Lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis is questioning the cost of the planned transition to a municipal force in the city and says the public needs to be consulted.
Annis said the plan “shouldn’t be created in secret” and that there should be a referendum before the proposal heads to Victoria for the provincial government’s approval.
“Police forces are all about trust and accountability,” Annis added. “If we’re going to create a new police force to replace the RCMP in Surrey there needs to be complete transparency right from the start, including plenty of public input. I’m opposed to simply approving something at an in-camera meeting of the city’s public safety committee. Instead, I want us to take any final report and bring it to our taxpayers.”
Annis voted in support of the unanimously approved motion to transition from Surrey RCMP to a municipal force, immediately after the new city council was sworn in last November. After the vote, Annis said she was “obviously going to hold (Mayor Doug McCallum) accountable” on the issue.
This week, Annis said she doubts the new municipal force “will cost just 10 per cent more than the RCMP, the number used by Doug McCallum during the last election.” She says the new department will be “complex and costly.”
“We’re about to make a major financial decision, probably the biggest decision many of us have seen in our community,” Annis added.
“It’s the kind of change where people should have a say.”
Safe Surrey Coalition Councillor Jack Hundial told the Now-Leader on Tuesday that his continued support is also dependent on the public being consulted.
“We need to know what the cost is going to be and what the benefit coming back to the community is gong to be,” Hundial said, notingthis is a “once-in-a-century” decision and it is going to have “generational impacts.”
“Why would this not include a component of public consultation?” he questioned.
— Surrey Now-Leader (@SurreyNowLeader) November 6, 2018
Surrey’s contract with the RCMP was set to expire in 2032 but carried with it a clause that the city can opt out within two years’ notice.
Surrey pays 90 per cent of the RCMP’s cost and the federal government is responsible for 10 per cent. With a new city police force, the city would have to cover the entire cost.
After requesting an interview with McCallum on March 6, the Mayor’s Office responded with an emailed statement that said the Safe Surrey Coalition’s platform was “abundantly clear” and “the public was overwhelmingly in support of what we said we would do on its behalf, if elected.”
McCallum’s statement also said Surrey voters “entrusted us to deliver on our promises and that is a trust that Councillor Hundial is now breaking.”
His statement also addressed costs: “While the City would be responsible for the Federal Government’s 10 per cent contribution to officer salaries, the City would recoup $20 million in administrative costs that is currently paid in the RCMP contract. The costs associated with the transition to a Surrey Police Department are still being finalized as we work on finishing our report for the Solicitor General,” it read.
Another Safe Surrey councillor, Brenda Locke, said she spoke out the need for consulting the public on the transition plan “weeks ago.”
“I’m not afraid of consultation,” she told the Now-Leader, adding she doesn’t think Safe Surrey being voted in is “a good enough reason not to do public consultation.”
Locke noted Safe Surrey will consult the public on other projects such as SkyTrain plans, as well as supportive housing locations.
Meantime, this week Annis also reiterated her disappointment that the recently approved city budget didn’t allocate funding to hireany new Mounties in 2019, “something we need right now as Surrey continues to grow every single month.”
“By not hiring new officers we’re putting public safety at risk,” she said, “which flies in the face of keeping Surrey safe and creating ourown police department. You can’t have it both ways, calling for more public safety and then not hiring the officers to do the job.”
Hundial also said last year that “public safety is at risk” without new Mounties being hired to keep up with population growth.
At the time, Hundial also questioned McCallum’s two-year timeline to have a municipal force up and running, saying it’s “ambitious.”