Doug McCallum was the target in Surrey on Wednesday as rivals scoffed at the mayoral candidate's plan for juggling a tax freeze with a 3-per-cent cut in city spending while maintaining the same level of services.
"It's McCallum math meant to razzle-dazzle voters. It's lacking in vision for what this city is on the road to becoming," said Linda Hepner, the mayoral candidate for Surrey First – the party that has a majority on council and was founded by departing mayor Dianne Watts. Mr. McCallum, a former mayor, was defeated nine years ago by Ms. Watts.
"It's nothing more than miracle math," Ms. Hepner said in an interview Wednesday. "It's numbers he pulled out of the air."
The rhetorical scrapping showed the campaign is fully under way in the booming city, southeast of Vancouver, growing by more than 1,000 residents each month and facing challenges associated with that growth. Voting day is Nov. 15.
"It's game on," said Ms. Hepner, who on Wednesday opened her party's campaign office and presented incumbent and new candidates for council.
"I'd say we're on the ground running."
One way or another, there will be a new mayor in Surrey after voting day, Nov. 15. Six candidates are in the race, but the attention is focused on three – Mr. McCallum, Ms. Hepner and former Surrey First council member Barinder Rasode, who broke away from the party and is now running solo.
Earlier this week, Mr. McCallum tabled an eight-point fiscal platform. It includes freezing property taxes for two years while cutting the city's operating budget by 3 per cent – a move that would save $17-million.
At the same time, Mr. McCallum is proposing to shut down the Surrey City Development Corp., which he has said is costing $10-million a year, and ending the regional economic development summit – a project initiated by Ms. Watts that has held keynote speeches by such guests as George W. Bush and Tony Blair.
Mr. McCallum said the budget cuts should not cause much disruption. "If there is any city or any government anywhere that can't find 3 per cent savings in administration budgets without cutting any type of services, that would surprise me," he said .
"Certainly in Surrey, we have done it in the past quite easily. We're not going to cut service levels at all."
Mr. McCallum said he doesn't care about political criticism of his platform. "It's the public that concerns us," he said. "The voters of Surrey will decide who's going to be mayor; not the candidates."
Ms. Rasode dismissed Mr. McCallum's proposal as a "shallow single-sided plan" that does not serve Surrey's 2014 needs, though she also said she would not raise taxes. "I just don't think the formula makes sense."