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'It was a mistake' to support Watts in 2005 Surrey election: SCC

The president of the Surrey Civic Coalition said it was a “mistake” to support current mayor Dianne Watts in the 2005 municipal election.

“We decided it was a mistake,” SCC president Lynda Toews said. “This time we are not supporting anyone except our own candidates.”

In 2005, Watts ran as an Independent against three-term mayor Doug McCallum and his right-of-centre Surrey’s Electors Team. (Watts was elected as a SET councillor in 1996 but split from the party in 2003).

The left-of-centre SCC decided to boost Watts’ bid for mayor because the party was concerned about McCallum’s support for environmentally destructive development in the sensitive Campbell Heights area.

Toews said her party gave Watts an official endorsement, placed several advertisements and encouraged supporters to vote for the former councillor.

But the favour wasn’t returned after Watts won the election by a landslide, she said.

“Dianne promised us support,” Toews said. “That hasn’t materialized.”

According to the party president, Watts pledged to appoint former three-term mayor and current SCC councillor Bob Bose to the Greater Vancouver Regional District board if she was elected.

“She didn’t follow through on that,” Toews said.

SCC council candidate Stephanie Ryan said Watts won the 2005 election by assuring voters she would reverse the urban sprawl-style development that intensified under McCallum.

Instead, Watts supported single-storey office space downtown and failed to adequately protect sensitive Phase Two lands in the Campbell Heights area, Ryan said.

“By and large, people haven’t been getting what they were promised,” she said.

If the SCC nabs a council majority on Nov. 15, Ryan said her party will push for a comprehensive light rail plan, turn Phase Two lands into permanent parkland and consider the redevelopment of rail-accessible industrial land in Surrey's core.

As The Tyee reported earlier this week, Mayor Watts is running against Green Party challenger Murray Weisenberger on a platform that includes a large-scale revitalization of downtown Surrey.

To achieve her vision, Watts has been pushing the province to redirect funds slated for a Skytrain extension to a more extensive light rail plan.

Asked whether she reneged on a promise to appoint Bose to the GVRD after her 2005 win, Watts said the claim is questionable.

“There wasn’t any agreement that I recall,” she said.

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for the Hook.

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