For two months, I followed the platforms and pitfalls of the three leading mayoral candidates in one of Canada’s fastest growing – and B.C.’s second largest – city. And at times, that seemed to both mean a lot, and very little.

Overall, it was exciting. Much was learned about how the city balanced – or failed to balance – its budget. I spoke to local business leaders about their vision for Surrey, and deciphered crime stats to code a clearer picture of how safe the city really is. Following the coverage in local and regional papers as they interviewed candidates, covered debates and followed political follies lent the past two months a sort of frenzied energy. And as Nov. 15 drew closer, expectations seemed high, and the elections tied three ways.

In the end, it wasn’t close. A tight three-way race for the leadership seat between two councillors and a former mayor was actually a full slate sliding into first, with the votes of the eighth councillor elected outnumbering those of the second-place mayoral hopeful. 

But somehow, it felt closer. 

Whether it was the polls, or the media coverage, or the fact that municipal politics seem to get personal, after close to a decade under one leader, Surrey appeared to be indecisive about which direction to head next, with no shortage of possible answers.

Appearances, however, can be misleading. Especially during silly-season.

Part four of my four-part series with Business in Vancouver is available here. A final piece for the final results, as they rolled in late Saturday night, is here.


I am in the throes of starting my own non-profit, a youth program for Surrey modelled after the White Rock Youth Ambassador Program that gave me so much back in the day.

Since announcing my intentions, two major things have happened. The first, is the overwhelming support I’ve gotten from friends and family, members of the local community and the province’s ambassador community. The second, is the blunt realization that I have no idea how to start a non-profit, let alone run one successfully.

It’s been a process full of surprises. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Via LinkedIn, I read an article from Forbes headlined: “10 Ways to Build a Business Culture Like Apple.”

It’s a list of 10 “culture building principles” derived from a 10 year study of the world’s 50 best businesses. While I’m currently reading a book that refutes the possibility of there being a set of “ways” to success (“regression to the mean” argues that being a stand-out success one year is largely based on luck), I’ve decided to take the essence of the 10 principles and shape them so they are applicable to starting up a non-profit.

1. Find your purpose. Figure out what you are really trying to achieve; the core ideals behind your work. This makes decision-making much easier when everything you say and do is geared towards achieving a specific higher purpose.

2. When you decide what you stand for, communicate those values, principles and priorities clearly, and stick to them. People follow what you do, and don’t often do what you say.

3. Figure out a plan, and follow it. Your plan should be designed so that it encompasses the organization’s goals, but also maps out how to go about achieving them.

4. “Get your team right and do it quickly:” This one is straight from the article, and is probably one of the most important principles. You need people on your team who support your vision, but who can also bring unique personal experiences and different perspectives to the table.

5. And while you don’t want a team made up of half a dozen leaders, you do want people who can make suggestions, and offer constructive criticism. You need to find the balance between encouraging creativity and maintaining a sense of control.

6. Demand excellence, and set high standards for yourself, your team and your work. W. Clement Stone said: “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.”

7. Learn what works best and stick with it. Change what isn’t working and grow.

8. Motivate yourself, and always aim for your goals.

9. Be brave. Sometimes it’s better to make a decision and just move forward, rather than to be stuck in one place, grappling with making the “right” decision. Mistakes are inevitable, and risks can pay off.

10. “Live your desired legacy.” This one is a basic distillation of all 10 principles: Decide what you want to create, go forth and create it.

The original article can be found here. Happy “starting.”


Friday night, I had the opportunity to attend the Mayor’s Gala, hosted by Surrey mayor Diane Watts as a fundraiser for the Firefighters Association.

The ball was a black-tie event, with approximately 650 of the city’s elite in attendance. After all, it cost guests $1,000 a seat to go, so you knew you were among business royalty.

You also knew that it had to be a spectacular evening.

And it was.

Held in an abandoned shopping mall that had ceased construction several years ago due to a lack of funding, the space was decorated with Andy Warhol-like prints and living statues covered in body paint. An open bar served cosmos and an assortment of colourful cocktails, while dozens of chandeliers lit the space, and men in uniform sold tiny gold boxes at $100 a piece for the chance to win a $10,000 diamond ring.

Dinner began at 7 p.m., although I’m pretty sure the main course wasn’t served until 9 p.m. So for a couple of hours, diners were entertained by emcee Mark Madryga, host Diane Watts and the world’s fastest painter, Dan Dunn.

I didn’t recognize his name at first, but I knew who he was as soon as he began to paint what seemed to be an abstract doodle. But in about the time it took to play one-and-a-half songs, he spun his canvas around, and the accurately-detailed face of Elvis was clearly visible. His second painting was a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, done in Warhol colours.

After the filet mignon, we were each served a plate with several dessert samplings, most of which involved sparkles of some kind. And while I enjoyed something very chocolaty while just a little too much gusto, the Canadian Tenors performed.

It was certainly a night to remember, and maybe one day, if that mall is ever completed, I can walk through the shops while telling my grandchildren that the floor where we’re shopping once hosted the most unbelievably extravagant party I had ever been to.

I also hope that I’ll be able to tell them that I was invited back the year after…

But despite the frivolities and perks of it all, the best part of the evening was that everything, from the open bar to the VIP RiverRock show tickets, was donated, so that every penny raised went to the Firefighters Association, which supports over 80 local charities and organizations.

So assuming that there were 650 people there, I’m sure that close to three-quarters of a million dollars was raised for Surrey that night.

That has the power to do a lot of good.


I had the opportunity to attend a conference in South Surrey featuring female guest speakers who have “defied expectations” in their personal and professional lives.

Speaking were Mayor Dianne Watts, Olympic medalist Joannie Rochette, Vancouver Sun editor-in-chief Patricia Graham and former governor general Michaelle Jean.

The style of the event was fairly typical, with a huge emphasis on networking and mingling. The speeches were phenominal and anything but ordinary.

Each woman shared with the audience her story, and how she came to achieve her goals. They were all unique, but shared many similar qualities: Each was a leader in her own field whether it was athletics, politics, journalism or volunteerism.

It was inspiring, sitting in the second row, just feet away from people who are excellent role models. The biggest thing I took away from the conference was the realization of how genuine, grounded, relatable and human each woman is. They talked about mistakes and challenges and overcoming adversity. None of them were born with a silver spoon in their mouth: They worked hard and didn’t let their circumstances define them.

I learned a lot, and had a great time with my fellow PAT member.

But the highlight of my day didn’t come until the end of the eight-hour conference, after all of the speeches were over.

Michaelle Jean had been the last guest to go on stage. Right before her speech, the audience had had a quick five-minute dance session to stretch our legs before the final presentation.

Still on stage after speaking, Michaelle Jean joked about dancing, explaining that when she was in Africa, she danced with people to overcome language barriers: Instead of communicating verbally, they expressed themselves with their bodies.

So the sound guys put on a song, and the former governor general proceeded to dance on stage with one of the event coordinators. The entire audience was on their feet, grooving to the music. A couple more organizers went on on stage, as did two attendees.

I saw my opportunity, and I seized it.

I told my friend that I was going on stage to dance with Michaelle Jean. So she stepped aside and I rushed over and started dancing. And I inched  closer and closer to her until we were both rocking out, shoulder-to-shoulder, in front of several hundred people.

More women came up on stage, and the energy in the auditorium exploded. After dancing with Michaelle Jean for several minutes, we hugged, and parted ways.

The event wrapped-up shortly afterwards, but I was in a daze for a good hour after the experience ended: This afternoon, I busted a move with the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, former Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.

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On Saturday, I covered the last Surrey Eagles game of the regular season. Next up are the playoffs, beginning this upcoming weekend.

In my last post I mentioned I needed one more significant hockey-related achievement to get a “hat trick.”

And last week, I got just that. My recap of the Eagles vs. Coquitlam Express game on Wednesday was published in the Georgia Straight online.

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Hat Trick Hayles



Life has become exponentially busier.

Our house is for sale, meaning I’ve had to give up my messy habits cold turkey as my basement suite must remain spotless for showings. And assignments, homework, tests and school in general are taking up a lot of my time.

That being said, I’ve still had time to cover my hockey games, and I am enjoying the experience.

I’ve been writing game recaps for the Surrey Eagles for just over a month now: I’ve not only learned how to write hockey, but I’ve also learned the sport.

I am no expert, but have come quite far since my first article (which was promptly re-written with the help of a real sportswriter who took out all of my metaphors involving the word “soar”). I know the players’ names, team stats and some hockey lingo.

Brimming with over-confidence, I recently took the Vancity Sports Blog editor up on his offer to cover some Canucks games.

Apparently the NHL is quite different from the BCHL, a fact that I was ignorant of when I jumped on the opportunity. I am slowly realizing that if you keep telling people you can speak Portugese, they will keep extending to you Portugese-speaking opportunities. It’s a good thing almost anyone can learn almost anything if the desire is there.

Speaking of desire, I tried hot yoga for the first time this weekend, something I have always wanted to do.

It was tortuous: A 90-minute workout session in what felt like a 40 degree sauna, with only three water breaks and a 60-year-old instructor who’s sweat dripped on me. Ew.

I felt great afterwards, as did my two friends. But today, I am very, very sore, and very, very thirsty.

On my 10 year list, I stated that I wanted to try the 30-day challenge: Hot yoga every day for a month. That will not be happening any time soon.

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