MP-elect Dianne Watts says she wants to take a proactive rather than reactive approach to dealing with issues of importance in the South Surrey-White Rock riding.
And that includes two of her key issues – rail and public safety.
“When issues arise in the community it’s important to make sure that you are proactive, to make sure the community is being heard and that you are taking the issues seriously,” she told Peace Arch News Wednesday.
The former Surrey mayor, one of five Conservatives elected in Metro Vancouver in Monday night’s Liberal majority, said she doesn’t feel that being an opposition MP necessarily has to be a hindrance in representing the riding in Ottawa.
“I think there are many things I can do for the community although, without a doubt, it’s easier to do some things when you are a member of the party in government,” she said.
But Watts said she also sees an opportunity in the recent election result for change and growth within the Conservative party.
“It’s a chance for us to look at what was done right and what needs to be improved on, on all fronts. We want to – and have to – take a look at that so that we can come back stronger and better in future.”
Watts declined, however, to discuss potential leadership options for the party, currently without a leader following the resignation of Stephen Harper on election night.
“First of all, we have to appoint a new interim leader,” she said.
Watts said it would also be premature to talk about a timeline for addressing such complex issues as rail relocation, noting reducing rail traffic will likely be the first order of business.
Watts – who as Surrey mayor presented four alignment options for rail traffic through the South Surrey-White Rock corridor – said both short-term and long-term objectives to improve rail safety must be examined.
She agreed rerouting current traffic could be part of that, and that both cities should work together, as the current rail route poses risks to both.
“There has to be a business case for the (BNSF) railway,” she said. “White Rock and Surrey should get together about building a business case. There are lots of issues about rights-of-way, and if we can do land-swaps. There are a lot of moving parts in this.”
Watts noted that the mayors of Vancouver and Seattle have signed a letter of agreement calling for the establishment of a high-speed rail connection between the two cities.
“There is no way there will be high-speed rail between Seattle and Vancouver on that alignment,” Watts said. “If that is their goal, there will be no other option but to look at another alignment.”
“In terms of the public-safety issue, I want to make sure that cities are well-supplied with what they need,” she said.
“I’ll be working in conjunction with the City of Surrey and the City of White Rock and building on community relationships.”