Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, third from left, says city will not repay $56 million in LRT costs. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

Surrey mayor says city won’t repay $56M spent on LRT, but might pony up $40M in land transfers

There will be no tax increase for Surrey residents resulting from this, McCallum confirms

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is sticking to his guns that Surrey will not repay $56 million — more like $40 million, he says, and likely not even that much — that was reportedly already spent on setting up light rail in this city before his newly elected council decided to scrap that plan in favour of expanding SkyTrain along Fraser Highway.

“We have said very clearly to TransLink that we don’t intend to pay that,” McCallum told the Now-Leader on Friday morning. “I’ve been very consistent on that. They were trying to say that they’d need money and we’re just not going to pay it.”

McCallum told the Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation on Thursday that land transfers, rather than cash, might be the answer to Surrey compensating for costs arising from the cancellation of light rail in this city.

“We will look at doing some land transfers to make it work because that will save TransLink money because they would have to buy the land,” he told the Now-Leader on Friday, “and it will also save the province money because we won’t have to use the money that’s part of the amounts that the governments have given to us to build light rail, so we’re willing to work with them but we have no intention to pay money.

“Our staff, which was part of the light rail before we got elected, is indicating to us and to TransLink that we won’t be paying any of that because those expenditures that they have in the report weren’t approved by Surrey and in fact were the direction of TransLink, the province and the previous mayor’s council, so those have nothing to do with the City of Surrey,” McCallum explained.

Surrey’s mayor argues that the $16 million Bear Creek bridge is TransLink’s responsibility, not Surrey’s, for the purpose of running B-line buses along King George Boulevard, “and so that shouldn’t be part of it, and that leaves roughly $40 million left.”

“Those amounts shouldn’t be charged to Surrey,” McCallum said. “TransLink has to buy land when they build SkyTrain and they also had to buy land, quite a bit, in fact a lot more land with the light rail, and they haven’t negotiated that yet.

“We don’t, first of all agree with the $40 million — they’ve got a line in here that says ‘business case, $21 million,’ for example. Well, I don’t know any business case that costs $21 million so we need to know more about that. But what we’re going to do with TransLink is negotiate with them on the land, and we will probably provide land in exchange for the $40 million — that first of all, we don’t agree with it — but second of all, we’ll just use the land to trade off the expenses that they’re saying.”

McCallum had said in October that Surrey has “no intention of paying that, and that it’s “Translink’s problem, and it’s their mistake because they didn’t do any public consulting.”

READ ALSO: Metro Vancouver mayors vote to ‘develop’ $1.65B in Fraser Highway SkyTrain plans

READ ALSO: Lower Mainland mayor suggests Surrey pay back $50M already spent on LRT

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said Friday that the mayor’s council’s request for compensation from Surrey is “a good move” and “it’s only fair, given the shift in transportation planning in Surrey.”

“What he (McCallum) indicated yesterday, and I don’t know if this was discussed with council, and would need to be approved also at the council level, is instead of a cash payback it would be a land or asset payback from the City of Surrey in lieu of the money spent.”

Would that be good for business here?

“I don’t think so,” Huberman told the Now-Leader. “Because number one, we should be focusing on Surrey, it’s infrastructure investment. Why are we selling off, or trading our land assets, because of a shift in transportation planning? We have been so starved in terms of investments into our city. We are now going to have to wait again for transportation investment.”

Does she think Surrey residents are going to be worrying there might be a tax hike on the horizon as a result of this?

“It’s going to be a concern, absolutely,” Huberman said. “Utility rates are increasing, everything is increasing next year, and everyone is watching their bottom line, they don’t want to spend any more money. This mayor has indicated though that property taxes will not increase, which means cuts to other services or investments in our city.”

McCallum says that’s a red herring, though. He’s expressed concern about Surrey’s debt load – “very much so, it’s a serious issue, very serious,” he says — but Surrey residents should not worry about a tax increase as a result of this matter with TransLink.

“No, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “You’re not going to see, it’s not going to affect Surrey at all.”

— with a file from Katya Slepian and Amy Reid.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram  and follow Tom on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fraser Valley Regional Library branches offer curbside pick up

After two and a half months of being closed, people can once again check books out of the library

Thousands without power after semi collides with power pole in Chilliwack

The collision happened at Prest and First and now 3,600-plus customers are without power

Additions at Chilliwack schools may eventually replace portables

District’s capital plan illustrates which schools need to expand as community grows

Pedestrian struck in late-night collision on Highway 1 in Hope

RCMP were on scene at the incident near Flood Hope Road where traffic was rerouted for eight hours

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

B.C.’s police watchdog probing death of Richmond man in alleged shoplifting incident

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is asking any witnesses to come forward

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Aldergrove zoo to reopen with staff in masks, one-directional visitor experience to tackle COVID-19

Its June 1 reopening will be ushered in by words from Darryl Plecas, Legislative assembly Speaker

Most Read