Challenges have been mounting recently for the Safe Surrey Coalition majority on council, with one year left to go before the next civic election on Oct. 15, 2022.
A special prosecutor has been appointed as the RCMP is investigating possible public mischief related to claims made by Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum.
Coun. Mandeep Nagra denies he is in a conflict of interest over a property deal, saying he or his family didn’t know a bowling alley was for sale on 84 Avenue until months after he’d voted in support of a road project to connect King George Boulevard to 140 Street by way of 84 Avenue.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge is hearing a citizen’s petition today (Friday, Oct. 15) asking that properties impacted by that project, championed by the SSC, be declared parkland.
“It’s been a challenging time for sure in Surrey,” said Coun. Brenda Locke, who like McCallum will be running for the mayor’s chair in the next election. “Concerning for sure for the public, council.”
“From my experience in politics and dealing with things that are conflict, when you are in conflict of interest, councillor Nagra is in a position where he would have to stand down on decisions with regard to 84 Avenue,” she said of Nagra’s situation. “He is, in my mind, in conflict with any change to 84 Avenue. For this term, I think he is in conflict on any decision with regards to 84 Avenue.
“That’s something I believe has been reported to the ethics commissioner, that’s what the public has been saying and so he is going to have to, the ethics commissioner is going to have to make that determination,” said Locke, of the Surrey Connect slate.
Coun. Allison Patton, of the Surrey Civic Coalition, waxed philosophical about controversy being the price of political life.
“Many of the people in my life say to me I would never want to be you. Well, why not? You know, why wouldn’t they want to be me? That’s what worries me about why we’re having such a leadership deficit in our country.”
Those entering the political arena put much at risk, Patton says.
“They say if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen, fine, and we’re all still people too. So to give of yourself in public service, regardless of whether it’s political or not, is to give of yourself and so who would ever sign up for the job? If, as everyone says, gosh, you sure get dragged through the dirt for putting yourself out there, good for you, but I would never do it. You know how many times I’ve heard that? Probably 25 and I’m a new person in politics.”
“There is a purpose for it, it’s just that nobody is reporting on the purpose, nobody’s reporting on the greater good,” Patton said. “Because me too, I love drama, right. I’m not going to read your story if I’ve already read it in the press release and it’s the same story. I want to read something exciting!
“So for me, I guess unfortunately it comes with the job. I personally wish it didn’t because I would rather focus on my actual job, which is helping the people, trying to figure out solutions that help the people,” Patton said. “Half of my time is spent on what I consider, you know, the political games of my job. Personally, you know although yeah, I can play a game too, but really, am I getting paid to play a game? I hope not.”
Patton said she will “of course” run for another term in office, “and I keep striving for something better. It may never happen, but I will keep striving for something better.”
Asked if she thinks the 84 Avenue project will be in jeopardy if Nagra recuses himself from future votes related to it, likely resulting in a four-to-four tie in voting, Patton replied, “You know, we can review protocol but my understanding of protocol is there is a protocol for a tie vote so we can review that.”
Coun. Doug Elford, also with the SSC, said he’s not sure if Nagra will have to recuse himself from future votes related to the 84 Avenue project or if his doing so would stall it on a tie. Elford noted Nagra is getting a legal opinion on whether or not he would be in a conflict if he continues to vote on the project, “so we’re just assuming he’s going to be in a conflict. At this point in time, it’s my understanding he’s not in a conflict of interest. He’s referring to legal advisors so I’m not really in a position to comment on that.”
Meantime, on the RCMP’s public mischief investigation, Elford said he’s also not in a position to comment on that because he hadn’t spoken to the mayor on it yet.
“It may turn out to be nothing, so it’s really challenging to make a comment,” he said. “You’ve got to kind of let things play out, right. Sometimes these things take a long time, I don’t know, I’ve never heard of a special prosecutor like this before. Certainly you have to let the process play itself out.”