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Linda Hepner, Surrey's new mayor, tackles transit

11/17/2014 03:54 EST | Updated 01/17/2015 05:59 EST
Fresh from her big win in Saturday's civic election, the new Mayor of Surrey, Linda Hepner is already getting to work on her priorities, including her promise of making light rail in the city a reality.

Hepner spoke to Rick Cluff on The Early Edition. Here's an edited version of that conversation:

This was expected to be a close race. How surprised are you by the actual results?

My campaign gave me great confidence, saying, "Linda, we've done the analytics, we're on the right track, we know this".

You were elected by such a landslide. Your entire slate was elected. What message does that send?

I think it gave us a very clear indication that people…believe in the positive, they believe in the vision.

Quite frankly, you cannot have the endorsement of one of the world's most popular mayors [Dianne Watts], and not have the electorate believe that if she has placed her trust and her confidence in this team, that there has to be some measure of consideration there.

With the full Surrey First slate elected to council, how do you ensure that there is a diversity of opinion at the council table?

When we first started Surrey First, that was exactly what we intended on doing: having a governance model that let independent voices be heard, but be heard in a respectful way. I don't think that we have ever varied from that very tenet, all along the nine years that I have been there with Mayor Watts.

With our new candidates…I would expect every single one of them to be strong enough in their own voice that they make it heard at the council table. It has certainly been so during the campaign trail.

What did you learn from your opponents, Doug McCallum and Barinder Rasode, that you might now incorporate into your mandate?

I learned that dialogue with residents is really, really important. As I was going about knocking on doors and hearing their message to me, I was also hearing that others were delivering different messages at the door.

Making sure that the public is well informed on the issues, has the right kind of information, I've learned that that is something I need to focus on.

McCallum and Rasode had crime as their number one priority, and you kept saying there's nothing the matter with Surrey. Did you worry that might negatively impact your campaign?

I did, and yet I wanted it to be loud and clear that we are a significant player in this province, and the second largest city.

We had a fabulous public policy going forward…and now let's talk about "What else?" — of the many balls that you have to juggle in terms of priorities as the mayor, let's talk about those other things.

Will the Surrey Development Corporation continue?

Yes, it continues.

One of the mandates we had within our platform was also utilizing it for affordable housing options, so I will be looking at what we can do with maybe a land trust, and doing some affordable housing with that corporation as well.

You've said you want light rail. How exactly do you plan to do that?

I've already had a conversation with my city manager on that, as early as yesterday.

We will be going there regardless, and if it means that I have to do a private partnership, like the Edmonton model, or the Waterloo model, I will look at that.

I made a commitment to the people of this city that we will be connected by rail, and it will happen by 2018, and I intend on keeping that commitment.

There's only so much money in the pot. So how do you do it?

I think that we've laid a really solid foundation in already making that point, because the Mayor's Council, across the region, has agreed that Surrey is next on the priority list, and had agreed that light rail is the option for us. 

Not only that, but we heard that we are past the starting gate with the federal government for that funding…I am confident we can do this, and I know I am going to get it done.

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