Surrey's Mayor is hob nobbing with some of the World's elite
On Tuesday, the civic affairs panel will heading out to Surrey and will join CKNW's Bill Good for a special live broadcast at the Sheraton Hotel. We are shifting out of downtown Vancouver because Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has attracted former Prime Minister Tony Blair to her town as a keynote speaker. Last year, Metro Vancouver's most popular mayor was able to attract former New York Mayor and Republican Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani.
Watts has been on a bit of a tear lately. She is not only the Chair of the Mayor's Council for Translink, but she has become the most high profile civic leader in Metro Vancouver. If you read the local papers, she's also being touted as a future leader of the BC Liberal Party and destined to become Premier sometime in the distant future.
How can this be happening? Wasn't Surrey the butt of rude jokes only a few years ago? Weren't they struggling with the issues of homelessness and the lack of any coherent plan to build a downtown. Did they not have a serious problem with out-of-control grow ops? Were they not lacking any kind of a coherent economic strategy? Did they not have a fractious council? The answer was yes to all of the above.
Under Watts' leadership, all that has changed. One issue at a time, Watts has been tackling problems in Surrey that for years had either gone unnoticed or were purposely ignored.
In a few days she will be playing host to one of the most popular Prime Minister's Great Britain has ever seen. Given Watts' electoral success, I'm not sure which of the politicians can learn more from the other?
By bringing both Blair and Giuliani to Surrey, Watts and her team are sending a very clear message that Surrey is no longer just Vancouver's suburb, it's now a mature city ready to make it in the big leagues.
Meanwhile under Robertson's leadership (we use that term very loosely in his case), Vancouver is slowly relinquishing its position as BC's #1 city. Watts regularly gets the headlines, she captures the public's attention and she is by no means considered a "flake" as some media pundits have labeled Robertson. She's the person the media turn to when they want to get a read of what Metro Vancouver is really thinking (sorry, Lois).
Unlike Robertson's goofy performance at the Board of Trade lunch this week, I fully anticipate that Watts will wow the huge crowd of business leaders that are expected to attend the summit. As each day passes, you can feel the balance of power slowly tilting a little further east from Downtown Vancouver. Whether that ends up being a good thing for Metro Vancouver is yet to be seen.
Is Watts perfect? No politician is, but she certainly seems to have captured the hearts and minds of many British Columbians who find appeal in her no-nonsense style of politics.