FORMER Surrey MLA Brenda Locke, who told me earlier this week that she is going to run for councillor in November’s municipal election, wants Surrey to have its own Charter similar to the City of Vancouver.
Locke, who is currently Executive Director of the Massage Therapists’ Association of British Columbia, told me on Tuesday: “The Municipal Act that we all work to is really written for smaller communities and smaller municipalities. We are a big city and we’re one of the big cities in the entire country. So we need to re-define how we do government and governance in this city and I think that’s really important (that) we look to a Charter because we need to control our own destiny a lot more than we do now, and a Charter would help us do that.”
She pointed out: “We’re certainly larger [than Vancouver] in geographical area. Soon we will be larger than Vancouver in population, too, and we need to have our own Charter.”
(The Vancouver Charter, a provincial statute, grants the City of Vancouver different powers than other communities have under BC’s Municipalities Act. Under the Charter, City Council has the authority to pass bylaws to regulate such things as noise and land use, buy and sell property, collect certain taxes, approve expenditures, take on debt, give grants, and hire and discharge employees, according to the City of Vancouver’s website.)
Locke said that for now, she’s just running as an independent. But she noted: “There’s lots of play in the game right now. We’re really early, but I just know what I want to do.”
She said: “We’ve talked to a lot of people. … it’s all been really positive. Obviously I am going to run to win.”
LOCKE told me that she had discussed her decision to run with her husband and kids and they were fully supportive. She added: “They’re behind me and that’s great.”
She said: “You know I’ve run four times before and it’s really challenging for families when you lose. It’s great when you win, but when you lose … it’s hard on them.”
Locke was elected as MLA from Surrey-Green Timbers in 2001 and was appointed Minister of State for Mental Health and Addiction Services in 2004. She lost in the 2005 provincial election. Subsequently, she ran as the federal Liberal Party candidate in Fleetwood-Port Kells in 2006 and 2008, but lost both times.
When I asked her why she had decided to enter municipal politics, she replied: “I think Surrey has lots of issues that we need to tackle. I think the very clear and obvious one is crime – that is a challenge. I think it’s time we talked not just about crime in a sort of superficial way, but the real root causes.”
She added that we also needed to examine if we are developing a community where people care for one another and if we are developing the kind of infrastructure that you need in a good community to have opportunity for kids and youth and young families to enjoy their own community.
She said: “I think that’s one thing that I am really concerned about.” She said her two daughters, who are 24 and 30 years old, are both hockey players and she still goes to all their games. She added: “So we’ve gone through all that and now I have two grandkids and I want to see that kind of opportunity for them.”
Locke said she wanted both her daughters who live in Abbotsford to return to Surrey with their kids. She said: “I want to build community support for them to have all those opportunities. You need all that kind of infrastructure in a community to give supports to everyone in the community.”
Locke, who attends a church in Whalley, said people in North Surrey “are challenged, they are concerned … the people in the community are very concerned about what’s going on in their community and there is gentrification happening in North Surrey; no doubt about it.” She said that we have to address these issues and make the people “feel comfortable in North Surrey too, because they’re people who live there and work and play there.”
Locke also noted: “One of the things that I think Surrey needs to develop is more of a sense of a whole community. I see us as a very compartmentalized … all sorts of cylinders of different folks. There’s South Surrey folks, and Cloverdale … but there is no sort of a greater sense of community. That’s a long term process, but I think they need to start really talking about that and how we can really re-grow that pride of our community and sense of ownership.”
LOCKE said transportation is a big issue for Surrey. She noted: “The last time we got real infrastructure dollars into this city was probably the Paul Martin dollars that happened with the Pacific Gateway Project that brought us the South Fraser Perimeter Road and the Port Mann Bridge and all those great infrastructure, but we are growing so rapidly.”
She said we needed to deal with the issue of the Pattullo Bridge that needs six lanes as well as the support infrastructure on both sides, noting that “this city is growing too big to ignore those things.”
She said she was getting increasingly concerned about the bridge’s safety. She noted: “There’s some people talking about just doing a sort of a re-fix of it. I would really want to see the studies on that. I am very concerned that if anything ever happened – God forbid we have an earthquake or something like that – that it is not a safe bridge. It’s an old, tired bridge. … The mayors and Translink are going to have to deal with that in a serious way.”
Locke said that in order to handle some of these challenges “we have to build those relationships with other levels of government and I think that’s an important point and I think that’s something that I can truly bring to the table.” She added: “I have a very good relationship with provincial government and hopefully can leverage that to make that kind of connection.”