Surrey Doug McCallum is sworn in, just minutes before voting to end the RCMP contract with the city. (City of Surrey photo)

COLUMN: Not just would-be voters caught by surprise

Surrey and White Rock election results proved it’s important to pay attention

For those who prefer to pay more attention to sports or arts or business – or just about any other topic – over politics, Surrey council’s decision this week to abandon the RCMP must’ve come as a shock.

Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey team certainly made hay with the idea on the campaign trail, but even ardent council watchers were surprised how quickly they enacted their plan, seconds after being sworn into office.

(I’m still not clear how ridding the city of the dedicated RCMP officers I’ve met along the way – yes, along with the few bad apples that are drawn to all forces – will improve my family’s safety, but it clearly was more than an election ploy. Right?)

READ: Surrey’s top cop ‘disappointed’ after council votes to pull out of RCMP

Regardless, while non-voters – c’mon, there must be two or 300 of you – are reeling from a lack of attention to politicians, it got me wondering about the politicians who suffer a lack of attention to their residents.

Take the biggest non-winners in the Oct. 20 election – the presumed frontrunners who must still ponder where it all went wrong.

In Surrey, the big money, literally, was on incumbent councillor Tom Gill, who led his twice-sweeping Surrey First juggernaut to a single council seat. He blamed personal attacks. But, for me, his turning point was his response to said attacks.

Informed mid-campaign that he had supporters trying to fraudulently obtain mail-in votes, Gill responded: “In any campaign you have individuals that you can and can’t give direction to.”

A far cry from: “The buck stops with me and I will not rest until I determine if anybody on my campaign acted inappropriately.”

In White Rock, incumbent councillor Grant Meyer was considered the one to beat, as he led his majority-share White Rock Coalition to a wipeout. He blamed this very newspaper for having been “unfair over the years.” But, for me, his turning point was early in the campaign when asked if his slate was behind an anonymous poll rating candidates.

“I’m not confirming or denying, but I won’t (discuss) any campaign strategy through the next 2½ months,” Meyer responded.

A far cry from: “Residents’ right to be informed will always take precedence over party policy.”

Neither leader invoked quite the political strategy I would have predicted. But what do I know; I’m just a voter.

Of course, those piqued by politics should also pay attention to bureaucrats in the lead-up to elections, as they prepare to report to a range of bosses with different visions.

For Surrey city staff, I think, it will be business as usual. However, White Rock city staff – particularly those senior members who assisted Wayne Baldwin with a prepared presentation castigating his eventual successors as “not fit for office,” in the final days of his mayoralty – might now take a closer look at the separation of administrative and political responsibilities. Gosh, election night must have been interesting for them.

VIDEO: Mayor condemns Democracy Direct candidates ‘not fit for office’

Perhaps there’s a lesson in this for those who don’t pay attention at election time. Take your eye off the players, and the final score might take you by surprise.

Lance Peverley is the editor of Peace Arch News.


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