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Moving at the speed of Surrey

B.C.’s fastest-growing city now has its fastest-moving mayor

Doug McCallum moves fast.

The septuagenarian Mayor of Surrey was sworn in at 7:15 PM Monday night, and by 8:30, his new council had already voted to kill light rail transit and send working notice to the RCMP.

Not a bad first night for the old guy.

About the only thing McCallum didn’t do was jump up on the council table and declare in his best Davey Barrett voice: “I’m here for a good time, not a long time.”

It’s clear McCallum wants to use this term – very likely his last foray into public service – to change Surrey. A new city police force would be a significant enough accomplishment; swapping LRT for SkyTrain is even more transformational over the long term.

There is no doubt he has a mandate to do both. McCallum seized on both issues in the election campaign and won handily. By the end, even his opponents were moving toward his positions on a city police department and rethinking LRT.

The key, of course, will be implementation. Both these files bring major challenges.

Moving from LRT to SkyTrain will be a test of McCallum’s ability to negotiate and exert influence regionally. Can he line up enough of the TransLink Mayors’ Council to support SkyTrain? (I’m told by sources outside Surrey that he already has, but you never know until the hands go up at voting time.)

Can he get more money out of John Horgan? The BC NDP were strongly supporting Tom Gill, but even they have to recognize that McCallum’s win is a strong indication that Surrey wants SkyTrain. The NDP must hold four swing ridings – Garry Begg in Guildford, Jagrup Brar in Fleetwood, Ravi Kahlon in Delta North, and Jinny Sims in Panorama – to have any chance of winning a majority government.

So my prediction? Horgan will eventually pony up the cash for SkyTrain. The last thing he wants is to be seen preventing Surrey from getting the mass transit it deserved to have decades ago.

On the police force, the challenge for McCallum is implementation. There are a lot of moving parts to having a new force, and the transition must be executed flawlessly.

It’s not just budgeting – think of the logistics to be addressed. Pay structures, benefits, guns, cars, units, participation in regional integrated units, computers, reporting structures, staffing levels: all must be ready the day the city flips from RCMP to Surrey City Police.

There had been a school of thought among RCMP supporters that McCallum might start with a feasibility study, find out that a new force is too complicated and expensive, and back down.

But 90 minutes into his new mandate, that idea was shot down.

The motion was crystal clear: “Take all appropriate steps to immediately create a Surrey Police Department… [and] notify the Federal and Provincial governments that the City of Surrey is terminating its contract for the RCMP municipal police service.”

No wriggle room there.

That’s the beauty of Old Doug McCallum. He’s not mealy-mouthed, incremental, or process-driven. He doesn’t equivocate. This is a term about action; about setting into place the two things he believes Surrey needs to be a complete city.

You may not like it, but on day one, he’s delivering what he said he would.

Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Director of Communications 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.