Delta Mayor George Harvie. (James Smith file photo)

Delta Mayor George Harvie. (James Smith file photo)

Column

COLUMN: For real leadership amid crisis, look west of Scott Road

Delta council, under direction of Mayor George Harvie, defines leadership during pandemic

It’s true that a sure-fire test of leaders is how well they function during a crisis. After all, as first century Latin writer Publilius Syrus said, anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.

Oh, if only Publilius could see us now.

On all scales – local, regional, national and global – the pandemic has exposed those who fancy themselves as leaders but lack the talent, skill and character that true leadership requires.

But we’ve also seen people instill confidence and inspiration by rising to the occasion with a bold sense of control and decisiveness, putting the needs and wants of their communities ahead of their own.

Thankfully, we here in Surrey don’t have to look too far to see examples of such leaders – in fact, they’re just west of Scott Road.

From all accounts, Delta’s city council, under the direction of Mayor George Harvie, has acted with integrity, accountability, empathy, humility, resilience, vision, influence and positivity throughout the pandemic.

After working closely with Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon to ensure a quick and decisive state of emergency declared in his city, Harvie also immediately requested that the province give local governments the authority to extend payment deadlines for the collection of fees and taxes without any penalty to residents and businesses.

A few days later, Delta’s mayor and council pushed the deadline for residents to pay their utility fees amid the COVID-19 outbreak. As reported by the North Delta Reporter, Delta council held special meetings on March 20 and 23, where it unanimously passed a bylaw to defer the late payment penalty deadline for 2020 flat rate utility bills.

Then, in a true proactive fashion, Delta council unanimously approved a bylaw on April 14 allowing the city to borrow up to $35 million to cover any delays in property tax revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a very prudent financial thing to do as far as it’s a safety net for us in the City of Delta,” city manager Sean McGill said in a special meeting.

SEE ALSO: Delta mayor asks B.C. government to support local media

Around that time, in mid-April, Harvie also wrote a letter to premier John Horgan, asking the province to support local media hit hard by the financial impact of COVID-19.

“Local businesses, which are the prime source of revenue for local newspapers, are struggling like never before,” Harvie wrote. “Without advertising revenue from these businesses, the essential service provided by local media may not survive this crisis. Without local media, our democratic institutions will be severely weakened — the fourth estate is vital for a vibrant democracy.

“We ask that you include consideration for local media in provincial stimulus and recovery funding.”

And Harvie backed up those words with action. In a time when some cities reduced their support for local media, the City of Delta actually increased its advertising in the North Delta Reporter, filling it with full-page advertisements that communicated vital COVID-19 information to residents.

Then, in late April, Delta council approved a revised budget designed to save the city, and residents, some cash during the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19. The revised 2020 financial plan included a decrease in the city’s planned property tax increase, from 3.5 per cent to 1.75 per cent.

While the revised budget did defer some capital projects, it reflected a new priority – providing financial relief to residents and businesses while still providing sufficient funding for base city service levels.

SEE ALSO: City of Delta staff, mayor and council donate over $30,000 to local charities

In May, Delta’s mayor, council and city staff stepped up to help local charities through a staff fundraising campaign called Delta4Delta. The campaign’s goal for its opening weekend was $5,000, which was nearly tripled out of the gate and has so far raised nearly $20,000.

Finally, and most recently, Harvie announced he had reached into his own pocket to help his city’s most vulnerable.

“Some of the cities have taken that 10 per cent, and they call it a symbolic reduction in their salaries. I don’t support that because all it does is go to general revenue — it doesn’t get out there in the community at all,” Harvie said during a virtual townhall meeting on May 14.

”So my wife Gillian and I decided last month to donate 10 per cent of my annual remuneration, and we donated $16,000 to, divided between the Delta Hospital [and Community Health] Foundation, recognizing that all of their major events have been cancelled because the COVID, and to Deltassist, specifically towards their Starfish Backpack Program.

“I’d like to impress upon … all our community members — if you can, reach out and provide some financial assistance to our community service groups. They need it more than ever right now.”

I’ll tell you what we need, Mayor Harvie – more leaders like you.

More leaders like you.

Beau Simpson is editor of the Surrey Now-Leader.



editor@northdeltareporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusDelta

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Vehicles line up for the Greater Vancouver Drive-Thru Food Truck Festival at the Chilliwack Coliseum parking lot on March 27. The touring event comes to Cloverdale this weekend, April 24-25 (Photo: Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress)
Here are the food trucks coming to Cloverdale for a drive-thru festival this weekend

Nine trucks will be parked Saturday, nine Sunday during event at fairgrounds

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Parts of Surrey, North Delta to get AstraZeneca vaccines for people ages 40+

A total of seven communities in Surrey and Delta will be targeted

Delta police were called to a possible stabbing in the 8100-block of Scott Road at around 6 p.m. on Sunday afternoon (April 18, 2021). (Shane MacKichan photo)
Two arrested after man stabbed in North Delta parking lot

The incident took place in the 8100-block of Scott Road at around 5:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 18

The Braidwood Band performs for the seniors at Zion Park Manor in Surrey, as part of a music program planned by Rick’s Heart Foundation. (submitted photo)
VIDEO: Surrey charity brings distanced concerts to care homes, with prop pink firetruck

Familiar tunes performed for seniors during pandemic-era ‘Heart for Music’ program

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

A man has died after being shot at Coquitlam’s Town Centre Park the evening of Monday, April 19. (Twitter/IHIT)
1 man dead after shooting at Coquitlam park: IHIT

The gunman is still at large, according to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Most Read