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!
(Sadly, the article and other content from 24 Hours Vancouver, is no longer available.)
On November 15th, it will be time to exercise your right to vote. Everyone needs to be well informed on who will do the best job for those who live, work and play in Surrey. Make sure you are voting for someone who can deliver on their promises. As a Surrey First Councillor I will deliver on all of the issues I have put forward during the election campaign.
Recovery Houses need to be supported and registered. Those that are not, will need to be shut down. There is only one person in the City of Surrey that has been in ALL of the recovery houses and that is ME.
We don’t need 24 additional By-Law Enforcement Officers, as some claim. We need City Hall to follow through and implement plans and recommendations I made as Chief Fire Prevention Officer.
Secondary Suites need to be identified and inspected on a regular basis, to ensure the safety of those who live there, and to ensure the property owners are paying their fair share to the City for the services they receive. Surrey First has a plan to deal with all of the issues that surround secondary suites in a prompt way.
I want to ensure the work done by our Seniors’ Advisory and Accessibility Committee (SAAC) continues to grow with our growing seniors population. The Seniors Strategy that was developed with this committee is comprehensive and has short and long term goals. Our seniors are cherished members of our community, and we need to ensure they continue to have access to physically and socially active programs.
Public safety has been in the forefront this election and as a firefighter in our community for 32 years, I know what the firefighters have done for public safety and what they will continue to do. The firefighters know how a sense of community plays a role in keeping our neighbourhoods safe. They know we need to add a public education program with the additional RCMP members that Surrey First had requested. We know that when a person has an incident, they want a well-trained and armed Peace Officer showing up on their doorstep and not “plastic police”.
This election is going to set a path. For those of you in the fire service, remember what our growth was and what our staffing levels were, up to 2005. I started in 1982 and there were four firefighters on an engine. During a time of growth with a tax freeze, we shrunk to three firefighters on an engine, which often resulted in firefighters putting their lives in jeopardy while trying to save the life of another. Freezing taxes and reducing costs by an unexplained 3% only increases risks for those densified areas that required more resources. We can’t let history repeat itself!
Surrey First has the experience that no other slate has. Every member on this team works with both the positive and the negative sides of the City on a daily basis. We don’t speak to what we read or hear, we stand on what we have accomplished.
I want to take my experience and bring that to Council to effect change and make my City even better. I have spent 32 years in the TEAM environment with the Surrey Fire Fighters and this is the next TEAM I want to work with.
So, on November 15th, please get out with your family, friends and neighbours and vote for Mike Starchuk, Linda Hepner and the Surrey First TEAM.
While you are in the voting booth, please also consider casting your School Board votes for the Surrey First Education Team.
Thank you for your consideration!
Mike was pleased and honoured to see this ad, detailing his qualifications and track record of community involvement, run in Surrey papers.
This ad was run as part of the endorsement and support of the Surrey Fire Fighters – Local 1271, for Mike Starchuk for Surrey City Council.
If the image doesn’t load, you can see a PDF version of the ad, by clicking this link here
With the election just over three weeks away, every effort is being made to ensure those in Surrey know what my personal goals are and what my interests are.
As a member of the Surrey Fire Department (newly retired), I was afforded many opportunities to grow as a member of the Department. As a member of the Surrey Fire Fighters Association, I was presented with a different set of opportunities to grow as a member of the Union and to affect change in a leadership role. These experiences with the Fire Fighter’s Union positioned me to accept the challenge of stepping into a new leadership role in Surrey.
The last few weeks have been very rewarding with respect to the conversations that have taken place with the people I have met along the “campaign trail”. It has allowed me to share my background and history, both municipally and provincially, with those I have had the opportunity to speak with. In return, I have heard that people view the knowledge and experience of a “seasoned” firefighter as a great asset for a City Councillor.
My personal campaign issues are part of Surrey First’s concerns as well. What I bring, is the first-hand knowledge of what is actually happening at the ground level – and not from an upper floor of a bureaucrat’s office. Something that is not lost on the people I have spoken with.
The issue of crime is at the forefront of everyone’s mind in the City during this election. While my policing knowledge is limited, there is an issue that I am very familiar with, which will assist with eliminating some of the root problems in Surrey.
Recovery homes are a reality in Surrey and have been flying under the radar for years. With other neighbouring cities creating regulations and by-laws to deal specifically with residential recovery homes, our City became the easy choice for those “less than scrupulous” Operators to set up.
The Fire Department took the lead role with the safety of these houses. While the Fire Department didn’t have the ability to determine locations, they did have the ability to request the Operators meet Fire Code provisions as set out by the Fire Department in Surrey. This became one of the required conditions for an Operator in becoming registered with the Provincial Ministry of Health.
Residential recovery homes, when set up with the intent to treat those with addiction and substance use issues, can be located in residential settings, without any impact on a neighbourhood. However, when unregistered houses set up under the guise of a recovery house, these buildings often attract those with criminal intentions and sometimes create localized property offences.
When it comes to the inspection, detailing and written orders to the Operators, everyone had to deal with one consistent – and persistent – person in the City. That was me. A “shopping list” if you will, was created to ensure all of the recovery houses were treated exactly the same. Something I saw the need for and something that was now being enforced by me. Unfortunately, the next building blocks for the program have yet to be set in place.
For an Operator to become registered by the Assisted Living Registry (Ministry of Health) they are required to be compliant with the Fire Department’s Fire Code regulations. Nothing else is required by the City, unlike our neighbouring cities where they have some by-law licensing aspects they need to conform to. The requirement in Surrey is if you are compliant with the Fire Department and you were registered with the Assisted Living Registry, then you were OK to operate in the City.
The problem with the current process in the City is there are no consequences for those who are not registered with the Assisted Living Registry. Over 60 percent of the recovery houses in the City that I walked through were not registered with the Assisted Living Registry. In most of those houses, they were not compliant with the Fire Department’s Fire Code requirements either. No one was enforcing the registration requirement and no one is following up with the Fire Code regulations.
What we need now is a more coordinated effort between the Fire Department, By-Laws Enforcement and the Assisted Living Registry to protect those in these houses and the neighbourhoods they are located in. We need to do this with two things in mind.
Firstly, we need to ensure that if a recovery house is being shut down, there is an opportunity for the residents, to find other accommodations. Often it is the case, the Operators collect their funding for housing directly from the Ministry and if a resident leaves, mid month, funding for another location could become an issue. We definitely need to ensure the end result doesn’t become an issue of homelessness. We need to ensure that if a recovery house is closed, the displaced residents still have the basic necessities of life.
Secondly, we need to create and enforce by-laws that allow the City to have a voice in who can operate a recovery house. We need to make comparisons with other cities and look at their experiences and create something that will work in Surrey.
We have some well run and well established Operators in the City. They are doing a good job in providing treatment services for those in the house along with providing safe and comfortable housing. We need to use these Operators as models and at the same time remove those Operators who don’t conform to the City’s requirements. We need to ensure our staff consistently monitor and inspect these buildings to ensure the sites are always safe. We also need to ensure our staff is well versed on what to look for while inspecting these properties with respect to any illegal activities that may be underway.
Next – What Are The Other Issues?
The City of Surrey interviewed and made videos with each candidate. Here is my candidate interview:
My plan for Surrey:
The issues that motivated me to get involved are the following:
- Our seniors’ programs
- Recovery houses
- Secondary suites and the associated problems
I had sat on the Seniors Advisory and Accessibility Committee (SAAC) since February of 2013 as the Fire Department liaison. This group has provided forums across the city in different locations and presentations were made in different languages, that suit the different communities. These forums presented sessions that ranged from personal safety, fire safety, finance, wills and Senior’s abuse and neglect.
My goal is to ensure the positive results this committee produces continue as our senior population grows in the City. We need to ensure our seniors have access to resources to keep them active physically and socially.
In the last 2 years the provincial government, specifically from the Ministry of Health, the Assisted Living Registry (ALR) office has become re-involved with recovery houses. Currently, for a recovery house operate in the City of Surrey the house must pass an inspection from the City of Surrey Fire Department and must be registered by the ALR.
There is only one person in the City of Surrey that has been inside all of the known recovery houses and I’m that person. I can tell you 60 to 70 percent of the recovery houses are not registered with the ALR. These are the homes the public is seeing in the news as recovery houses but in fact they are more related to boarding houses or as some reference them, “crack shacks.”
We need to create a dedicated team between the Fire Department and By-Laws that can work with the ALR and ensure these houses are fire safe and more importantly, safe for the community. We have the tools for enforcement; we need to have the people to use the tools.
In the case of secondary suites, where it is not a rooming house, there needs to be a more consistent By-law developed and applied. Clayton Heights and the Janice Churchill areas are examples of how the By-laws were not enforced and/or silent in some areas.
With additional people living in a residential home there is a greater burden on the City’s infrastructure and services. Suites built without permit also contain potential safety problems that could lead to serious injury or death. We need to use our City’s agencies to ensure these suites are safe for the tenants.
I have been a resident of the city for 50 years and have just concluded 32 years of service with the City of Surrey Fire Department, retiring July 31st of this year. Having raised two athletic children in the City and working with the City of Surrey Fire Department has given me a unique perspective on the needs of the people in the city.
Over the past year and a half, as the City’s Chief Fire Prevention Officer, I have worked with our RCMP, our building, planning and electrical departments (to name a few) at City Hall and our City of Surrey By-Laws. I have a keen understanding of how our City works and how the City interacts with the public and our businesses.
Working with the Fire Department and the Firefighters’ Union with our charitable society (as a founding Director) has given me first-hand knowledge of where the City’s most vulnerable are and what their needs are. I served for 18 years as a Tournament Director for the Variety Club Racquetball Tournament, raising funds for BC’s kids. I also served on the Board of Directors for Kennedy Surrey Little League (KSLL) during the time where they were three time Little League national champions. In 2013, because of my work with, and dedication to, the City of Surrey, I was honoured to be awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
My time spent with these various organizations, provided me with the opportunities to develop working relationships with all levels of government. I have worked with our MPs, our MLAs and our past and present City Councils as a member of the Surrey Fire Fighter’s Association. I have worked with WorkSafeBC and provided input that was considered and adopted with regards to cancer presumptions for our firefighters.
My family moved from Vancouver to Surrey before I began school and settled into a small rancher on a gravel road in Newton. I attended public school at FD Sinclair, Bear Creek and Newton Elementary, before going to William Beagle Junior Secondary and Princess Margaret Senior Secondary. I attended a “temporary” campus of Douglas College that was located in the 9200 block of 140th Street, after leaving high school.
Athletics played a large part in my youth with time spent in community organizations as well as school athletics. I played some football with North Surrey Minor Football and baseball with Newton, Kennedy Surrey, North Delta and Whalley. A great deal of time was spent later on playing racquetball in the (then) two racquet clubs (Surrey Racquet Centre and Pacific Coast Racquet Centre) that were located in the City at the time. As well, tennis on the City’s courts and golf on the courses in Surrey.
When I lived at home on the West side of King George Highway, my neighbour, Ken Field, who lived across the street, was a Captain with the Surrey Fire Department and would often talk about his job and the satisfaction of serving the public. The talks became longer and more frequent as I was extremely interested in this profession. And – at the same time – it gave me the opportunity to “run into” his oldest daughter. Yes, the daughter that would eventually marry me and share our 32 year journey.
After moving out of the parent’s house, I moved to the Guildford area where I settled into my first apartment. At that time (September 1980), I began as a Paid on Call volunteer firefighter at the fire hall on the corner of 108th Avenue and 146th Street. That is where I got the “taste” of what it was like to serve the community. Unfortunately, by the time my pager would go off and I would leave the apartment, drive through a long and winding parking lot and travel to this fire hall, the fire trucks would be gone. Standbys, while they served a purpose, were not what I was looking for, so back to Newton, and closer to the fire hall, I went.
Mid May of 1982, I started my professional career with the Surrey Fire Department. I was twenty-three years old, full of energy, and had no idea where this path would lead me. A few months later, after finishing my training period, I married the “gal” across the street and we settled into a new location on the corner of 70A and 135th Street. A year later we would finally own our own house on the same street we both grew up on – 81st Avenue – one block off King George Highway.
Two kids started to run around that place and were enrolled in the same Elementary school we went to. The street had changed and was no longer the place to play ball hockey or bounce a ball. We moved to the east side of King George Highway where the kids would be able to play in a cul de sac and walk to their elementary and high schools.
Once we were settled in this new location, I was able to become more involved with the events of the Fire Fighters’ Association and with our children`s activities. They were both heavily involved with school sports and activities along with community sporting organizations. As they grew with their organizations, I grew with them. I participated on the Board of Directors in Kennedy Surrey Little League during a time where that league produced 3 national Little League championships. At the same time, I was the “stats guy” on one of the Surrey Storm girls’ fastball team, that also achieved national championship status.
While I was participating in the kid’s athletic endeavours, I began to build the relationships with the School Board, Parks and Recreation, and the local media to promote our events. At the same time, I began to get more involved as a firefighter in the community and began to develop relationships with other community organizations. I began to volunteer time with two charitable organizations that were dear to my heart. The Variety Club of BC and the newly created Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society.
I got involved with Variety Club prior to the creation of the Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society, which allowed me to bring ideas to both groups to make them both more influential and affective. I served on the Annual Variety Club Racquetball Tournament Committee for 18 years. We went from raising $10,000 over a two-day event to raising $35,000 in just one day. I cannot tell you how gratifying and rewarding that was.
During this time of my life, my now father in-law had been diagnosed with cancer, which he eventually beat. However, the issue of cancer and how it related to firefighters had become a focus in my life. I stepped up and took on another role within our Association, to look at the health and safety aspects of our firefighters. It wasn`t a question to me of WHY we were being diagnosed with cancer, it was a question of HOW could we prevent it?
That led me to new roles within the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Association which, in turn, provided further health and safety opportunities with the BC Professional Fire Fighter Association (BCPFFA). I was in the position to build relationships with the people who created policy and processes for firefighters who were diagnosed with cancer. As an organization (BCPFFA), we lobbied the government for legislation to protect the families of those firefighters who were diagnosed with the cancers that were directly associated with the “job” of firefighting. This relieved the families of the arduous process of filing a WCB claim, so they could concentrate on the healing and treatment process. I am proud to still be a part of this organization, and was presented with an Honourary Membership to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association this past May.
At the end of my career with the Fire Department, I was in the position of Chief Fire Prevention Officer (CFPO), which had me working with our City Hall Departments, the business community and those building and developing new projects in the City. In this role I was responsible for ensuring the buildings our firefighters were entering were safe for them and those who occupied them. We had to ensure that those new buildings were compliant with Building Code and Fire Code provisions. I was also in the position to look at some of the residential home issues, specifically the issues surrounding illegal suites and residential recovery homes.
The contacts and relationships I have build over the past 18 months, while working in the CFPO position, have provided me with additional insight as to the needs of those living and working in the city. The issues that came up on a monthly basis, that I felt I had solutions with merit, were not finding sustainable resolutions. I saw solutions that could not get to the proper forum for those in the City to take action. I saw the need to step away, retire early from the Fire Department and pursue a different avenue to affect change.
Back to the beginning – Who is Mike Starchuk? I am a person who has spent nearly his entire life, living in the Newton area of Surrey, pursuing a career of public service to those who need assistance in Surrey and other areas of BC. I am an advocate for those less fortunate in Surrey and an Advocate for injured Workers. I understand the need for economic growth in order to sustain the needs of those in Surrey in the future. I have built relationships with those people – and the organizations and affiliations that can assist those people who require it. I can identify problems and successes. I can provide solutions to mend the issues that exist in Surrey, and provide solutions to maintain and grow the things that Surrey is doing right.
Next post…Where Am I Going?