A proposal to create a so-called “super-committee” by combining five into one was not approved by Surrey council Monday night, although three will now be amalgamated.
On Jan. 30, council discussed at length a staff recommendation that several existing committees be “dissolved” to create a new Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee. This, after sending a similar report back to staff last December, citing concerns the agenda could become “burdensome.”
To create the new committee, staff had recommended combining the Culture Development Advisory Committee; Diversity Advisory Committee; Parks, Recreation and Sport Tourism Committee; Public Art Advisory Committee; and the Seniors Advisory Committee.
Staff’s Jan. 30 report to council noted there is “occasional overlap of content to the committees and lack of clarity as to which committee is best suited to respond to the community delegations and interests.”
Instead of accepting all of the recommendations, council decided it would not include the seniors and diversity committees in the new parks committee. And, it was decided that the new group would have public representation.
Several councillors raised concerns about the proposal ahead of the decision.
Councillor Steven Pettigrew voiced opposition to the public being “excluded” from the proposed new committee.
“I’m having great difficulties in having no public participation and involvement,” said Pettigrew. “Many people have put many years into different committees and supporting them and they’re now being excluded from the process. The public wants to be more involved in city business, not less, and I feel that we should be listening to them.”
Councillor Jack Hundial echoed Pettigrew’s concerns, and requested the Seniors Advisory Committee remain a standalone group, given the large demographic in Surrey.
When it came to the Diversity Committee, Hundial noted that “57 per cent of residents are visible minorities.”
“On top of that, while English is 47 per cent of the spoken language, there’s a whole bunch of other languages. I’m not just talking about diversity in language and culture, there’s also diversity in gendered recognition as well.”
Councillor Doug Elford said he thought the Diversity Advisory Committee would fit better with the Social Policy Committee.
Councillor Brenda Locke and lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis both wanted to see the public represented on the new committee.
“I still am challenged by not seeing the opportunity for the public to participate in a fulsome way in the committee,” said Locke.
Annis said “we have said we’re an open and transparent city hall” and said having public participation would be “one step to making it closer for us.”
After those comments, Mayor Doug McCallum agreed with his Safe Surrey Coalition colleagues and said the committee should “probably have some public on it.”
The mayor suggested the new parks committee have three councillors sit on it, as well as three members of the public.
In the end, council decided to dissolve the Culture Development Advisory Committee; Parks, Recreation and Sport Tourism Committee; and Public Art Advisory Committees to create the new Parks, Recreation & Culture Committee that will run as a standing committee for a period of one year, commencing Feb. 1. It will “generally meet monthly,” a report notes.
Councillor Laurie Guerra will be chair. Councillors Annis, Elford and Allison Patton will also sit on the committee, as will three community representatives.
Visit surrey.ca for details on how to apply to be a member of the committee. The deadline is Feb. 25 at 4:30 p.m.
The diversity and senior committees will be dealt with at a later time.
In a separate report council considered on Jan. 30, council approved staff recommendations to rename the Agriculture and Food Security Advisory Committee to the Agriculture and Food Policy Advisory Committee. Further, council decided to “refresh” the current terms of reference for this group to “ensure the committee remains current with respect to its agricultural advocacy role and to include food policy initiatives.” The committee’s mandate is proposed to also include references to food systems along with the promoting of agri-tourism, and that the membership criteria be “broadened” to allow members from local food advocacy groups.
Also on Jan. 30, Hundial tabled a notice of motion to create an “independent ethics commissioner,” which is expected to be dealt with at Surrey council’s next meeting.
“This council has made a pledge to the Surrey public that it will vow to maintain public trust,” said Hundial, noting the commissioner would be “an additional accountability measure.”
“This includes an ombudsperson, an updated lobby registry process, and a whistle-blower process that protects staff and process,” he added.
McCallum said it was a “really good motion” and that the team “certainly campainged on it a lot.”
“I think it’s really time that our city does it. When I was back in the Big City Mayors Conference on Monday, a number of cities back there have this type of person and it is working well for their city so I’m glad to see that this be brought forward.”
McCallum said council will deal with the motion at its next meeting, which is set for Feb. 11.
Last December, council supported the creation of two new task forces, for a period of one year: the Public Engagement Task Force and the Truck Parking Task Force.
-With a file from Lauren Collins