Surrey Lake, a popular place for enjoying a walk, was opened in 2002 when Doug McCallum was mayor. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

McCallum’s canal pitch took Surrey councillors by surprise

City government has more important issues pressing than building a canal, councillors say

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s idea to build a “wandering canal” in the city holds no water with some council members who say the concept was not discussed with them prior to the mayor floating the idea at a Downtown Business Improvement Association meeting in Whalley last week.

“A canal is not something we have ever discussed in council,” Councillor Brenda Locke said. “It is not something I would support and I don’t know where these empty roads are that we’re going to be running a canal through. There are way more important issues in Surrey to be worrying about than a canal.”

Councillor Linda Annis called it “a little bit shocking, to say the least, particularly when the mayor is saying that there are unused roads in Surrey.

“I know certainly when I travel to work each day I’m not seeing roads that aren’t filled with traffic so I’m not sure what he’s talking about with that, and I guess I’m also a bit concerned that he would even be contemplating spending money on something like that when we need to be building better roads, more roads and you know, improving our infrastructure and building rec centres, things like that.”

McCallum has not returned requests for comment. This is not the first time he has pondered the creation of a water feature in Surrey. The 10-acre, man-made Surrey Lake at 7453 152nd St., for example, was opened in 2002 when he was mayor and he presided over the ribbon-cutting. The park has become a popular place for enjoying a walk.

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Doug McCallum. (File photo)

Dug out of a floodplain, Surrey Lake draws off flood waters from Bear Creek during storms. All told, 17,000 dump trucks of soil and what-not were removed to create its basin.

Asked if the canal idea is for utility, recreation, transportation or simply aesthetics, Surrey Councillor Steven Pettigrew replied, “I have no idea.

“The first I heard about it was on the news. I wasn’t aware of it. He said he’d been working with staff to find a road and staff knew nothing about it, so I have no idea what he’s thinking.

“The mayor has not seen fit to inform council of this decision or pretty much any of his decisions,” Pettigrew said. “He directs staff as he determines, and I have no information about that at all. This is how business is done at the city – he’ll just do whatever he wants. Staff follows his instructions.”

READ ALSO ZYTARUK: Canal isn’t Surrey’s first ‘different’ idea

Pettigrew said he doesn’t know enough about McCallum’s canal pitch to know where it’s going or what’s planned.

“I know as much as you know, let’s put it that way,” he told the Now-Leader. “A question to ask is, is this the best way to use our resources? Every time we assign staff a task, they can only do so many tasks, and there’s certain tasks that should be receiving priorities right now. Every time we assign other tasks, these other tasks get bumped down. So is this the best use of our resources right now? I don’t think so.

“I think we have other issues in our city that need to be addressed,” Pettigrew said. “We’ve got massive housing problems, we have school crises happening, we have environmental crises happening and our resources need to be better allocated to fix these type of things rather than looking at whether we can put a canal through the city.”

Asked about the canal, Councillor Jack Hundial laughed, and then he laughed some more. “What can we say about it? It was news to me that this would even be considered, first of all,” he said.

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Jack Hundial. (File photo)

“If that’s a serious proposal he should bring it out to the public, the rationale as to why Surrey now requires a canal.”

“There isn’t that bilateral communication going on,” he said of council.

Councillor Laurie Guerra said McCallum mentioned the canal in response to a question the BIA moderator had for panelists on what kind of innovations they had in mind for Surrey.

“I just found out about it at the same time everybody else did,” she said. “He probably could have said, if he wasn’t already doing it, I’d love to see the SkyTrain go in to Langley, he could have done a lot of things like that that have already been addressed by the mayor and I think he said just what he thought. I never heard of it before. I think it’s got its merit – the city staff will have to look into it and see if it’s feasible or even possible.”

Councillors Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford could not be reached for comment Wednesday.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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