting residents “over the next 1,030 days until the next election.”
For now, Surrey Connect just consists of Locke and Hundial. Asked if they’ve spoken to anyone else on council about the new slate, Locke said they’ve “absolutely” sat down and talked with councillors Steven Pettigrew and Linda Annis, the lone Surrey First member.
As of Monday (Jan. 6), Pettigrew, who couldn’t be reached for comment, wouldn’t be joining Surrey Connect.
“Because we’re all independents, we all have our own people that we work with, so I think everybody wants to kind of talk to their own supporters,” said Locke, adding that they do all come together from time to time on votes.
But, Hundial said, the “door is open” for Pettigrew or others to join.
Asked if McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition councillors are aware of the new slate, Hundial said he and Locke haven’t mentioned it to them.
“I don’t think it’ll be a shock to them,” he said. “If you look at our voting patterns, you can sort of see some natural alignments that go on in council, and not even just around the policing issue.”
However, Locke said she wasn’t sure how the SSC members would react, since her leaving the coalition wasn’t taken lightly.
“I don’t know. You never know… He (McCallum) knows we’re not coming back to the Safe Surrey Coalition, nor would they invite us back.”
Both Hundial and Locke said the two of them joined together before the Oct. 20, 2018 election, and well before they both joined Safe Surrey Coalition.
The two were also part of the unanimous vote at the Nov. 5, 2018 inaugural council meeting that saw council vote to pull out of the RCMP contract.
“At the time, the mayor pursued us vigorously to come join his team,” said Hundial, adding that they had the “name recognition” with Locke and his 25-plus years of service as a police officer.
“When we joined with Doug (McCallum), it was the idea that it’d be a true coalition and it seems like during that time, over that tenure, it wasn’t us that left, it was the coalition that sort of left us.”
In May, Pettigrew was the first SSC councillor to split from McCallum’s coalition. Locke followed suit in June, and Hundial split in July.
Locke criticized the mayor’s “my-way-or-the-highway” approach.
“I understand the mayor was obviously disappointed and he expected us to be in line with everything he did and said, and we just couldn’t do it,” she said.
“It wasn’t what I thought I was there to do. It didn’t give me the ability to exercise my own fiduciary duty as a councillor.”
Since then, the councillors that have split from SSC and Annis have become more vocal about the decisions on council.