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Dianne Watts Endorses Tom Gill For Surrey Mayor But Will That Be Enough?

By R. Paul Dhillon

SURREY – Former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, who recently lost BC Liberal leadership battle and was criticized for going more than $50 million over budget on the new Surrey City Hall, finally endorsed Surrey First mayoral candidate Tom Gill.

She had to do it after Gill supported Watts leadership bid and was the man who introduced her at the big kickoff event in Surrey for her failed bid to succeed Christy Clark as BC Liberal leader.

While Watts said she was endorsing Gill, she clearly expressed disdain against another former mayor Doug McCallum, who is trying to capture power again. Watts expressed deep concern about McCallum, saying he could not address the complex issues facing the city but she also said McCallum had the edge over Gill.

In a big burn to another council candidate, that Watts brought in during her days as mayor, who is also running for mayor, she didn’t mention him in her long and one-sided tirade in the irrelevant Province newspaper opinion column.

Watts didn’t mention the third contender Bruce Hayne, who is supposed to be eating into Surrey First’s traditional white vote bank but his campaign has been slow to get off the ground and his personnel seem to be asleep at the switch while McCallum and Gill campaigns get their word out on their proposed agenda.

Gill said he and Surrey First are very humbled by Watts’ support and look forward to working with her during the campaign.

Gill also detailed the second part of his team’s public safety platform today as he called for a city-wide referendum on a local police force, introduction of Surrey’s first Police Board, a ban on handguns, the addition of 125 new officers and a complete police services review.

Last week Gill introduced the first part of the Surrey First plan, including an anti-gang campaign with free access to Surrey’s pools, rinks and gyms for 125,000 children and teens, and a special 1-800 information hub for parents and families looking for programs to keep vulnerable youth out of gangs.

“We’re a safe city, but it only takes a single shot to shatter that sense of safety,” said Gill. “Public safety is a priority for all of us, and that means tackling issues on a number of fronts, because there isn’t just one answer when it comes to keeping Surrey safe.

“Two months ago, I asked whether our city had outgrown the RCMP, and called for a broad community-wide discussion and referendum on having our own police force,” added Gill. “It’s a big decision because policing is our single largest operating cost. We spend about $160 million annually on policing and if we are going to make a change then everyone needs to have the facts and everyone should have a say. But, it’s certainly time to ask ourselves if we have outgrown the RCMP and what it means if we decide to have a made-in-Surrey police department.”

Gill said Surrey First also believes it is time for a Surrey Police Board, the same kind of locally-controlled governing body that provides direction and oversight in communities that have their own police departments.

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