McCallum announced his Mayoral bid last week. He has positioned his campaign on Crime, Transit, and Finances and proposed Ward System. Here is the interview of McCallum with your newspaper – Asian Journal. Doug McCallum talks about his plan for the city of Surrey.
Q1. What prompted you to come back into Mayoral race nine years later?
Doug McCallum: I have been meeting a lot of people and learning about how unhappy many of them are about the certain things happening in the city. A recent example is the new City Hall. In most of the cities the City Hall is in the center of city. The old City Hall was in central location but then the council decided to move the City Hall to new City Centre in Whalley at a cost of almost $150 million. Earlier $10 million was spent on renovating the old City Hall to make more spaces for staff and improve it. The new City Hall is not designed for people. It has paid parking whereas the old place had free parking. Lot of people living in Surrey work in construction and they have been complaining that their trucks can’t even fit in the underground parking lot when they come to get their permits.
I think new City Hall is a waste of tremendous amount of money. All this sort of germinated the seeds in me and inspired me to come out to try to solve the problems. I want to help solve the problem of rising crime, inadequate transit, tackle finances, reduce the debt and bring ward system for better representation of Surrey residents.
Q2. City has grown and so has the crime, what’s your view on policing strategy?
Doug McCallum: In 2012-13 the homicides jumped to 127%. When you talk to people they say that they feel unsafe in the city. We need to have new approach to tackle crime. The new approach I am proposing is the proactive approach where we want our police officers to move out of the offices and onto streets. We need more foot patrol, bike patrol, more visible police force. Police are doing tremendous job but their resources are stretched. Bringing in 95 Police officers in next five years is too long, what I am proposing is we bring in 95 in next two years with one condition that they come in and go out to work with the community, do proactive policing. Public also has to come forward and they also need to work towards making the community safe. They can volunteer for bike patrol, foot patrol and increase the block watch. We have to stop the crime to infester in our communities, keeping eye on activities around us. We have Surrey Crime Prevention Society; it is a good organization that is proactively working to reduce the crime. The organization is funded by the City and I am proposing to double the amount of funding to them to encourage them to bring more volunteers and help reduce the crime.
Q3. You spoke about Finances and introducing Ward system and Transit. What do you plan to do?
Doug McCallum: Over last 10 years Surrey has grown by 127,000 people. All of our cultural organizations now represent 52 % of Surrey but that is not represented in our council. If all cultures are up to 52% then the half of the council has to represent that. I am suggesting, if I get elected, to start a petition with Provincial government to allow us to have a ward system. The proposed ward system would have four wards throughout Surrey of equal population. Two councilors will be elected from each ward and would represent and the Mayor would run at large. That ward system will give an opportunity for all different cultures to be present in Council and participate in the progress.
I want to trim finances. I will cancel Surrey City Development Corporation which has exorbitant salaries. I will stop the Economic Development Summit we have every year that costs millions of dollars. We have very good economic staff and we don’t need to pay to international politicians for speaking engagements. I would cancel all overseas trips of either the Mayor or Council. If there has to be an emergency trip that has to be approved in open Council session.
I am not saying that we would let go of the staff. I am going to support our staff; we have amazing people who can take high loads of work. What I am suggesting is to encourage the police not to be in office but out in community. We would hire some of the City staff to fulfill the administrative duties of police officers.
As for the transit, besides Light Rail which Surrey definitely needs, I would suggest that we should have more small community buses. People like the small community buses. We have some of them now but I propose to add more such buses in areas like East Clayton, Port Kells, Fraser Heights, and Grandview Heights.
Q4. If chosen by the people what will you do about the new City Hall that you’ve continuously opposed? You chose old City Hall to announce to your bid. Please comment.
Doug McCallum: Too much money has been spent on setting up the new City Hall, I don’t want to burden the tax payer by moving back. I did announce my bid from the old City Hall because it’s central place of Surrey. I want to be fiscally responsible and hence we would work out of new City Hall and would lease the old City Hall. Some of it is leased already.
Q4. You have taken a strong position on the proposed South Surrey Cultural Hub, what do you have to say about the high rises in the Surrey downtown core area?
Doug McCallum: I am not against high rises; the high rises in Whalley are fine. But South Surrey residents do not want the high rises in their area. I am not against the Cultural Hub. It’s a good thing to have place where artists can interact with the community but we need to take into account the feelings of residents of community too.