Pubdate: Mon, 31 May 2004
Source: Surrey Now (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc., A Canwest Company
Authors: Tom Zytaruk and Corry Anderson-Fennell


Friends and former colleagues of Gary Robinson are hoping his decent into 
the dark world of substance abuse will serve as a wakeup call to deal with 
the city's drug problems.

"In the end run, there are a lot of people who have ended up the way he 
has," said Gord Savard, a Surrey city worker who served as president of the 
Canadian Union of Public Employees when Robinson was a councillor. "In 
Surrey, our priorities seem to be so misdirected."

Savard and Robinson, a fellow unionist, go back 20 years but Savard hasn't 
had any contact with the ex-politician since his admission to cocaine use 
in 1998. At the time, Savard wrote a letter to the Now characterizing his 
friend's substance abuse problem as an illness. He advocated a "humanist" 
approach to the issue and still maintains that position today.

"Hopefully, council will redirect its efforts toward people like Gary. My 
hope is Gary gets through this."

Bruce Ralston flashed a world-weary look when he heard what happened to 

"It's very sad that a person of his talent and ability had this happen to 
him," said Ralston, a Surrey lawyer who served on council alongside 
Robinson in the 1990s.

"It hasn't been easy for him or the family."

Surrey Coun. Bob Bose was the city's mayor during a good portion of 
Robinson's political career. He was equally shocked.

"Oh, you're kidding," Bose exclaimed. "He's the one person that I've known, 
on a personal level, who's gotten into such deep difficulty and I view it 
as a tragedy for him and his family, and very painful for all those who 
know him. I always considered Gary very bright, very quick on his feet, an 
awful lot of raw natural talent. It's all been destroyed by drugs and all 
of the things that go with that."

Bose said he hasn't seen Robinson for several years. "I have no 
appreciation at all of where he's at; I'm just very sad for him, very sad 
for his children, and his family. One only hopes - there's always hope - 
that he can pull himself up by his bootstraps and there will be sufficient 
help within the community, professional help, that will allow him to take 
advantage of what I think is a lot of basic talent that's squandered.

"I hope he goes on to recover quickly and deal with his other demons," Bose 
said. "There's nothing worse than being burned, it's horrible."

Judy Higginbotham, a veteran Surrey councillor for the rival Surrey 
Electors Team, was stunned by the bad news.

"What?!" she exclaimed. "What a waste, what a shame. He had a bright mind 
and he really loved politics, he loved being involved. I know he loved his 

"But when you get caught up in drugs," she added, "and you get into that 
scene and you don't have any money, you become desperate and you do the 
wrong things and get yourself into trouble, and I guess that's what 
happened. I'm so sorry."
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