The show will go on.
Hundreds of speakers came out to Surrey City Hall Monday night to voice their position on a controversial casino complex proposed for South Surrey in a public hearing that will continue Friday.
Stretching on well into the night, the public hearing saw a large turnout of both supporters and opponents of the project, with both sides hoping to convince council to either finally push the project through or reject it entirely.
However, with so many registered to speak, council decided to recess the hearing until Friday after hearing from 72 speakers, allowing the rest the opportunity to speak at a later date.
On Monday, council heard from Joanne Charles of the Semiahmoo First Nation, who expressed her band's frustration with not being adequately consulted prior to this project moving forward.
"We cannot be in favour of this project nor can we be against it because we have not had the opportunity to have this fully considered against our Aboriginal Rights and Titles," said Charles.
"Consultation is a pretty easy process and we are waiting to engage and we haven't had that opportunity to do so."
Charles also expressed that the project may cause an "amazing economic loss" for the band, as they had also expressed interest in building similar facilities, which would be rendered moot if Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited beat them to it.
While there were just under 200 registered to speak, with 75 in opposition and 112 in favour of the project, as the hours dragged on, would-be speakers had to turn in before getting their chance to voice their opinions.
On the opposition side, a mixture of young and old, mostly residents of the area, either claimed the project was simply being put in the wrong place, or was wrong for Surrey entirely.
Gary Xie, a Grade 11 student at Semiahmoo Secondary, said he feels a casino in the area would destroy the area he's come to love having grown up in it.
"I came to South Surrey looking for a peaceful neighbourhood and I found it here," said Xie to mayor and council. "You can't find anything like this in the Lower Mainland and surely we can do better than that. A casino is the quickest way to get cash but not the best way."
In favour was a steady line of Surrey-based Gateway and BCLC employees, as well as business owners.
Mark Olsen, business manager for the Labourers Union, said he was in full support of the proposal as it would mean not only more amenities for him as a resident of South Surrey, but work for those in his union.
"In my view, as a South Surrey resident, development is needed in any area including South Surrey," said Olsen.
"We need an 800-seat theatre so we can enjoy the theatre close to home and...(we need the work) on behalf of the 600 (union) members in Surrey, many of which will work on the project."
Craig McDougall said he was in complete favour of the casino. A longtime Langley resident, McDougall said he's seen all of the issues brought up by opponents - the increase in crime, drug abuse, gambling addiction - in Langley long before a casino arrived in the area.
"All these things that are going to come, they exist now, they existed when I grew up, they exist in affluent neighbourhoods," said McDougall. "But with a casino, it gives people something to gravitate to, as this is what caused it."
McDougall, who runs a small business across from Cascades, said he sees the benefits that a casino entertainment complex can offer the residents of Surrey.
"If I can go out for a nice night once every six months with my wife, be it gambling, for a drink or a wedding party at the casino within walking distance where I don't have to drive drunk, that's a good thing," he said.
"I'm here to say I've lived the opposite of what people say will happen. These (issues) are not created (by casinos), they exist."
Finally, Bill Reid, executive director of the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce, said the casino makes sense for Surrey as it would create the jobs needed for an area seeing such big residential growth.
"You can't keep bringing in residents without providing them jobs," said Reid, noting that the Fraser Downs casino has been nothing but positive for Cloverdale. "We don't have crime in Cloverdale right now. This is long overdue, do it right and let's bring this to South Surrey."