Surrey First mayoral candidate Tom Gill and his team will create a Mayor’s Youth Council if they are elected October 20, ensuring Surrey’s youth have a “real say” in the future of their city. Gill said today that he wants young people in Surrey to be fully engaged when it comes to issues that impact the kind of future they want for themselves and their community.

“We have a lot going for us here in Surrey and one of the best things is the age of our citizens,” said Gill, a four-term city councillor and father of three. “We have one of the youngest populations in the country with more than a third of our population under 19 years of age. That’s a big advantage for Surrey, particularly when we’re talking about the future. I want to make sure our young people have a stake in the future of their city, but if they’re not at the table it’s hard to feel like you’re being listened to.

“Everyday our community makes decisions about our future and I want to see Surrey’s youth weigh in on everything from affordable housing and youth recreation programs, to public safety and the sort of jobs and businesses that let will them build a career and future right here in Surrey.”

Modelled after similar youth councils in cities such as Calgary, Boston, Los Angeles and Toronto, the Mayor’s Youth Council will encourage civic engagement by Surrey youth and give council members the opportunity to advocate for causes, projects and programs relevant to young people in the city. Gill said youth council members would be aged 16-24 and be selected through a city-wide nomination process.

“Our Surrey First team represents a new generation of leadership, an enthusiastic and talented group of women and men committed to doing the very best for Surrey,” added council candidate Paul Hillsdon from Fleetwood. “Part of that commitment includes giving a real voice to young people, because we need their ideas and energy to build an inclusive city that works for everyone.”

“We want to give young people every reason to make this city part of their future,” added council candidate Raminder Thomas of Cloverdale. “At Surrey First, we want them to look into their future and see themselves right here. For Tom and our team, it means giving our youth real input into decisions that shape tomorrow’s Surrey.”

Gill said he wants to hear from Surrey youth on issues such as housing, post secondary education, sport and recreation programs, public safety, transit and a city economy that attracts the kind of businesses that create opportunities and careers for them in Surrey.

“Similar youth councils in other cities have been going for 20 years and have proven to be a good vehicle for serious discussions with the next generation of home owners, entrepreneurs, workers, taxpayers and parents,” explained Gill. “Surrey’s youth have an incredible energy when it comes to their hometown and I want to put that diversity and decision-making to work for all of us in the years ahead.”

Gill said he wants to have the initial 10-member youth council in place by March and will call for youth council nominations from across the city. The Mayor’s Youth Council would have a yearly budget of $1 million, part of the five-year $30 million public safety plan Gill introduced earlier this month that includes both intervention and prevention programs for Surrey youth.

“We’re pleased Surrey First recognizes the importance of youth and the contributions we’re able to make to our city,” said Ashley Grewal, director of Youth Transforming Society, a non-profit youth volunteer organization based in Surrey. “In less than seven years we’ve grown to 150 dedicated volunteers as we work in the community to highlight and help local and global causes. Young people are certainly able to make a real difference, and a youth council is a practical way for Surrey’s next generation to get involved in the important issues that are shaping our city’s future.”

“I want the youth council to work with us to identify projects, programs, research and pilots that can engage our young people, reducing their vulnerability to gangs and letting them know their voices matter, particularly when it involves their future,” emphasized Gill. “I’m excited to hear what they have to say about their city and its future, and equally interested to know how they can help us get there together.”