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For Your Consideration: Doug McCallum is the region’s #1 power broker

Vancouver Magazine’s Power 50 list has a new top contender.
Surrey is on the rise.

Every fall, the shadowy cabal that selects Vancouver Magazine’s iconic Power 50 list gather at a secret restaurant and (I assume) drink fancy brandy and smoke big cigars as they discuss who should be on the annual list of the most powerful people in British Columbia.

This year, I think there’s only one choice for top spot: Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum.

(Full disclosure: I made the list once, although oddly not the year I led the TransLink tax campaign that defeated the combined efforts of half the Power 50. That year, I guess I finished #51.)

"McCallum is putting his stamp on this region in a way we haven’t seen for a long time."

Love him or loathe him – and there is plenty to loathe about the way he governs and his view that consulting the public is more “option” than “cornerstone of democracy” – Doug McCallum is putting his stamp on this region in a way we haven’t seen for a long time.

First, there is SkyTrain. After years of waiting, there is real progress.

McCallum is set to accomplish what his old rival, Dianne Watts, never could: an actual SkyTrain extension in Surrey.

It’s been a quarter of a century since a new station has been built in the nation’s fastest-growing city. During her three terms as mayor, Watts talked a lot about transit, but delivered little. In fact, she cut a deal with the northeast sector mayors to put the Evergreen Line ahead of any expansion south of the Fraser, while upping TransLink gas and property taxes on beleaguered Surrey and Langley drivers.

McCallum is about to do what Watts couldn’t – extend rapid transit in Surrey. It may only be to Fleetwood, and a far cry from the Langley City terminus he had promised in the campaign, but it’s still SkyTrain, and it’s still a doubling of the stations in Surrey.

Given there is a federal election campaign this fall, and Surrey is as swinging a city as swing cities can get, it wouldn’t surprise me if McCallum extracts even more money from wannabe prime ministers.

Watts and McCallum have different philosophies on transit. Watts preferred light rail to move people around Surrey at the expense of moving them into Vancouver more quickly. McCallum prioritizes the regional network ahead of the local. Both have pros and cons, but after 15 years, it’s McCallum’s vision that will proceed.

This will have a significant impact on the entire Lower Mainland and represents a major change in regional planning.

And then there are the police. Under McCallum, Surrey is moving from the RCMP to its own municipal force. The Horgan government, while professing some skepticism beforehand, is now on board for the transition.

This is a huge step for Surrey. It will dismantle the nation’s largest RCMP detachment and bring in Vancouver-style policing. Over the next year and a half, McCallum’s team will need to navigate through tricky questions of hiring, costs, IT, equipment, and participation in integrated regional policing units.

Surrey’s tagline is “The Future Lives Here.” McCallum has greatly altered that future.

With Surrey rapidly closing the population gap on Vancouver, it’s a major change. Every police detachment in the Lower Mainland – especially Langley RCMP, Delta city police, New Westminster city police, White Rock RCMP and Vancouver city police – will need to adapt to Surrey’s new force and open lines of communication with it.

Surrey’s tagline is “The Future Lives Here.” McCallum has greatly altered that future. When the Power 50 selectors sit down to discuss who has exerted the most influence over the region’s future, they will be hard-pressed to put anyone else at the top.

Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Vice President, Communications & Marketing for the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), Jordan also served six years as the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and was a two-term Langley Township Councillor.