Bob Bose is the closest thing we have to a professor emeritus of Surrey civic politics. But the former mayor, now 86, just doesn’t know what to make of this current election campaign.
“This election is a gong show,” he told the Now-Leader on Friday. “I don’t know who the hell to vote for.”
Bose, who holds a PhD in chemistry, was Surrey’s mayor from 1988 until 1996, when he was defeated by Doug McCallum.
Surrey’s voters go to the polls on Saturday, Oct. 20.
What Bose does know, is he likes light rail transit.
“This is an opportunity,” he said of LRT. “There’s not been any improvements to transit since 1994, when they extention-ed it up to Whalley. Surrey’s just getting more choked with cars and the light rail system will save communities.
“This question of light rail versus SkyTrain is not an unimportant little dispute,” he said. “It will have fundamental consequences in the shaping of Surrey in the future.
“I’m a huge supporter of light rail, surface rail. McCallum is running a very destructive campaign opposing it.”
That said, he does like some elements of his former political rival’s platform.
“I support some of McCallum’s platform,” he said, such as “taking a pause in development and trying to manage development that’s consistent with the services to be provided.”
So anyway, Bob, who’s gonna win?
“From what I’m hearing, McCallum has the odds in favour in polling, but I don’t trust polling that much,” Bose said. “I don’t know, I don’t know.”
Bob Bose’s roots run deep in Surrey — his grandad Henry Bose, who owned a farm in Surrey, served as mayor from 1905 to 1910. Beside himself, his family also counts a reeve, a magistrate and 64th Avenue — aka Bose Road — among its contributions to local heritage.
Bose was employed as a scientist at UBC when he and his wife Shirley bought a house on Panorama Ridge and “immediately got involved in subdivision/rezoning controversies,” he told yours truly as I was writing my book Millennium Milestones, a history of Surrey, White Rock and North Delta, published in 2000. “For better or for worse, I got fingered as somebody to be spokesman for the group, so I got involved in the Colebrook-Panorama Ratepayer’s Association.”
He then joined the Surrey Voters Association, which had been set up out of a committee to put Bill Vander Zalm in the mayor’s chair. The SVA was pretty much a right-wing outfit and the dominant civic group in the 1970s, when civic slates were becoming a thing.
Bose was elected alderman in 1978 and served in that capacity until 1985. He then served as Surrey’s mayor, under the left-wing Surrey Civic Electors slate, aiming to halt the onslaught of development bulldozers as a preservationist politician.
“You can’t go around letting people put offices and stuff anywhere in Surrey,” he said in 1999. “You have to be prepared to get tough on expansion.
“I came out of a rural district, at a time when we could look across the valley and we wouldn’t see another house as far as the eye could see,” he said. “If things keep going the way they are, there’s not going to be any place in Surrey where there’s going to be dark nights, where you can see the stars.”
Again, he said that just shy of two decades ago. Times sure have changed.
In his first year as mayor, Bose celebrated Surrey’s 200,000th citizen. Later in his term he sent the little girl a birthday card, and learned she was being schooled in a portable.
During Bose’s time as mayor, SkyTrain arrived at Scott Road Station in 1990 and over the next several years continued up Peterson Hill into Whalley, adding Gateway, Surrey Central and King George stations to the line.
Surrey’s elder civic statesman returned to public office as a city councillor in 2000, making a ruckus until 2011, when, at age 79, he found himself one rung short of re-election — receiving 25,832 votes, and landing one spot below Surrey First incumbent Barinder Rasode’s 33,616.
“I’m going to disappear into the sunset,” he said wistfully, after the results came in that election night, seven years ago.
And yet, here we are.
Never say never, Bob.