1. Tell us about your experience being the Surrey City councillor as it was your first time?
It was very overwhelming in the beginning. It was a very steep learning curve. All the councillors that got elected in 2018 were new but I was very fortunate to have Mayor Doug MacCallum on our team as our leader who helped me in gaining an understanding of my role as a councillor.
2. What is one accomplishment that you are proud of?
There are number of things that I am always going to be very proud of that we achieved in last four years as a team. We are building Newton Recreation Centre which is going to have an Olympic size pool, volleyball courts, badminton courts, and a number of other facilities on 7 acres of land. 150 million dollars for this project has already been allocated in the budget. I am also very proud of the fact that I am a part of the team that promised Surrey residents, its own Police Force and we delivered. We now have over 200 officers in SPS.
3. There are new faces in the team it's different than the one last year, how has the working relationship been?
In politics, you will meet lots of people with different opinions, people who do not agree with you or people that have a completely different way of doing things, what's important is that we listen to each other, be respectful, and find a common ground to work for the betterment of society.
4. Mayor Doug McCallum said during his 2022 State of the City Address on June 1st that “for four straight years” the council has held the residential property tax rate at 2.9 per cent, “which puts Surrey in the bottom third in all of Metro Vancouver.” Coun. Linda Annis, of the Surrey First slate, noted the parcel tax increase continues in 2022 but is not factored into the 2.9 per cent. She says many property tax bills are now coming in at 20 per cent higher than last year. So how can Mayor's statement be considered accurate?
It’s a fact that our property tax rate stayed at 2.9% and Surrey is third from bottom in property taxes in our region. I don't know where other Councillors are getting their figures from.
5. B.C.’s real estate market saw yet another drop in June. Home sales fell 35.7 per cent compared to the same month last year, according to the BC Real Estate Association (BCREA). So will we see a lowering of taxes as a result of the drop?
Our commitment to our residents is that we will not increase our rates for at least the next couple of years. There are lots of other factors that play a role in property taxation including BC assessments and land values, and regional and provincial taxation. Majority of the property taxes that municipalities collect are on behalf of the province and Metro Vancouver. It goes towards schools, water, sewage services that fall under the jurisdiction of Metro Vancouver.
6. Housing Minister David Eby, is suggesting the province may step in and override municipalities to speed up the pace of new housing approval. Where do you feel the City of Surrey lacked in expediting permits for housing?
When it comes to land developments, planning, and permits there is a lot of red tape that needs to be eliminated both at the municipal and provincial level. The Provincial government is equally responsible for some of the delays at their level which include approvals from transportation, fisheries, and WSA. I have witnessed that for some housing projects these approvals have taken up to years. In the last four years, our team brought a number of policies to expedite the process including 10 weeks of guaranteeing timeline for single-family permits. I know for some permits it is still taking longer than 10 weeks but our staff is working really hard to achieve this goal of 10 weeks permitting. When we got elected in 2018, average wait times were close to 30 weeks and we have almost cut that time in half.
7. What do you feel will be the effect of this move for the City of Surrey?
Any move by the provincial level to expedite housing projects will benefit Surrey. Our team strongly believes in increasing the supply of housing to create affordability. At our level, we will look at densifying transit-oriented corridors, and front-ending servicing of new NCPs so that new areas can open up.
8. Why should Surrey residents vote for you and re-elect you to the position of councillor?
Our team delivered on all the promises that we made in 2018. We have approved 26 capital projects that are either finished, under construction, or in planning stages worth over 424 million in every neighbourhood of Surrey. I was accessible throughout the term to listen and to understand the needs of our residents. I have sincerely put my efforts to make Surrey beautiful and progressive and now it's up to the residents to decide.
9. Which areas will be your focus if you are elected Councillor for a second term in the upcoming municipal election on October 15th?
It will be my honour to be elected for the second time as a councillor. There are number of things that are long overdue. Surrey is growing very fast and we really need to improve our network of roads to ease traffic congestion. For instance, the 84th Ave corridor when revamped will ease pressure on 88th Ave. There are lots of other roads with missing links that need to be connected as well arterial roads need to be widened. We want to focus on building international-level sports facilities like a cricket stadium and a field hockey facility that can host international tournaments. We are already building an Olympic size pool in Newton. For our economic development, we need to focus on attracting international corporations to invest in Surrey to create more local high-paying jobs for our residents in tech, environment, energy, and manufacturing.
10. What's a message you would like to share with the South Asian community?
Stay active, be healthy.