Hepner, McCallum, Rasode square off in Surrey mayoral debate

While no one knows who Surrey’s next mayor will be, the only guarantee in the upcoming civic election is that Surrey will have a new mayor on Nov. 15. The three main candidates, Linda Hepner, 65, Doug McCallum, 70, and Barinder Rasode, 45, expressed their views on Tuesday night at SFU Surrey’s Westminster Savings Theatre.

The debate had its moments where candidates actually argued about different issues, but this was mainly between Hepner and Rasode. McCallum often sat back and let the two others have their say. However, the heated discussion was sparse, and the debate remained fairly civil through its entirety. There were even multiple moments where some of the candidates agreed with each other on some issues.

Vikram Bajwa, John Edwards, Grant Rice, and John Wolanski are the four other mayoral candidates in Surrey who were left out of the debate.

The debate went on for an hour and a half, and was hosted by CBC Radio’s Stephen Quinn. (You can watch the debate in its entirety by clicking here.) What follows is the a summary of the debate, with key points and quotes from the three candidates. The trio debated crime, transportation and job creation among other issues.

The Twitter hashtag used for this debate was #CityVotes2014, and another popular hashtag that has been used throughout Surrey’s civic election campaign has been #SryElxn2014.

On Crime

Rasode promises 200 more officers on the ground or “we will take a 10 per cent pay cut.”

McCallum called out by mediator Stephen Quinn for not speaking on his single issue (since his party, SafeSurrey Coalition based its platform around crime prevention).

McCallum goes on to call out the other two candidates for arguing too much. “This is why nothing gets done at city hall.”

Hepner calls out McCallum for having most violent history in Surrey during his tenure as mayor.

McCallum wants to expand Newton recreation area by adding additional ice rinks and new soccer fields. He says his Newton Town Plan has been “collecting dust” for nine years.

Hepner says they asked BC Transit to move Newton bus loop but they were denied.

Rasode: “It matters what people in business are saying when it comes to crime. We have not maintained our commitment to public safety.” Says this while Hepner talks over her.

McCallum wants to close down scattered drug recovery houses by doubling the number of bylaw officers from 24 to 48.

Rasode counters by saying drug recovery houses are needed. Regulated registered recovery homes need 24-hour supervision with clinical officers on site.

When asked about fear-mongering regarding crime:

Hepner: “Real or perceived, crime is an issue in Surrey.”

McCallum: Through door knocking he believes our community is scared. “Community wants to see RCMP armed with arrest warrants ready.” Plans to have 142 new officers on the ground within 12 months of being elected.

Rasode: “Say fear-mongering to Julia Paskell’s three kids, or Serena Vermeesch’s mom, or the businesses that are shutting down.” Then she asks Hepner:  “Where are the 30 new officers you promised in April?”

Hepner responds, saying it takes 12 months to bring forward new officers, and they need to be trained. She then targets Rasode for fear-mongering.

McCallum once again blames the two of them for arguing. “Listen to these two, they have been part of the same party for six years.”

Rasode questions McCallum: “It has been reported in the papers that when crime was on the rise during your tenure, that you tried to muzzle the RCMP. How does that lead to any sort of progress when it comes to public safety in our community?”

When it comes to educating youth on crime:

Hepner: Praised after-school initiatives program brought forward by the Surrey First team.

Rasode: School system is overburdened. More kids in Surrey than where anywhere else in the country. Quinn (mediator): “Agreement has broken out!”

Hepner: “We get a lot of heat around growth, we will work with minister [Peter] Fassbender [Provincial Minister of Education] to address that.”

On transportation

Hepner:” Within four years we want to implement a light rail transit system, starting with the L-line,” (The L-line would run down King George Highway).”

McCallum: “As past Translink chair I know all the areas where we can get the most revenue. Over the past nine years, we have not gotten a single new bus that has come to Surrey.”

On a side note, there have been multiple new bus lines added in Surrey since McCallum’s tenure ended nine years ago. This includes a 364 line running from Scottsdale Exchange to Langley Center, a 531 line, running from Willowbrook to White Rock Center, and most recently a 96 B-Line running from Newton Exchange to Guilford.

Rasode: Buses on the road now is a very important priority. All these cars on the road are lacking for us as good stewards to our environment.

Hepner: “We are paying $40 million per year to go over a bridge that almost nobody goes over.”

Rasode: Lack of transit has affected not only quality of life but also has also affected businesses in that area not doing as well as they should be. Surrey needs to have with more rapid buses. When asked about who pays for new transit, Rasode says that ideally, taxpayers pay for it.

All three candidates in agreement for more rapid buses.

McCallum: Too many community buses sitting idle, not good for the seniors in South Surrey especially.

“Would you consider raising property taxes if it meant better infrastructure and services to keep Surrey moving?”

Hepner: “My personal position is no, I think we have paid enough in Surrey and it puts the burden entirely on local government.”

McCallum: “I do not support any increases in property taxes at all.” Says party will freeze property tax for two years.”

Rasode: “Raising property taxes is absolutely not a solution.”

“When referendum comes around on transit spending, how should the city pay for its transit?”

McCallum: “We need more transit in Surrey, and I support the LRT proposal.” Says total cost is approximately $2 billion.(Hepner eariler stated it’s $2.2 billion). Says LRT should be funded like Canada Line was, with one-third of funds coming from the province, one-third from the feds, and one-third from private sector.

“Fact-checking McCallum: The region contributed $334 million through TransLink. It wasn’t just the province, feds and private sector. @paulhillsdon”

Rasode: Surrey residents are being punished by ineffective tolling strategy, that needs to be changed. We need to be hearing from the residents who actually use transit.

On Voter turnout and engaging young voters

Rasode: Believes in online voting for the future.

McCallum: Held a youth council when he was in power. Took heat from audience when he said that they not only had a stake in the decisions, but he let the youth council make some decisions on his behalf. His example was the creation of a local rugby field.

On Expansion around SFU Surrey

Rasode: Wants to expand on student-focused business in the area.

McCallum: Takes shot at Hepner for the $90 million spent on a new city hall, says money should have been spent to expand on business in the area. Says maybe we should move back to the old city hall.

Hepner: “We have to look at [building] affordable housing near SFU Surrey.” Echoes Rasode’s statement, which applauded the energy around Central City.

Hepner: “It took guts and vision, but I’m proud of the $97 million city hall that we built, that is the Robson Square of our city. For every $1 we spent on city hall, we got $30 back in investment in the downtown core. That’s $3 billion of investment.

McCallum claims city hall costs $150 million, he says up-to-date figures could be upwards of $200 million.

Hepner: “That is simply a lie, Mr. McCallum.”

Rasode: “We need more openness and transparency when it comes to the costs” (regarding city hall spending).

On youth job creation

McCallum: “We must encourage students to go through university, and create jobs for them afterwords. I would spend a lot of efforts in the trades industry to have more trades schools in Surrey.”

Rasode: “Jobs need to come from all sectors. Number one factor keeping people from investing in Surrey is public safety.”

Hepner: “$11 billion of investment over the past few years (from her Surrey First party) gives students a bright future.”

“What stands in the way of Surrey being a leader in job creation?”

McCallum says there is a shortage of trades. “We need to expand Kwantlen College,” says a trade school needs to be built in Surrey. (Not sure if McCallum was unaware, but Kwantlen already has a trade school). He also says SFU also needs another location to expand.

Hepner: “There is nothing wrong with the city of Surrey, we have some issues that we need resolving, but it is not a lockdown.”

Rasode: “There are some serious issues.”

Closing comments: “What distinguishes you from your other opponents?”

McCallum: “I will bring in 145 new RCMP officers, freeze taxes for two years, cut city hall spending by three per cent, increase bus service, build light rail and will bring in the ward system,” (system that restricts campaign financing).

Quinn (mediator): “I’m not sure that answered the question.”

Hepner: The message in Surrey should be: “The future DOES live here.” Same Surrey should be McCallum’s monacure after dismal mayoral record.”

Rasode: “My commitment is a new way of doing things. Surrey needs comprehensive caring approach to solve the issues that are compelling a growing city. It’s time to do things differently in Surrey.”

All three candidates got their voice out during their debate, but after watching the debate and following the reaction it seemed as if one candidate stood out among the three.


This was an interesting development, considering that she was labelled as the number three candidate going into this debate. However, she was the only candidate not to face any criticism from the crowd during the debate. Although fairly civil, McCallum was called out by mediator Stephen Quinn on more than one occasion either for being too quiet or not answering his question. Hepner fared well for the most part but faced criticism towards the end for saying “there’s nothing wrong with Surrey.”

With advanced voting underway and over a week until the final ballots must be cast, it will be an interesting time to see who comes out on top as Surrey’s new mayor, the first new mayor in nine years.

Trevor Beggs

A third year Journalism student, taught by some stellar professors at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Currently covering the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.

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