Dianne Watts welcomes Tony Blair to a revitalized Surrey

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

4 comments

Tony Blair
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.

4 Comments

Having grown up in rural south surrey, just two miles north of the border, I'm thrilled to see Surrey evolve, and salute Diane Watts for her leadership. But one thing growing up in the rough and tumble of Surrey did not inculcate is an automatic respect for authority ...

While Tony Blair was once one of the more popular prime ministers, he was never THE most popular - Winnie had his moments too, lest we forget - he also ended up one of the most detested prime ministers in recent memory.

To put it kindly, he was a disaster for the UK, and by playing a leading role in selling the invasion of Iraq, a disaster for the rest of the world. In addition, his economic policies fueled a bubble that left Britain nationalizing its banks and in worse shape than every other western democracy.

Worse, his reckless embrace of torture and creation of an all-surveillance society have betrayed and undermined the very rule of law Churchill called Britain's greatest gift to civilization.

The truth is that he and Bush together helped bring the western world to its knees, our lowest point in 50 years. So I'm sorry to see him held up as an example of anything but sorrow for what might have been, had he actually had the character and foresight of the noble countrymen on whose shoulders he had the chance to stand. He doesn't hold a candle to Churchill.

As a Vancouver resident I am very happy to see Surrey starting to come into its own, and Dianne Watts deserves recognition for her leadership. But...

This post is ridiculous.

So what if Watts brought in Rudy Giuliani, who is nothing but a walking punch line. Sorry, the guy is a joke. He's famous, and she attracted him to the city to speak. Hardly a sign Surrey is #1.

Your description of Tony Blair as one of the UK's most popular Prime Ministers is also just transparent hyperbole meant to puff up Watts. As commenter Sean Bickerton has already pointed out, he ended up as one of the most reviled "leaders" the UK has ever had.

Are you going to turn every one of Dianne Watts's PR coups into an opportunity to mock Gregor Robertson? Please, try blogging about something substantive next time.

Matt,

If you don't think what Dianne is doing in Surrey is "substantive", then I guess we should be encouraging her to plant symbolic gardens on the front lawn of city hall...or pass bylaws allowing chickens in backyards...

What is it about someone posting a positive comment about a Surrey mayor that brings the negative out of people?

Trust me, I don't need to "mock" Robertson. After his speech at the Board of Trade, there are enough people already doing that in Vancouver.

You ask, "What is it about someone posting a positive comment about a Surrey mayor that brings the negative out of people?" Your post was obviously not just a positive comment about Watts, but was also full of snark about the "goofy" Robertson, who "some media pundits" have labeled a "flake" (I see what you did there). You mention Watts's record of achievement in Surrey, but the subject of your post is essentially comparing the political image of each mayor.

And I do trust that you don't "need" to mock Robertson. That's exactly why I asked "Are you going to turn every one of Dianne Watts's PR coups into an opportunity to mock Gregor Robertson?" Take this as friendly advice from a reader: your commendation of Watts would sound more meaningful if her success wasn't then presented as evidence of Robertson's failure. Watts's achievements as mayor should stand on their own, regardless of what you think of Robertson. Only in the zero-sum game of provincial politics (the real subject of your post), not governance, does one mayor succeed exclusively at the other's expense.

Moreover, Giuliani and - to a lesser extent - Blair are empty symbols from whom I hope the promising Watts learns nothing. There's probably more brainpower in one of Robertson's symbolic vegetables than between Rudy "9-11" Giuliani's ears.

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