One of the canals in Venice, Italy. Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum previously compared his idea for canals in the city to those in Qatar and Venice. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

McCallum floats canal idea again but Surrey staff have ‘no work plan before them’

Councillors say idea is frivolous, considering serious draft budget shortfalls city faces

It seems building a canal in Bridgeview is not on city hall’s radar, despite repeated comments from Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum that suggest it is.

This week, McCallum’s canal pitch made headlines for the second time this year after he told reporters the idea was proceeding at city hall.

But Councillor Jack Hundial told the Now-Leader he spoke with city staff on Monday (Nov. 25) and they “have no work plan before them right now to look at a canal project in Bridgeview.”

READ ALSO: Surrey mayor suggests building a canal on ‘less busy’ road, June 13, 2019

The mayor has not yet returned requests for comment but the city’s communications manager Oliver Lum said that “in terms of whether there’s any documents, there’s nothing, no.”

“Basically, it would be something that would get formalized if redevelopment or new plans are in the works for the area or a new park in Bridgeview,” Lum said Tuesday. “There’s nothing that’s in hard copy at this point that I can send you.”

Lum said McCallum’s recent comments about a canal were specific to the Bridgeview area, “and especially, the waterfront along there.”

“Whenever it’s time to update the Bridgeview plan, or there’s an opportunity to either improve or add a new park right on the waterfront there, that’s when this kind of idea could be factored in,” Lum said. “It wouldn’t just be a done deal, it would be part of the regular processes that we go through when we upgrade or update plans.

“It’s not happening now, so that’s why… there’s nothing to send your way.”

For his part, Hundial said he thinks the talk of a canal is a “ruse” to get people’s attention off the shortfall in the budget and the policing transition.

Asked if he thinks that’s working, Hundial said he knows “people are smarter than that.”

“When you look at this police plan and how it’s going to cannibalize the entire budget, that’s going to come at the sake of youth facilities such as rec centres, services,” he said. “We need to look at all of those things going into the budget.”

Councillor Linda Annis said the canal project is not in the five-year budget or the five-year capital plan.

“Quite frankly, I’m not sure why the mayor is talking about it.”

READ ALSO: McCallum’s canal pitch took Surrey councillors by surprise, June 19, 2019

“I think we’ve got a lot more important issues to be concerned with,” Annis added. “The proposed budget right now doesn’t allow for any more police officers or firefighters, no infrastructure, so there’s not going to be any rec centres or community centres or art facilities. Clearly, we need to be doing that before we contemplate building canals in the city.

“The canal idea is not a good one. There’s much more important issues than that.”

Asked if she’s spoken to the mayor or staff about the canal since hearing McCallum’s comments, Annis said, “No I have not because, to me, it does not seem worthy of even consideration.”

McCallum first floated the idea of a canal during a Downtown Surrey BIA event in June. At the time, he said when he looks at major cities around the world, “most of them have some type of waterfront or riverfront or canal front.”

McCallum said Surrey has “lots of roads” and with vehicles getting used “less and less,” there could be “excess roads” in the future.

“The idea certainly came to me when I noticed that in Qatar, as I said when I was there that shopping centres had canals instead of walkways… but if you look at some other cities, like Venice and so forth, they have canals that they use for transportation.”

At the time, McCallum said he had mentioned the idea to a few people, including the engineering department.

“They certainly say it’s thinking outside the box, but they didn’t sort of reject it.”



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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