Mike Starchuk - Surrey City Councillor

Category Archives: Observations

New Ideas for New Farmers

Thanks to Stefania Seccia from 24 Hours, for taking the time to meet with me today, to expand on the thoughts and ideas that will give an opportunity to a new generation of farmers. Stefania allowed me, as the Chair of City of Surrey’s Agriculture and Food Security Advisory Committee, to speak to the growing (no pun intended) issues surrounding our farming community. The Surrey Virtual Incubator Farm Project will develop a one-stop shop web portal for aspiring young farmers to get basic agri-business information on how to farm. The project will provide the knowledge for new farmers looking for access to lands that are under-utilized in Surrey. The platform will be similar to sites like VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner), where landowners will be able to list and provide details of their property and interested farmers can review and make contact for a lease arrangement. Surrey will be the first municipality in BC to take such an innovative and proactive approach to promoting the land lease market in BC’s agriculture sector.  

This is innovation and imagination at it’s finest.  I can’t wait for a lunch in a Surrey restaurant in 2016, where 80% of the meal is grown and processed within our City boundaries. If we can get some hops grown in the City, I’ll see what can be done to get that meal closer to 100% from Surrey!




Another Loss

Saturday (May 2, 2015) the second Surrey firefighter in the last few months, was laid to rest as a result of his struggles with mental health issues. Firefighters and other First Responder agencies from all regions across BC, attended the service, to show their support to the family, friends and fellow firefighters, during this trying time.

The Chaplin, Lieutenant Scott Young from Coquitlam FD, led the Celebration in a way that was truly cognizant of the circumstances of the service. While the Celebration of Life was filled with good stories, there was no avoiding the “elephant in the room” which was the mental health issues that our member was challenged with.

Surrey Fire Fighters’ Local 1271 President Mike McNamara called upon the audience to ask that “we put an end to this disease we can all control, and that is the disease of social stigma. It’s time we recognize that an illness is an illness, and it doesn’t matter where it is in your body – your leg, your heart, your lungs or your brain.” Chaplain Young referred to depression as “the bastard that can be in us.”  He spoke of how we all function well and continue our productive lives – until depression takes over and changes the way in which we make decisions.

The Celebration concluded with bagpipes playing Amazing Grace and the trumpet for the Last Post, which was provided by the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Pipes and Drums. Played in perfection and well appreciated by all there, but with all due respect, as a retired Surrey firefighter, songs I do not wish to hear again for a long, long time.

Another Loss - PTSD and First Responders - MikeStarchuk.com

The loss of two Surrey firefighters in two months due to their struggles with mental health issues is numbing. There were counsellors that were on hand in the theatre. A proactive idea to provide the opportunity for those who want to express their thoughts and feelings.

The doors to WorkSafe BC, to start talking about post discharge follow-up for those with a work-associated mental health diagnosis, have been opened. Now the public “social doors” need to be opened. President McNamara said it best when he addressed the social stigma. Olympian Clara Hughes who suffered from depression created the “Let’s Talk” initiative which aimed at fighting the stigma surrounding mental health. It’s time for Firefighters and other First Responders to start taking care of their own members in the same manner in which they serve their community – with pride, honour and respect. It’s time to come to the realization that it is OK to say “I’m not OK.”

Educational awareness will, in all likelihood, become a key component to fighting and ending this stigma. I look forward to the day when I can share that this component has been developed and put in practice. With regards to educational awareness, the National Mental Health Week runs from May 4 to May 10. Join in and participate in the Canadian Mental Health Association’s 64th annual event. Go to https://mentalhealthweek.cmha.ca/ or use the Twitter hashtag #GETLOUD.


Kevin’s Story Update

Maltese Cross with Black Band - RIP Kevin - #287 - MikeStarchuk.comI have been overwhelmed by the response to my last post, “Kevin’s Story.”  If you missed that post, please scroll down… it is right below this one. 

Nearly 5000 people visited my Facebook page, and close to 3000 visitors to this website. While the majority of viewers to this website come from Canada, there were also many visitors from the US, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, and the UK, just to name a few. This indicates that mental health issues in the First Responder community are a global matter.

Thanks to those of you who made thoughtful and sincere comments that were respectful of Kevin’s grieving family. Thanks as well to those who left comments about mental health issues our First Responders face when they report for duty. We need to keep moving this forward within WorkSafeBC to ensure our First Responders have post post-discharge follow-ups with qualified mental health practitioners. Kevin’s story should not be repeated.

RIP Brother.


Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays - Mike & Doggy - MikeStarchuk.comThe Holiday Season is now here, and the New Year is just around the corner.  This is the time of year when we should set aside some time to celebrate and reflect on the past year with friends and family.

During this hectic time of year, we often try to fit too much in a short time span.  Plan ahead; take it easy while you’re driving, so you get there and back, in one calm and relaxed piece.

Think about those who are less fortunate and contribute to those agencies that can make a difference. Think about what your goals will be for 2015 and how you will achieve them.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

I look forward to what is coming for Surrey in 2015!

Happy Holidays!



Thank You

An open thank you to all of those who have helped me.  Because of Elections BC regulations, we aren’t allowed to be ‘social’ on Social Media tomorrow… but please don’t think, because this account suddenly goes silent, that we aren’t out there, trying to earn every last vote.

I appreciate all the LIKES, SHARES, and wonderful comments of support we’ve received throughout the campaign! They mean SO much to me and my team. On Election Day, please remember to contact your friends, family and neighbours, and remind them how important it is to vote.

A few shout-outs before the silence of Social Media becomes the regulatory requirement.

I want to thank all of you that I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with over the last few months. I have to let you all know that regardless of the support (one way or another) I have grown from this experience. I hope the voters of Surrey give me the opportunity to use this experience.

Thank you to the Surrey First Councillors, Candidates and Campaign Team, who have all become extended members of my family.Mike Starchuk at the Newton Athletic Park in Surrey

I want to thank “Mike’s Campaign” team for all of their hard work and their persistence to keep me moving forward. They have been there at a moment’s notice for tasks that we wanted and needed to be done. These are the people that I am proud to call friends and will cherish taking this journey with them.

To my fellow firefighters. Words will never describe my thanks for your efforts to get me noticed. Yes. I know I did some of that on my own, but my IAFF Brothers and Sisters efforts have surpassed my wildest dreams. Together we have made firefighting synonymous with public safety, as it should be. I am truly proud to be a member of the IAFF and will never forget a somewhat copied phrase I have used from many years ago and plan to continue to use, “membership has its privileges” and I’m privileged and honoured to be a member.

Lastly, to my family. They have seen the highs and lows of this campaign and offered nothing other than words of praise (sprinkled with a few swift kicks in the butt) during the past months. They understand the pressures I have been under and I couldn’t have done this without their support. Love you all!

Consider this a “good luck” chain letter and consider calling 10 people and letting them know that the Surrey First TEAM is the best choice for all of Surrey and you get great luck! Add the Surrey First Education team and you get super great luck!

Thank you.


 Mike Starchuk - celebrating Dussehra at the Vedic Hindu Cultural Society in Surrey - MikeStarchuk.com


How Did I Get Here?

As a resident of Surrey for the past 50 years, I have come to know the landscape of the City as someone who lives, works and plays in the City. I have seen the landscape change from a rural setting to the urban setting we have today. We have gone from a small town municipality to a vibrant City, full of parks and recreational facilities, to suit the needs of all those living here.

Mike Starchuk - Surrey Now - July 2009 - Photo of Mike Starchuk ©Sharon Doucette - 'I Love Surrey' feature article - Red Powell Award - croppedAs a firefighter with the City of Surrey Fire Services, I have been exposed to many aspects of the community which have led me to where I am today. I started as a Paid on Call firefighter in September of 1980 and was hired as a full time firefighter in May of 1982. I retired the end of July this year, leaving the fire service as the Chief Fire Prevention Officer (CFPO). During my career, I was active with the Surrey Fire Fighter’s Association and took a keen interest in the health and wellness of firefighters in Surrey and throughout the Province. I was one of the founding members of our Charitable Foundation, where we were able to make a difference for those in need in Surrey. I was exposed to the politicians who could assist me, and our organization during my time as a firefighter.

Near the end of my career with the Fire Department, I held the position of CFPO, which had me working with our City Hall departments, the business community and those building and developing new projects in the City. It was during this point of my career where I began to identify areas that I believed, needed to be addressed. This was the tipping point which began my pursuit of a different leadership role where I could see my thoughts and ideas heard.

In August of 2013, I had decided to explore the opportunities available to me to determine what would be the best route for me to take. I spoke to those who were involved with provincial and municipal politics (both current and past) regarding their involvement and the commitments they had made. I spoke with our firefighters in Surrey and those elsewhere in Canada and the US who had been elected to public service. Lastly and more importantly, I spoke with my family and received their complete support with the decision I would reach.

Historically, Surrey’s elected officials, at times, worked independent of each other, and at times, worked as cohesive groups. During my research, I was reminded of some of the fractured councils we had ten or more years ago, where little was getting done and when things were getting done, they were taking far too long. How can we forget the times when Mayor Watts and Councillor Villeneuve were excluded from portfolios and committees just because of the exclusive nature of some of those on Council? The decision became clear to me that Surrey deserved to be represented by people who reflect the issues of the electorate rather than their own personal agendas and ideas.

I had originally intended on creating a “pros and cons” list to use when looking at all of the factors in making my decision to run as an independent, or making an attempt to gain a spot with the Surrey First team. When it came time to utilize these lists, the decision was clear and simple. The Surrey First team had a very diverse group of thinkers, who worked as a team with similar visions and goals, to those who live in the City. This is where I wanted to get my thoughts and ideas heard. This is the team I wanted to be a part of.

The team approach is something that a firefighter relies on. In the case of a large scale incident, you have a person in charge (Incident Commander) who comes up with a game plan with those other officers there and then assigns those Officers’ tasks to get the “job” done. Surrey First’s team functions in the same manner. The person in charge is the Mayor who consults with the other Councillors and they develop a plan and then assign tasks and roles to get that “job” done. While working with the Surrey First team as a member of the Surrey Fire Fighters Association, I witnessed firsthand the impact of having a Council who understand our needs, goals and vision. With all of the above taken into account, I reached out to Surrey First and put my name forward for consideration by the team.

I met with some of the Surrey First team in late 2013 and early 2014 and provided some of my background information regarding my knowledge, skills and the abilities I would bring to the Surrey First team and to the citizens of Surrey. I emphasized that the issues I brought forward in discussion, were based on my first-hand experiences with direct contact to these issues. When I speak to the social issues, the criminal issues and the growth and development issues, it’s all based on my personal interactions with those most affected.

When I met with the Surrey First group in April, I came prepared to let them know how much I had to offer and how much I wanted to be a part of this team. The team was well briefed on the issues that I was passionate about, from our previous meetings, and I was brought onto the team at that point. Surrey First - Mike Starchuk - Links

With this step completed, I wanted to fully focus on getting my message, and the team’s message, communicated to those in Surrey. In order to best do this, I decided to leave the Fire Service earlier than planned, to ensure I was compliant with the Local Government Act, the City’s Code of Conduct and the terms of my Collective Agreement.

With all of the regulatory matters taken care of, I can now focus on building my name in a more prominent and public manner. My early retirement from the Fire Department did not come without some anxious moments. Despite some of those reservations to leave early, the opportunity as it presented itself, and the possibilities to engage new ideas in a different forum, gives me comfort that this is the right time to “change gears” and focus on a new endeavour.Elect Mike Starchuk for City Councillor, in Surrey, BC