Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis has asked her colleagues to bring back the city’s Public Safety Committee in a motion that is expected to be voted on during this coming Monday’s council meeting. It’s particularly important to bring it back soon, she argues, in light of the growing COVID-19 virus crisis.
“The Public Safety committee isn’t just about policing, it’s about police, it’s about fire, it’s about emergency preparedness,” Annis told the Now-Leader.
“It’s about bylaws, it’s about working with Fraser Health, right now, around the current health epidemic.”
The Public Safety Committee, which used to be known as the Police Committee, was a long-standing committee that saw all of council meet regularly with police, fire department and emergency responders, bylaws enforcement staff as well as medical health officers, to discuss public safety priorities and initiatives for the city.
As relates to the COVID-19 virus, Annis said, “As a city councillor I don’t know what our city plan is and if we had a public safety committee, when we did have it, all of council belonged on it, we’re all clear on what the plan is, we all know what the next steps are, if things are heightened in severity. But right now we don’t know any of that.”
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said Tuesday that “we really need to be really cognizant of what’s happening in our local community, and where the transmission is in our local community. So I would say for event planners I would say you need to do a risk assessment on an ongoing basis. In B.C. right now there’s no need to cancel gatherings, but we need to be really careful.”
But Henry would not reveal if she was aware of any cases within Surrey, when asked Tuesday by the Now-Leader.
“We are only identifying cases by the health authority that they reside in,” she replied.
“I will say though that we are confident that we have connected with all of the close contacts from all of the cases that we’ve had so far and so if you have not been contacted by public health, you don’t need to be tested, you’re not at risk of this disease at this time.”
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum had dissolved the Public Safety Committee in July 2019, replacing it with an Interim Police Transition Advisory Committee (IPTAC) comprised of himself and Safe Surrey Coalition councillors Doug Elford, Laurie Guerra, Allison Patton and Mandeep Nagra.
Shut out were McCallum’s former political allies, councillors Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial, Steven Pettigrew, and lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis.
The IPTAC committee had a proposed lifespan of three to six months and was tasked with supporting the city’s transition from the Surrey RCMP to the city’s own police force.
Hundial also made a notice of motion at the Feb. 24 council meeting, which is expected to be dealt with on Monday as well, seeking to have the IPTAC committee – which has never actually met in the seven months since its inception – dissolved.