Barinder Rasode and Surrey’s Safety

While Surrey awaits its great leap forward, criminals, developers and politicians keep busy

March 2, 2014

By Petti Fong

I have a bit of an addiction. When people need help, it’s the way I was raised and how I’ve spent my whole life — I’m going to help them. Some people will call me out as a whore for that.”

Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode, who is taking me on a drive around the city she has called home for 22 years, had a high profile before the death of Julie Paskall. But just days after the senseless beating of the Surrey woman, attacked while waiting for her hockey-playing son in the parking lot of the Newton community arena, Rasode started appearing regularly on TV and radio call-in shows. One blogger called her shameless for using the death of Paskall to further her political career, adding she should be held in contempt for being a “whore.”

Rasode is unapologetic about being outspoken. And while she has condemned Surrey for not doing enough to install lighting at the community centre, for failing to remove the squalid Newton bus loop, and for not demanding more street patrols, she’s adamant that her criticism is not levelled at Surrey’s mayor, Dianne Watts.

“Mayor Watts, in her initiative to bring a coalition together who put Surrey first, has garnered respect around the country. We’re told all the time that we are the envy of other councils,” she says.

During our drive, Rasode, 45, a divorced mother of three, points to the Surrey City Centre Library and the still-unfinished City Hall as proof of Whalley’s transformation following new injections of money from government and developers.

“We have a very young population, and over the years we’ve managed growth and done well — under the circumstances, and given our resources. Oftentimes, when something happens in Surrey, it makes the front page of the newspaper where it wouldn’t in other communities,” she says, as we make our way from Whalley into Newton. “People forget we’re physically the size of Richmond, Burnaby, and Vancouver combined.”

While Vancouver and Surrey have been dealing with the same issues of residents who have mental illness and addiction, Rasode says Vancouver has received better treatment from the feds and the province.

“They’ve had the ear of the government and we haven’t. We need to get equitable funding for immigration and refugees who come to our community, equitable funding for our transportation needs.”

On our way to Newton we turn down to King George Boulevard, this city’s major connector. Rasode says she wants to see at-grade light-rail transit and to have more businesses open up along the artery — and as if on cue, her cellphone rings. It’s Arnold Silber, head of Value Property Group, a major property owner with commercial and office holdings in Newton and Surrey City Centre. He wants to set up some kind of memorial for Julie Paskall.

Rasode, who served as an assistant to former NDP MLA and MP Penny Priddy, says she sees no problem in having a close relationship with developers. Construction, she notes, represents 65 percent of Surrey’s economy, with taxes from the industry paying for amenities, streets, and public art: “We have to stop making this community about being either pro-development or not. You can do both well.”

Before the recent spate of violence but especially since, Rasode says she’s often asked whether she plans to run for mayor. She demurs. Watts has her full backing — at least for now.

“I support the mayor, and not anything I’ve done has ever been with the goal to be mayor,” she says. “I’m doing the best I can to serve.”

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