Last night, at the Surrey SFU Campus, the Downtown Surrey BIA, hosted an All Candidates Meeting for Surrey Council Candidates.
Mike Starchuk and the Surrey First Team were all there, and here are some photos and highlights from Mike’s speeches:
“…growing seniors groups are valued, protected and cherished for ideas that they bring forward.”
~ Mike Starchuk – Surrey First Candidate
“…recovery houses are a priority… and regarding unregistered recovery homes, we need to ensure those in need of treatment, are given the help they need.”
~ Mike Starchuk – Surrey First Candidate
“…in order to be successful with schools, you have to have a successful school board.”
~ Mike Starchuk – Surrey First Candidate
“I don’t want to be part of a fractured council, I want to move forward as a team”
~ Mike Starchuk – Surrey First Candidate
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.
This past Thanksgiving long weekend, there was an event that caused some concern, started by a few politically motivated and misinformed citizens of Surrey. Complaints were made to City staff at a time when they should have been allowed to enjoy this long weekend with their families.
CKNW reported on the so-called controversy. They have a job to do with regards to covering issues and stories they feel their audience wish to hear. My intent, here, is to set the record straight for those who have heard about vintage fire trucks being used at one of my meet-and-greet events.
I want to start by sending my apologies to the City of Surrey Fire Chief for the calls he has had to answer. Never in my wildest imagination would I have believed some taxpayers would think the Fire Chief would allow on-duty staff, to be taken out of the staffing requirements, for political reasons. The public should feel confident that the Code of Conduct that holds all City Employees accountable, would not permit on-duty resources to be used in the way it was suggested they were being used, this past Saturday.
With regards to the issue of anger that was raised by one of the callers – for the sixty minutes we were at the Guildford bus loop, I assure you, that most everyone who passed by, engaged congenially with the candidates and posed for pictures with the trucks. The pictures that are posted on my sites and Surrey First’s sites, show that those who were there, were engaged with the candidates and were happy to be there.
The story isn’t about a few squeaky wheels.
The story is about the opportunity for voters to meet, interact with, and engage our candidates, who took time out of their busy schedules to be available.
The story is about the Fire Fighters who came out on their day off to set up and assist with the event on a long weekend.
The story is about members of the public who shared their thoughts, concerns, and personal stories about life in Surrey.
The story is about how the Fire Fighters’ Association rescued the vintage truck and trailer from the scrap yard and restored it at no cost to the City. This allowed those there on Saturday, to view this wonderfully-restored antique and have the opportunity to take a photo with a pretty special antique vehicle.
The story is about the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Association supporting my efforts to be elected as Councillor in the upcoming election.
The story is about the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Association supporting the elected Surrey First Councillors who have taken Fire Fighter staffing levels from bare bone minimums which were unsafe ten years ago, to today where Surrey Fire Services have proper staffing levels and can function in a faster and safer way.
The REAL story is about Surrey First’s ongoing efforts to put the safety of Surrey Firefighters, and the public they serve, in a far better and safer position, than ever before.
On Tuesday, myself, along with fellow Surrey First candidates Dave Woods and Vera LeFranc, with Councillors Judy Villeneuve and Linda Hepner, at the rail crossing in Crescent Beach.
The Surrey First team ensured all in attendance, that Surrey First will ensure that all safety concerns regarding access and egress issues due to rail traffic will need to be addressed. We can`t have this community delayed from access to Police, Fire or Ambulance services due to rail traffic.