Opinion

EDITORIAL: Distancing themselves

More than 300 people packed South Surrey
More than 300 people packed South Surrey's Pacific Inn Nov. 26 for a community meeting on railway relocation.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photo

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has a clear message for those taking sides on whether to relocate the BNSF train tracks from the Semiahmoo Peninsula waterfront.

The trouble is, the message seems to depend on which side one’s on.

Those who are in favour were presented with four potential routes at a city-hosted ‘South Surrey Rail Open House,’ at which Watts herself focused nearly all talk on moving the tracks inland.

To those who question the effect on other Surrey residents – and the cost, estimated by proponents to be up to $450 million – Watts maintains her primary concern is improving the existing tracks.

To further complicate matters, this week Surrey Coun. Mary Martin – a longtime Watts backer – wrote to a Morgan Creek resident who expressed criticism of moving the tracks. In an email cc’d to Watts, fellow councillors and the media, Martin said: “I must respond to your concerns as they are incorrect. Mayor Watts’ only concerns are for the safety of the rail shipments, in particular the crossing at Crescent Beach. It was (White Rock Mayor Wayne) Baldwin who brought up the idea of the realignment. This will not happen in the near (future) nor in the foreseeable future.”

Not sure where Martin got the impression that Watts hasn’t put herself at the forefront of Baldwin’s issue – or what her definition of “foreseeable future” is – but surely it must be an informed opinion.

Asked Monday to speak for herself, Watts maintains the open house was merely to get “the conversation” started.

With all due respect to our leaders, this conversation has been going on for some time… with or without them. And for such dialogue to have more meaning than simple rhetoric, all stakeholders must be present.

Perhaps that should have been our first clue that the meeting was merely an opportunity for our elected officials to get face time with their public. It mattered less who was at the meeting, but who wasn’t. No BNSF representative spoke. No Amtrak. No sign of MP Russ Hiebert. Politicians from Blaine weren’t invited. Nor were affected MLAs (though Surrey-White Rock’s Gordon Hogg dropped by on his own accord).

What we ended up with was two mayors – backed by Surrey staff and a handful of councillors from both cities – who shared the podium seemingly for a united cause.

Now, after all this backtracking, the distance between these two leaders seems all the greater.

 

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