Another member of Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition has split from the party.
In a release, Councillor Jack Hundial said the mayor dissolving the public safety committee on July 15 was the “final straw” for him.
“I will be joining my fellow colleagues and sitting as an independent,” he said, referring to councillors Steven Pettigrew and Brenda Locke, who have also split from the party over what they see as lack of public consultation and involvement.
According to Hundial, the Mayor’s Office “turned to old style party politics where elected councillors were expected to nod their heads in agreement. It didn’t even come close to resembling the coalition that I was promised when I joined the SSC.”
Hundial said he “started this journey with the support of the public as an independent, well before the SCC restarted in 2018. I will continue to serve the public as an independent Councillor.”
Hundial, a former police officer, also voiced his increasing displeasure with a lack of community input into the city’s Police Transition Plan.
“My main priority is working towards ensuring a safer Surrey for everyone,” he said in the release. “We can make it happen, but it should be a community project, with community input. The mayor has not been open to public input. The report that he sent to Minister Farnworth was directed and produced from the Mayors office, with Vancouver Police. I am sure Vancouver would not accept less police officers for more money, why should Surrey?”
He said when he joined McCallum’s team, he and those who voted for him assumed he would be involved in shaping the city’s public safety plan. Hundial also credited his experience as a career police officer with helping McCallum’s coalition win at the polls.
“After the election, things changed,” he said. “Since elected, I have had only one 30 minute meeting with the mayor on public safety where he stated that he was not interested in my input.”
Not having that credibility recognized by the Mayor’s Office is “more than disappointing,” says Hundial.
Hundial says the mayor’s election promise to deliver a new municipal force for a 10 per cent increase is had led to “sacrificing both the quality of the programs we have and the number of police officers that we have today. This will make Surrey less safe. This is the opposite of what people want.”
According to Hundial, the policing plan was “rushed through,” “not well thought out” and did not have a “proper independent third party feasibility study.”
Hundial pointed to recent changes to the RCMP Service Level Agreement that permit local Police Committees with provincially appointed residents, just as a municipal police board.
“Surrey can now have its own local police board with the RCMP,” he noted.
The Now-Leader asked to speak to McCallum after Hundial’s resignation from the party.
An emailed statement was received in response from the Mayor’s Office.
“We take our pledge to the voters seriously and it is our obligation to fulfill the commitments we openly campaigned on,” said McCallum in the statement. “The majority we have on Council is solid and strongly united. I can assure you the Safe Surrey Coalition is now even more focused and energized to deliver on what we promised to the voters of Surrey. We have already delivered on the majority of what we campaigned on and we are moving fully ahead in completing the promises that we made to the people of Surrey.”
Pettigrew, who split from the party earlier this year, also released a statement after Hundial’s decision to leave the SSC.
“I support Councillor Hundial’s decision,” wrote Pettigrew. “He will continue to serve the people faithfully as an independent councillor and I look forward to working with him for the betterment of our city. He and Councillor Annis have the most experience in policing matters, and they should have been consulted and involved in the transition process. I also share his concerns regarding the dissolution of the Public Safety Committee and feel that the decisions being made will make our city a less safe place to live and to do business.”
Remaining on the mayor’s coalition are Allison Patton, Laurie Guerra, Mandeep Nagra and Doug Elford.
After Hundial resigned on Thursday morning, the Now-Leader spoke with Elford who said he remains “behind the mayor 100 per cent.”
Elford, who was a longtime community advocate before being elected, said Hundial’s split was “not surprising.”
“It’s too bad because they’ve chosen to sit in the back bench, for lack of a better term, now. They do have a lot of good qualities they bring to council that could help us move forward,” he said.
Elford said he agreed to support the mayor on the party’s three pillars during the campaign and he is sticking to that commitment, adding that he’s “always been outspoken” about the need for a municipal force.
“This seems to be at the centre of the split,” he said. “I’m committed to moving forward with our own police force. I know that we need a strong majority. We need to show the other levels of government we’re working together as a functional council and moving ahead in order to accomplish what we promised during the campaign. That requires a strong council.”
According to Elford, Safe Surrey Coalition is “strong, affirmed and moving ahead.”
“I understand there’s speculation that some of us may move, but I certainly am committed to the mayor 100 per cent at this time. I firmly believe we need a strong leader to move ahead with our bold initiatives,” he said. “I’ve worked in bureaucracy for many years and you have to have consensus to get anything done. What does that consensus look like? Well, the mayor, people criticize him. He is strong and he does rankle a few people but he does accomplish things and he gets things done. That’s what I admire of him.”
“You get frustrated with let’s have another meeting, let’s have another petition, let’s have another referendum. I’m beyond that now. We’re committed to moving ahead and getting things done.”
Elford said he feels “comfortable” with how the mayor is consulting with council right now.
“I can’t speak to the other councillors and their frustrations. The mayor and I, we don’t agree on everything. We bang heads, but does that necessarily mean that we shouldn’t be doing what’s best for the City of Surrey? That’s always what I take into account when I make my decisions: Am I doing what is best for the citizens and Surrey. And in my mind, I believe supporting the mayor is the best way to go.”
He said this dynamic on council is “new to everybody because we’ve had a council that’s been 100 per cent lock step for many years.”
“Now you’re getting differences of opinion – I think it’s healthy. It’s good democracy,” said Elford.
“I have all the respect in the world for my colleagues that ran with us. But being in the back bench, you’re not going to accomplish much. That’s critical – working with people and getting consensus. I’ve got some ideas down the road I’d like to implement but you’ve got to work within the system to accomplish that. Once again, I’ll do what I think is best for the citizens of Surrey who elected me.”