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BC: MP Watts's Office Still Unopened

April 19, 2016
BC: MP Watts's Office Still Unopened

Six months ago today, Canadians went to the polls and elected 338 MPs.

One of them was the popular former mayor of Surrey, Conservative Dianne Watts.

Watts took over a steady, established Tory-friendly riding, previously held by party mate Russ Hiebert.

Still, Watts didn’t want to move into Hiebert’s old office space. Instead, she found space a block away for her office. It was a nice office, used during her election campaign. But once she was elected, she apparently felt it needed a redo. 

Well, six months have passed, and the people of South Surrey-White Rock still don’t have an open MP’s office to visit.

Don Pitcairn broke the story in the White Rock Sun:

Mrs. Watts office is located at #595 – 15355 – 24th Avenue, Surrey, which is in the Peninsula village shopping centre sandwiched between Plum women's clothing store and Big Gary's Vacuums. This is the very same location that was quickly pressed into service as Dianne Watt's Conservative headquarters during the last election. I visited the office during that time and it was tastefully appointed and nicely decorated from its past use as a fine art store. With her election victory it was decided to keep this prime retail store location and convert it to an office, with extensive renovations required to do so. Taped to the front door is a simple note stating the following: This office is transitioning to my constituency office. The office will be undergoing renovations in December. Please call 604-542-5510 or Email admin@sswr.ca for assistance. Thank you for your patience. Dianne Watts, Member of Parliament. The diannewattsmp.ca website has a posting promising "Constituency Office Opening Soon" stating the office is presently undergoing renovations and will be opening in the coming weeks. That posting was dated January 14, 2016, nearly three months ago.

A peek past the brown butcher paper covering the office windows reveals a construction site that is nowhere near completion. There are bare concrete floors, steel studs for interior walls and a t-bar ceiling with only the metal hangers in place. On a table nearest the door the blueprints were plainly in view showing the waiting room, reception, two offices, meeting room, module areas, washroom and even a large kitchen in back. Unless a hoard of construction workers descend this week into Dianne Watt's office and perform some Holmes on Homes magic, there is no possible way this former store will be transformed into an office and open on April 19, a full six months after last year's Federal election. What is interesting is that Russ Hiebert's old office on 152 St. at 24 Ave., only a block away as the crow flies from Dianne Watt's new location, still sits empty. In case you were wondering, all of the four Liberal MP's in Surrey plus the one in Delta have their offices up and running and they've been open to the public for months. To be fair, I was told by an employee at an adjacent business that Dianne Watts was seen surveying the construction of her new office last Saturday.

It is going to be interesting to see "Watt" this boondoggle is costing Canadian taxpayers. When the lease is signed, the landlord doesn't care how long your renovations take and the monthly payment conservatively estimated at $3,000 to $4,000 per month for this prime retail space still needs to be paid. Then there are the costs for the architect, engineer, interior designer, development permits, buildings inspections, etc. The construction bill is destined to be enormous since this renovation was a complete makeover down to the bare walls and a total rebuild with all new finishings and modern trappings. For those thinking that these building costs will be partially offset by not needing paid office staff for half a year, better think again. The notice on Watts website about the constituency office opening soon states: My staff are working remotely and available to assist you. They can be reached by mail at the above address or by calling 604-542-5510 or by emailing Dianne.Watts.C1A@parl.gc.ca. No word on whether calls are being forwarded to people's homes, to Dianne Watt's basement, another rented office somewhere in the Semi-pen, or a call centre in Mumbai, India.

It should not take more than six months to open a simple constituency office since it took only a few weeks to open this space originally when it was utilized for the election. There is plenty of office space available for lease in south Surrey and White Rock that would not have required extensive and expensive remodeling. The decision to lease prime retail space at a major area strip mall instead of renting cheaper existing office space nearby needs to be questioned. The amount of money spent leasing this storefront, all of the construction expenses plus decorating and furniture costs has to be revealed once the work is complete and the doors finally opened. For the ultimate in savings, Dianne Watts should have considered moving into Russ Heibert's old digs that were still in a highly visible location beside IHOP that eliminated the need for a large kitchen. Somehow I don't think that the outgoing Conservative MP would have objected to the new Conservative MP utilizing the same offices that somehow worked for the past 11 years. Instead Dianne Watts is wasting tax-payer money while not making herself available to the general public, which are the same complaints that were being voiced about Russ Hiebert during his time in office.

Any other B.C. MP offices still unopened?

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