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Response to Mayor Doug McCallum: Diversity and Inclusion Statement of June 18, 2020

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Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum poses for a photograph at City Hall in Surrey, B.C. Photo: Darryl Dyck - The Globe and Mail.

Last week 4 headliners from the City of Surrey’s Canada Day celebrations pulled out based on the fact that the City of Surrey still hadn’t responded to its citizens pleas for the City to commit to dismantling anti-Black racism. Under mounting pressure they posted this statement: https://www.surrey.ca/city-government/31502.aspx

Once again, the City of Surrey is missing the mark. This is not enough. Below is the response on behalf of the petitioners, the African Heritage Festival of Music and Dance, & 5X Festival.

For two weeks now, we as a collective, have been asking the City of Surrey to show solidarity with Black and Indigenous communities and commit to anti-racism in our city. We’ve done this via social media, via petition, via headliners from the City of Surrey’s Canada Day Celebration, yet without adequate response.

We feel the city has been responding with the vocabulary of diversity and inclusion, rather than the vocabulary of anti-racism; and these are very different things. Let us preface by saying, we are not accusing anyone of being racist. We love Surrey, and we absolutely agree with Mayor McCallum that this city’s diversity is absolutely one of it’s fortifying pillars. The vibrancy of this city comes from that diversity.

However, all of our institutions are subject to systematic racism and acknowledging this fact is the very beginning of the journey of us moving through this together. Unfortunately, the City has yet to acknowledge this fundamental idea that there is systemic racism within the City of Surrey.

During June 15th’s Council Meeting, Mayor McCallum shared that in numerous speeches over the past 10 years he has said, “Surrey is unequivocally strengthened by our diversity. Our city is like a fabric and the threads that keep that fabric together are the different Cultures that we have and the diverse people that come together to work with one another.”

If we are to work with one another, please work with your citizens. If any one of your citizens feel that there is work to be done, then that is one to many. But it isn’t just one, it’s thousands. The Mayor went on to say that there is ‘no place for racism, discrimination or intolerance here or anywhere in the world.’ Well if there is no place for it, then it is time for us to accept and acknowledge the reality is that it does exist, here and everywhere in the world.

Where are the actions and policies that the City of Surrey is employing to specifically oppose racism? Not promote diversity, but dismantle racism. Let us be more specific in helping define the difference. According to the Canadian Race Relations Foundation:

Diversity is a term used to encompass the acceptance and respect of various dimensions including race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, age, physical abilities, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Anti-Racism however is an active and consistent process of change to eliminate individual, institutional and systemic racism.

As the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre shares, “Some people may say they prefer the term “diversity.” … Popular/mainstream understandings of diversity often function to reinforce false notions that there is a level playing field in our society and  there are simply “differences” among those on the field that need to be respected.

Without diminishing the fundamental need for respect (as a human right), discourses of diversity often work in favour of maintaining racism and systemic racism because they fail to take into consideration, to analyze and truly critique and oppose imbalances of power among “diverse” individuals and groups.

The primary failure of the idea of  diversity is that it is premised on the false (and for the mainstream, comfortable) idea that equality already exists, as does equal access to the means of communication, participation in the economy, and so on.

The Province of British Columbia also separates Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism as the following:

Multiculturalism

As the most ethnically diverse province in Canada, British Columbia welcomes nearly 40,000 new immigrants every year. A rich multicultural society helps nurture inclusiveness, understanding and mutual respect. It is up to all of us to ensure that our multicultural society is supported today and for future generations.

One of B.C.’s greatest strengths is the diversity of the people who call this province home. Cultural diversity and increased participation and engagement by all cultures is vitally important to create a strong and vibrant social and economic future for British Columbia.

B.C.’s multicultural society is a key incentive to attract newcomers to our province and help address our regional skill shortages and grow our economy. With one million job openings expected by 2020 in B.C., immigrants will play a vital role in the economic well-being of the province.

Anti-Racism

B.C.’s multiculturalism policy states that violence, hatred and discrimination on the basis of racial identity have no place in our society. The province’s antiracism program empowers communities and organizations to maintain partnerships and develop projects to promote multiculturalism, address racism and build inclusive communities.

Anti-racism is the practice of identifying, challenging, preventing, eliminating and changing the values, structures, policies, programs, practices and behaviours that perpetuate racism.

Many people think racism is not a problem in multicultural Canada, but racism still exists in many places, including British Columbia. Racism can take many forms and is often implicit in our attitudes, behaviours, beliefs and values. It is up to all of us to take a collaborative community approach to challenge and prevent racism and hate crime.

So while the statement Mayor McCallum read to Council on Monday for Canadian Multiculturalism Day on June 27th, is a great place to celebrate the city’s diversity, your response to the calls for the City of Surrey to commit to dismantling racism is not the place for such commentary.

As the Mayor shared himself on Monday, 22% of BC’s Indigenous population lives in Surrey. Not mentioned was that Surrey is also home to the largest Black population in British Columbia. Do these communities not deserve their City’s commitment to antiracism?

Yes, naming Henry Houston Scott Park in honour of one of the first African American families to settle in the area is important work; however it does not tackle the institutionalized racism that the Black community encounters on a regular basis.

If the Mayor and City Councillors do indeed stand by the words of their statement and ‘are constantly looking at how we can strengthen the diverse and inclusive society we have in Surrey’, then committing to dismantling institutionalized anti-Black and antiIndigenous racism should be a natural step.

If they truly agree that ‘racism against Black Indigenous and POC has not been eradicated,’ then we urge you to proactively do something about it. If they wish to “assure {us} that {they} will continue to condemn and eliminate all acts of hate and discrimination in our city,” then please respond to our specific asks and tell us how.

Share with us the City of Surrey’s action plan for anti-racism. What tangible steps is the City of Surrey taking to actively dismantle racism?

Systemic racism, and specifically anti-Black racism, are real, and the lack of any action from the leaders of our city in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement is frankly, hurtful. Especially given that the population of the city of Surrey is 60% Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, that Surrey has the largest Black population in British Columbia, and that we are in the midst of the largest civil rights movement of our generation; the lack of any statement or commitment to anti-racism from the city of Surrey in response to this is deplorable.

We demand better leadership from those entrusted to lead our city and we once again ask that the City:

  1. Acknowledges that anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism exist in the City
  2. Acknowledges that civic institutions have tacitly perpetuated systematic racism
  3. Clarifies what percentage of the executive leadership of the City is diverse, and how that can change
  4. Commits to actively dismantling systemic racism, discrimination and intolerance from our systems
  5. Commits to drafting and putting into place a policy ensuring that Surrey is an inclusive and equitable place for Black and Indigenous and POC communities

The creator of Surrey604.com, Daman Beatty (AKA 'Beatler') is originally from Sackville, New Brunswick. A longtime media producer, visual designer, marketing and communications specialist, Daman loves travel, technology and being a Daddy.

City

Budget 2021 Pairs Fiscal Responsibility With Strong Community Investment

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Surrey, BC – The City of Surrey’s proposed Budget 2021 has set a general property tax increase of 2.9%, which is consistent with the rate that was set by Council in the two previous budgets.

Despite the challenges that have been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Surrey’s Budget 2021 is balanced in accordance with the Local Government Act and the Community Charter.

“It has been Council’s approach to manage our public dollars prudently and it is a testament to the economic strength of Surrey that we have been able to bring in a fully balanced budget that holds the line on property taxes. The rate set in the 2019 and 2020 budgets was 2.9% and is, once again, the rate proposed for the 2021 budget,” said Mayor Doug McCallum.

“There is no question that COVID-19 has hit all of us hard economically and Council recognizes the importance of not increasing the burden to our ratepayers. The adversity that we face now with the pandemic will eventually come to an end, and Budget 2021 plans for life after COVID by investing in public projects in the form of facilities, parks and other infrastructure projects. Surrey has weathered the economic storm caused by COVID and Budget 2021 puts us on a steady and stable course to navigate the new year and beyond.”

Budget 2021 proposes a Capital Parcel Tax increase of $200. Below are some of the projects that will benefit all citizens of Surrey that the levy will help fund.

All of the following projects are budgeted to ensure work can get underway next year:

  • Newton Community Centre & Land Acquisition
  • City Centre Sports Complex – Phase 1
  • Bear Creek Park Athletics Centre
  • South Surrey Athletic Park Track Replacement & New Artificial Turf Field
  • Crescent Park Studio/Building Renovation
  • Outdoor Volleyball Courts
  • New Park Shelters
  • Newton Athletic Park Walking Track
  • Sunnyside Reservoir Pickleball & Bike Park
  • New Park Washrooms
  • Biodiversity Preserve Park Improvements
  • Trail & Path Development
  • Crescent Park Studio/Building Renovation
  • Outdoor Volleyball Courts
  • New Park Shelters
  • Cloverdale Sport & Ice Complex
    with 2 sheets of ice (budgeted for 2022/23)

The operating budget for police related services, which include the Surrey Police Service, was forecasted at $189.6 million in the 2020 budget. City staff has been continually reviewing this item as more information became available and has recalculated the operating budget for police related services for 2021 at $184.1 million, a decrease of $5.5 million from the projection in the previous budget cycle.

“On behalf of Council, I would like to thank all of our city staff for the steps they have taken to ensure that the core services and programs are delivered in the most cost effective manner during this time of pandemic,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “I want to give a special thank you to the staff of the City’s Finance Department for their comprehensive and meticulous work on Budget 2021.”

The full Budget 2021 document can be found here.

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2021 Proposed Surrey City Budget, 2.9 per cent Residential Tax Increase Just The Start: Councillor Linda Annis

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Flat rate parcel tax increase paid by all homeowners will hurt moderately-priced homes the most

Surrey, B.C.: Councillor Linda Annis says Surrey’s proposed city budget for 2021 will see residential tax increases well beyond 2.9 per cent promised by the mayor, and will hurt moderately priced homes and their owners the most.

“The 2.9 per cent increase is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Annis. “With this proposed budget you can expect to see your tax bill climb by much more than 2.9 per cent, particularly if you live in a moderately priced home. For instance, the flat rate parcel tax is going to triple from $100 to $300, and because it’s a flat rate it will burden moderate and lower-priced homes and their owners the most.”

Annis said the proposed increases come at the worst possible time as insolvencies across Canada climbed by 19 per cent in September, the highest number since COVID-19 began impacting the economy in March, and some 760,000 Canadians have deferred mortgage payments during the pandemic.

Annis explained that the flat rate parcel tax charged each year is distinct and separate from property value taxes and is to be used only for infrastructure. It cannot be used to recover general administration costs. No matter the value of your home, every home pays the same amount for a parcel tax.

“I believe the mayor wants to use the parcel tax to finance community facilities that would normally be financed out of your property taxes,” added Annis. “But because of the growing costs associated with the proposed Surrey Police Department, the one city budget item that hasn’t been hit by the cost of COVID-19 belt tightening, those dollars are not there.

While we closed pools, rinks and rec centres and laid off staff across the city that wasn’t the case for the proposed SPD which just kept on spending, including using city staff without properly charging their time to the police transition which helped to hide real police costs.”

Annis said the tripling of the parcel tax means homeowners with a $700,000 home will face an overall tax increase of more than 15 per cent while a home worth $1 million will see a tax increase of almost 12 per cent.

“Because the parcel tax is flat right across the board it will impact residents with moderately-priced homes the most,” said Annis. “With so many people and businesses struggling financially because of COVID-19, it’s hard to justify these kind of increases right now, particularly when we’re diverting every possible dollar to the police transition costs at the expense of other city services.”

In addition to taxes climbing well beyond 2.9 per cent Annis, said this year’s budget process continues to reflect the mayor’s complete lack of transparency and consultation with the community, “something that has become a hallmark” of this particular mayor and his four remaining councillors.

“The city is also borrowing money to build new capital projects and normally that would not be an issue,” noted Annis. “However, with the city increasing taxes, it begs the question about the current state of the city’s finances.”

Annis said the public can provide comments on the proposed city budget at an upcoming city Finance Committee meeting to be held Monday, November 30 at 2:00 P.M.

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City of Surrey Welcomes $15 Million In Joint Federal & Provincial COVID-19 Relief Funding

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While the City of Surrey has and continues to find ways to mitigate economic pressures created by COVID-19, the pandemic has nevertheless created a strain on the City’s finances.

Today, the City of Surrey welcomes and is grateful for the nearly $15 million in federal and provincial funding from the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant for Local Governments.

“The City of Surrey has been working hard to safely navigate through the turbulent waters created by COVID-19,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “The $15 million in funding today helps to stabilize the sound foundation we have built for the city’s fiscal house.

I want to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the federal and provincial governments for their support to Surrey and all municipalities. This new funding ensures that Surrey will continue to operate in a position of relative strength despite the challenging circumstances.”

Under the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant for Local Governments, the City of Surrey has been allocated $14,769,000. This funding will support local government facing increased operating costs and lower revenues due to COVID-19. Eligible costs include:

  • Revenue shortfalls
  • Facility reopening and operating costs
  • Emergency planning and response costs
  • Bylaw enforcement and protective services, like fire and police
  • Computer and other electronic technology costs to improve virtual communications and interconnectivity
  • Services for vulnerable persons (such as persons living with disabilities, mental illness or addictions, persons experiencing homelessness or other vulnerabilities)
  • Other related costs
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City Council Approves Land Purchase For Future Park And Community Centre In Newton

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At last night’s Regular Council Meeting, City Council approved the purchase of 16 connecting parcels of land with a total land area of 7.24 acres in the heart of Newton. The purchase of these properties are for the expressed purpose for use as future parkland, civic amenities, and facilities.

“The purchase of this land is a first and tangible step in addressing the needs of the growing community of Newton,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “The vision that Council and I share is to build a new community centre and a neighbourhood park that can be easily accessed by the residents of Newton. Surrey is renowned for our community amenities and Council is always looking at creative ways on how we can build and expand on this enviable legacy.”

15 of the 16 properties at King George Blvd and 70A Ave. currently sit vacant and include the site of the former Rona Revy home improvement centre. Future development of these lands would be subject to funding availability and a public consultation process. More information can be found here.

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Surrey Police: Liberals Promises vs. The NDP’s Resolute NO

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Amid the current Provincial Election, it would appear that the police transition is the hot topic for voters in Surrey. While there are promises of hospitals and schools and many other of the usual election campaign promises, the topic most discussed remains the police transition.

The biggest unanswered question is – does Mayor and council have the support of the Surrey taxpayers to make the transition from the current police force to a new city police force?

Keep the RCMP in Surrey supporters say the answer is no. The 60,000 voters in Surrey have signed their petition which would be a strong indication that Surrey voters don’t support the transition.

Those in support of the city police force say that the decision was made when the Mayor and his Safe Surrey Coalition won the municipal election and there needs be no more discussion about it.

Most still firmly on the fence are asking for more information such as the cost to taxpayers, the advantages of the transition and how they will know the process was free of outside influence.

Without answers to these crucial questions, it would be hard to make an informed decision about something which will affect each taxpayer both by seeing an increase in their taxes or by their interactions with the police in future. This is one decision which affects us all.

Those who feel that they are at the mercy of a corrupt mayor and council, want the province to intervene. Those who voted for the Mayor want the province to stay out of municipal affairs.

The NDP stated that this was a municipal matter which could not be interfered with, but many legal experts say that isn’t the case. As the municipalities rights under law are carved from the provincial rights under law, they feel that the province has a mandate to step in.

The campaign to keep the RCMP in Surrey is non-partisan but they have encouraged their 60,000 supporters to vote for whatever party will assist them in getting an answer to the question of what Surrey taxpayers really want. This group wants a referendum. They believe that the voters should have a change to have their say in something which will affect liveability and affordability in this city.

The Liberal party has promised, if elected, to hold a referendum on this issue and that has many voters now talking about their possible choices. While the polls had put the NDP firmly in power in Surrey, with most citizens saying they were happy with their performance to date and many quick to reference the Liberals many missteps of the past, many who said they would never vote Liberal are now looking up their liberal candidates.

The question being asked now is, can the Liberals be trusted to deliver on this promise? While a referendum would not be binding on the municipality, it would answer the question once and for all as to the support the Mayor and Safe Surrey coalition has for this transition.

Ian Scott, the determined leader of the Keep the RCMP movement, has said that if the referendum came back that the majority of voters wanted this transition, then he would accept that decision.

The implication being that the organization would back off. However, if the referendum shows that the majority of taxpayers do not want the transition to proceed, then he would be doubling his efforts and the efforts of his team to demand that voters and taxpayers are heard.

To that end, Ian Scott has sent a letter to each candidate asking them for their personal view on this issue and with that response in mind, he is advising his supporters to vote accordingly.

Some of those letters are now coming back but they did receive one response from the provincial NDP which reads as follows:

Dear Keep the RCMP in Surrey Campaign, Thank you for your survey concerning the issue of Surrey policing.

The responsibility to provide policing lies with the city governments for all BC communities of over 5,000 people. That is why we believe that concerns about the city’s decision to change policing, a municipal service, must be addressed with the Surrey City Council.

The role of the provincial government when it comes to municipal policing: to ensure that public safety is maintained. And that is what we will continue to do.

The leader of the BC Liberals has been trying to muddy the waters but has been unclear about what he would actually do. Only a few weeks ago, Andrew Wilkinson admitted that he was “not close enough to the issue to have thoughtful things to say about it” (CKNW, September 23).

Now, the BC Liberal leader has suggested he would hold a referendum but he doesn’t know or won’t say if it would be advisory or binding until after the election. (CKNW, October 5, 2020).

He created even more uncertainty when he was asked by CBC if the referendum would be binding, saying: “That has to be determined because obviously you gotta figure out exactly what the question is first and you gotta figure out what the information is which will drive the question.”

Wilkinson’s ambiguity has created even more division in his effort to gain votes: he has no clear position. Conflicting comments from BC Liberal MLAs only create further confusion:

Stephanie Cadieux: “We don’t want to comment on the merits of a municipal force over the RCMP or vice versa. […] We respect that this is by statute, a municipal decision to move forward.” (July 6, 2020 Facebook)

Just before Wilkinson’s sudden campaign promise, Cadieux also said: “I don’t know if a referendum is the right answer.” (Oct 6, Peace Arch News)

The Police Act states that when it comes to municipalities with more than 5,000 people, it is the municipality that is responsible for decisions about how to provide law enforcement in their community.

Despite all the controversy, we in the BC NDP are committed to strong public safety policies for every BC community and we will fulfill that provincial responsibility.

Sincerely, BC NDP

This response seems to indicate that the supporters of Keep the RCMP in Surrey will not be getting any assistance from the NDP and as such they will likely be directing their votes elsewhere.

While the letter does take some jabs at Andrew Wilkinson and quotes comments from the early summer, it is clear that at this point the Liberals are standing behind their promise of a referendum but just what the long-term outcome of that will be remains uncertain.

It will be interesting to see how many of the Surrey voters will be influenced by this. If the number of supporters on the continuing petition are anything to go by, this should make the NDP contenders nervous as the Liberals will continue to use this issue to their advantage in this upcoming election.

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