Surrey council candidate Stuart Parker promises to trust the experts on public art

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      In municipalities across Canada, battles have erupted between irate citizens and culture advocates over the placement of public art.

      In some cases, these disputes have been exploited by political demagogues to attract votes.

      But in Surrey, a council candidate says he's willing to trust the experts.

      Proudly Surrey's Stuart Parker says he will push to end public hearings if any public art is moved in his city.

      Instead, he's promised to "just ask our curatorial personnel to exercise their judgement", just as they're paid to do.

      "I will be focused on creating artist spaces and arts funding," Parker declared over Twitter.

      He also revealed that if he were commissioning public art as a councillor, he'd order a statue of Rita Johnston to be placed outside Surrey City Hall.

      She's a former Surrey resident who operated a trailer park with her husband before being elected as the MLA for Surrey-Newton in 1983. 

      In 1991, Johnston became the first female premier in Canada, succeeding Bill Vander Zalm after his resignation from office.

      According to Parker, a former leader of the B.C. Greens, Johnston "broke a major glass ceiling".

      Party pushes for far more local autonomy

      Proudly Surrey is running three candidates for council, who are calling for the city to become "Masters In Our Own Domain".

      One pillar of this approach is to pull the city out of TransLink.

      Proudly Surrey also wants to put an end to contracting police services from the RCMP.

      In addition, the party has pledged to "retake control over local schools" by pulling out of provincewide bargaining with teachers.

      "It is no coincidence that we have inactive, disengaged school trustees in Surrey. It is not just because of the age of our trustees or the fact that they are all from the same party," Proudly Surrey trustee candidate Dean McGee said in a recent party news release. "It is because most of our taxation power and decision-making power was moved to an office in Victoria in the late '90s.” 

      Another Proudly Surrey trustee candidate, Rina Diaz, declared that this has been disastrous for local schools.

      “Until the 1990s, our school board set staffing levels, hired teachers and other workers and negotiated contracts to deliver services to our students; we set the agenda on school construction and maintenance and ran capital plans that built our system," she stated.