Dianne Watts: BCLC CEO's comments on Surrey casino show complete disregard for public process

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Surrey mayor Dianne Watts issued the following open letter today (January 24), days after city council narrowly rejected a casino proposal for South Surrey:

I feel compelled to address the inflammatory public comments that have been made by BCLC CEO Michael Graydon.

The statement that “something transpired in the last few days and I don’t know what,” implies that I acted irresponsibly. The only thing that transpired was public consultation. Mr. Graydon’s comments show a complete disregard for the public process.

To state that he is “disappointed” in my actions and “if she truthfully had issues,” is crossing a line that a regulator should not cross. I did not have any issues with Gateway or the proponent. I was concerned with the public opposition, which no one can “fix”.

The facts are as follows:

1. A rezoning application came forward and I did not support 1st and 2nd reading.

2. On January 25, 2010, a public hearing occurred related to the site and the rezoning by-law in question, and the architect stated the development will be a 200 room hotel, including a restaurant. Council and the public were told:

“if the casino component does not receive a license then the convention centre would be expanded to support trade show and other such uses.” Richard Holvert, Architect; Regular Council – Public Hearing Minutes. January 25, 2010.

I supported 3rd reading of the rezoning bylaw because there was little public concern raised at that public hearing, and I knew that before a casino use could be included on the site a separate Council approval process would be required, including a separate public hearing.

3. The developer, prior to the 2010 public hearing, stated:

“But, failing to get approval for a casino from B.C. Lottery Corporation won’t be a deal-breaker... the hotel and convention centre would still proceed.” Vancouver Province, October 4, 2009.

4. The Newton bingo facility has been located in Newton for several decades, and there was considerable public support in October 2009 when the slot machines were approved. In fact, 4,273 people were in favour and only 84 opposed the project. More than 17 community organizations spoke in support, including non-profit organizations, sporting and arts groups, businesses, and social service agencies.

I, along with Council, worked with the proponent to define a project that would have the best chance for success, and serve the residents of Surrey, as we moved forward to the public consultation component of the process. Our input was intended to assist the developer, but was not approval for the project because we are committed to public consultation prior to making decisions.

If, in fact, the CEO of BCLC expected this to be fully supported, then why bother going through with the public consultation process and a public hearing that continued for 13 hours? We must ensure that we have an open and transparent process where the Mayor and Councillors can make decisions and be supported, whichever side of the issue they are on.

Sincerely,
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts

Comments (4) Add New Comment
James Symonds
HEAR, HEAR - GOOD FOR YOU MAYOR WATTS. What doesn't this CEO get about the vast majority of South Surrey residents not wanting the proposed casino? This is in fact the proper democratic process being applied in compliance with the stated wishes of the majority - a root democratic principle that somehow seemingly virtually all levels of current politicians and bureaucrats have elevated themselves above having to abide by or be held accountable to. Furthermore, the public statements attributed to the "esteemed" BC Minister, Mr. Rich Coleman,regarding this same subject, that appeared on page 3 of The Vancouver Province the other day, were in my opinion just another example of the blatant misuse of an elected provincial official's office and why he hasn't been roundly castigated for them as well as his actions in presuming it was ok to stick his oar in is completely beyond my comprehension. If the BC Liberals aren't still so completely arrogant as to not wonder why they've lost so much of the BC resident's respect, then they should all take notice that this particular decision to speak taken by Mr. Coleman's is an absolute perfect example of why!!! And no I am NOT an NDP supporter - never have been & never will be - so I'm left with no meaningful vote whatsoever as I'm unable to reconcile voting for an amazingly hypocritical Liberal Party.
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Susan Burns
I want to comment Mayor Watts. To really listen to the public is a rare and precious thing. Surrey has been well served by Mayor Watts and her council in the past. This current decision just reinforces the strength of her leadership and the democratic process in Surrey.
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Dave
How refreshing, a public meeting that actually listens to what the public say. Too bad Vancouver's mayor and council don't do it this way instead of having a meeting for public consulation after they've already made the decision and nothing said at the meeting will change that decision.
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AL
Its about time some one stands up for the tax payer no casino would be fine in Surrey we have enough problems now that would just add more
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