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City Council appoints Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner

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The City of Surrey is the first municipality in British Columbia to establish the position of Ethics Commissioner. After a nationwide search for a suitable candidate and the receipt of applications from over 30 well qualified candidates, Council has unanimously appointed Reece Harding as the City of Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner.

Mr. Harding is a partner with Young, Anderson and has extensive experience working with local governments on an operational, administrative, and elected level. He has appeared on behalf of local governments in every level of court in Canada.

“While there was no shortage of qualified candidates for the position of Ethics Commissioner, Reece Harding’s comprehensive experience in municipal law, advising elected officials on responsible conduct, and conflict resolution and his high standing among his peers makes him the right person to fill this important role at the City of Surrey,” said Mayor Doug McCallum.

“On behalf of Council, I want to congratulate Reece as he begins his new duties as Ethics Commissioner. I would also like to thank the Ethics Selection Committee for their diligence and hard work in assisting the City in the recruiting process.”

As an independent officer, the role of the Ethics Commissioner role is to advise and assist Council on how best to enhance open, transparent, and accountable governance. The mandate of the Ethics Commissioner’s also includes the authority to investigate complaints and make disciplinary recommendations to Council.

Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.

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We Need to Open Surrey’s Aquatic Centres Now, Not Later: Councillor Linda Annis

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Surrey, B.C. (August 11, 2020) | Councillor Linda Annis wants city hall to reopen Surrey’s pools and aquatic centres this month, rather than waiting until October which is the current plan.

“The mayor is keeping pools and aquatic centres closed to reduce the city’s deficit coming out of COVID-19, meanwhile the $129 million police transition budget remains untouched,” explained Annis.

“There is absolutely no reason not to get on with reopening our pools and aquatic centres. We can meet every COVID-19 requirement today. Instead, the mayor is keeping things closed and those savings are being used to help fund the police transition bill.”

Annis said that after pressure from the community the city recently moved to open more sheets of ice faster than originally planned, and she wants the same approach taken to Surrey’s pools.

“COVID cannot be an excuse any longer, there is no provincial health regulation prohibiting reopening with the right rules in place,” noted Annis. “So, staying closed isn’t a health decision, it’s a political decision by the mayor and his four councillors to save money and then spend those savings on the costly police transition bill.”

Annis said families, children, seniors and swimming and diving teams are all being left out in the cold, something that isn’t necessary.

“No city has better aquatic facilities than Surrey,” Said Annis. “We also have the staff and expertise to open our public facilities and keep them open safely. Community facilities are important to our quality of life and so we should get on with reopening them without delay. If city staff were given instructions to open we could be up and running in days, rather than waiting until October.”

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New Surrey Police Board no substitute for referendum and public input: Councillor Linda Annis

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Surrey, B.C. Councillor Linda Annis is congratulating the members of the new Surrey police board for wanting to serve the community, but says the board is no substitute for a referendum on policing. The board is meeting today for the first time.

“I always applaud anyone who wants to serve the community, but we could have had this board with the RCMP, and frankly the board is no substitute for a referendum that gives the people of Surrey the final say on who will police our city,” said Annis. “The entire police transition process continues to ignore the people of Surrey and with the mayor as chair of the board, I expect the lack of transparency to continue.”

Annis said policing is the single biggest budget item for the city, and the fact that residents have been completely left out of the process is frustrating and dividing the community.

“The transition budget tops $129 million, money we don’t have, and a police force that more and more residents don’t want,” noted Annis. “Board members can see the frustration right across the community in the lawn signs going up across the city and the nearly 50,000 signatures on the petition supporting the RCMP. To ignore the community is completely tone deaf and no way to start a city police force.”

Annis also believes that all of the board members should have come from the community.

“We have nearly 600,000 people in Surrey, surely we could have found nine people from our city to sit on the board, rather than including people who don’t call Surrey home,” Annis added.

Annis said she is also disappointed that the provincial government has ignored the concerns of Surrey voters throughout the transition. “The province could insist on a referendum, instead they are standing back and watching as Doug McCallum and his remaining Safe Surrey councillors completely disregard Surrey residents,” added Annis.

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Seeds of Change Surrey partnership addresses COVID-19 food security challenges

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SURREY, BC | In partnership with Seeds of Change Surrey, the City of Surrey is proud to support the launch of two new food security programs that will address the challenges many residents are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeds of Change Surrey secured $77,000 in funding through the United Way of the Lower Mainland, in addition to in-kind support from the City of Surrey.

“Having access to affordable and healthy groceries during COVID-19 is essential for our community,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “Together with the Seeds of Change Surrey organization, we are mobilizing resources to support residents in meeting their everyday food needs as well as building community food systems resilience. On behalf of Seeds of Change, I would like to thank the United Way for their support on such an important project.”

Seeds of Change Surrey will immediately implement two programs to address food access challenges:

Seeds of Change Surrey Food Box (SOX BOX)

SOX BOX will assist those requiring food support through a systems-level coordinated grocery box approach. Food will be sourced, sorted and distributed to community organizations throughout Surrey, targeting households in need through neighbourhood pick-up locations or community agency locations. This program is complementary to the existing emergency food programs in Surrey and adds the greatly needed inter-agency coordination required to see more residents fed.

Yard to Garden Program

Yard to Garden is an initiative that supports residents in transforming their yards into gardens with the goal of growing more food and feeding more people locally. Participants are provided the materials needed to volunteer in growing vegetables at home. When possible, gardeners are asked to donate their excess harvest to local food banks and community organizations. Materials provided to participants include soil, seeds, educational resources, and gardening support.

The first food box deliveries under the SOX BOX program took place on July 25, and the Yard to Garden program is scheduled to launch August 4, with registration opening on July 31, 2020. To ensure that the greatest impact can be realized over the growing season, and while the pandemic continues to effect residents’ income, Seeds of Change Surrey intends to have these programs in operation until October 2020, with the ability to extend as needed.

City staff continue to work closely with Seeds of Change Surrey to explore collaborative approaches that address building community food system resilience citywide for all Surrey residents.

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Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment Program sees success in diverting vulnerable children and youth from gangs

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SURREY, BC | The Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment (SAFE) Program launched in January 2019, with a proactive approach to addressing youth gang involvement. Supported by $7.5M in federal funding distributed over five years, the program is delivered by 10 partner agencies to address previous service gaps in diverting children and youth away from gangs.

“We are committed to keeping Surrey’s youth safe and engaged through preventable programming that will address the source of underlying problems that lead to gang involvement,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “With the release of today’s data, we know we are on track to create a healthy community where everyone has the chance to thrive and reach their full potential.”

As of March 2020, a total of 1515 vulnerable Surrey residents have been offered supports through SAFE. This includes 1292 children and youth and 223 parents and caregivers. 216 of these clients were also connected to culturally sensitive services, such as counselling, in their preferred language.

As of June 2020, the Children & Youth At-Risk Table concluded 69 cases, meaning the risk for involvement in gangs for each of these young people was successfully de-escalated. SAFE is also on track to meet its five-year target of supporting 4700 children and youth at-risk for gang involvement. The full success of the SAFE Program will be officially evaluated in 2024.

Recently, a virtual support group for South Asian parents was created to compliment programming, and preparations are underway for a virtual presentation series, as well as a civil forfeiture grant application (E2) designed to engage youth and empower parents. For more information about the SAFE Program, visit www.surrey.ca/safe.

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Surrey Should Look To UBC Properties Trust as Model for its Lands

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Selling off city land means selling off our future: Councillor Linda Annis

Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis says she is increasingly worried that the mayor’s recent decision to disband the Surrey City Development Corporation (SCDC) and bring it inside city hall will lead to the eventual sale of city land, rather than leveraging the land through long-term leases that generate ongoing revenue for Surrey, while retaining ownership.

Rather than selling off city land, Annis said Surrey should be looking at the UBC Properties Trust model which generates ongoing revenue through long-term leases, while UBC continues to own its land.

“We can learn a lot from the UBC model which typically leases for 99 years. In the process UBC takes home a big dividend each year, giving the university an ongoing and sustainable stream of new revenue,” explained Annis. “In fact, since its inception in 1988, the trust has endowed UBC with $2 billion.”

Annis said land is the City of Surrey’s most valuable city asset and needs to be protected for future generations.

“We have only so much city land and when it’s gone it’s gone,” noted Annis. “Today our land portfolio is worth some $250 million, and we should be leasing it, rather than selling it for a quick hit of cash that does nothing for the future of our city.”

Annis said selling off the city’s land is both short-sighted and a poor business model. “Over the past seven years, SCDC has paid the city $36 million in dividends and has a cumulative surplus of $46 million for reinvestment in future projects,” said Annis.

Annis said she will introduce a notice of motion at the virtual city council meeting on July 27 that calls for one of the major accounting and consulting firms to review Surrey’s land portfolio and make business model recommendations that leverage the land through leasing, rather than selling it.

“We need a model that puts our land to work, but keeps it owned by the people of Surrey,” said Annis. “The UBC Properties Trust model is certainly worth looking at and its results for UBC are terrific and long lasting,” explained Annis. “I worry that when our land is inside city hall it also becomes vulnerable to politics, where it becomes too easy to simply sell off our land as a knee-jerk decision or way to solve a temporary issue such as a deficit.

“Our city’s land assets belong to everyone in Surrey, including future generations,” added Annis. “Every Surrey city council should be looking to make sure we hold onto our land for generations to come. When we own our land we have options, opportunities and dividends for years to come. But, when that land is sold we get one cheque and that’s it, it’s gone for good.”

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