South Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts speaks in the House of Commons.

South Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts speaks in the House of Commons.

Open office to be part of MP’s open communication

Dianne Watts' South Surrey-White Rock constituency office nears completion after months of delays

Dianne Watts’ constituency office should be open to receive walk-in visits from the public by June 1.

The South Surrey-White Rock MP told Peace Arch News Tuesday that the renovated office in the Peninsula Village Shopping Centre (595-15355 24 Ave.) was due to be open to provide information and assistance “by the end of the month – about another week.”

Watts, official Opposition critic for Infrastructure and Communities, acknowledged it is “unfortunate” that it has taken this long for the office to be ready – six months after she took office and more than seven months after the Oct. 19 election.

She said that she and her staff have been serving the constituents from temporary office space in the community, and responding to requests for assistance through her office phone number and email.

“The issue with (the office) is that the mall was sold, and we had a lease in place with the previous owner,” she said. “We’ve been carrying out work while the lease has been renegotiated.”

Events during the former Surrey mayor’s first six months in Ottawa were summarized in her first household mail-out, delivered across the Peninsula last week.

Roughly the size of a tabloid newspaper, it’s larger in format than the bulletin distributed by her predecessor, and fellow Conservative, Russ Hiebert.

Among images are photos showing Watts being sworn in to office in December, at Vaisakhi celebrations on Parliament Hill, meeting with seniors and firefighters and participating in a CTV Power Play broadcast.

Watts said that, by and large, she’s happy with the way the first mail-out reflects her current issues – such as addressing short-term and long-term safety of the BNSF rail corridor issues, reaction to the federal budget, summer job and youth initiatives and her opposition earlier this year to convicted killer Robert Pickton benefiting from sales of his book.

She said she also feels it continues an open, personal communication style developed during her terms as mayor, emphasizing that it’s only part of an informational approach that includes social media such as Twitter and her own website, diannewattsmp.ca – in which she encourages comment and reaction from the public.

Hiebert had received criticism from opponents and Conservative party members alike, during his decade as MP, for a perceived lack of communication with constituents, but Watts stopped short of direct comment on her predecessor’s efforts.

“It’s only been six months, but I approach things the way I feel is in the best interests of the people I serve,” she said. “Everybody has their own style, but I want to make sure that I have open communication – and that I get feedback from constituents.

“If there are things I can improve on, I want to do that as well.”