Dianne Watts Delivers Final ‘State of the City’ Address

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts | BCBusiness
Dianne Watts addressed 500 civic and business leaders in her final State of the City address in Surrey on Wednesday.

Last month, popular Surrey mayor Dianne Watts announced she was not seeking re-election. As she delivered one of her last big speeches on Wednesday, the question on many people’s minds was: Can federal politics be far behind?

Over 500 business and civic leaders from Surrey and beyond gathered in a cramped ballroom at the Sheraton Guildford hotel to hear Mayor Dianne Watts deliver her final State of the City address.

Watts, who in November completes nine years as mayor, announced last month at the official opening of Surrey’s new city hall that she would not be seeking re-election. She used Wednesday’s speech to reflect on the accomplishments of her administration, employing a PowerPoint presentation that regularly showed projects and buildings with the word “Completed” stamped across the slide.
“In 2005, I gave myself a finite amount of time—no more than three terms—to create a vision, set the vision and execute that vision. We needed to fundamentally shift the course of the city, and take Surrey from a residential suburb to the second metropolitan core of the region,” said Watts.
Most of the accomplishments that topped the mayor’s list were economic in nature: the lowest property taxes in Metro Vancouver; over 15,000 businesses having opened within the city since 2005; over $11 billion in construction investment dollars having been brought to Surrey over the same time period.
But Watts also took time to highlight Surrey’s approach to social problems, noting that the City had created partnerships to build an addictions precinct around Surrey Memorial Hospital and created a Child Advocacy Centre, Sophie’s Place, to support child victims of abuse: “What we do and how we help the most vulnerable in our society really determines who we are and who we want to become as people in our community.”
The mayor briefly tackled the touchy topic of Surrey’s crime rate, noting that, despite recent bad press, Surrey’s crime rate has been in decline since 2006. “The subject of crime has been the topic of discussion on many fronts, especially on the political front, but you know what? We just need to state the facts.”
The only political twinge to the speech was a plug for Surrey’s long-held demand for rapid transit in the region—“We’ve got over 500,000 people and we need to move to at-grade rail—to shape our city and connect our communities,” she said—but Watts won’t be around to see how that pans out, with a decision on Translink funding to be made clear in a referendum in June 2015.
So, what’s next for the woman named “the fourth best mayor in the world” by the 2010 World Mayor Prize? Watts has been cagey about her future intentions, although federal politics—and specifically, the Conservative nomination for a soon-vacant seat in the safe Tory riding of South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale—seems a likely bet. Either way, she leaves the mayoral chair of Canada’s fastest-growing city with a sense of accomplishment—and evident confidence.
“We have been fearless, relentless and determined in our pursuit of our vision,” she told the crowd. “But most of all, we worked and we created without limitation. We didn’t think and create outside the box—we thought and we created without a box.”