Surrey Councillor Brenda Locke vows, if she’s elected mayor in the next civic election with a healthy backing on council, to slam the brakes on the policing transition to the Surrey Police Service from the Surrey RCMP. But the Surrey Police Board says she’s “misinformed.”
“We have to stop this right away, we have to take stock of it, there has to be a feasibility study, there has to be a cost-benefit analysis,” Locke told the Now-Leader. “All the processes that should have been in place must be in place if we’re to even consider it moving forward. Right now I would say it will have come to a screeching halt.”
Locke revealed last week she is running for mayor in the Oct. 15, 2022 civic election. Her slate, Surrey Connect, also added council candidate Sebastian Sajda to its team, making for four candidates now.
“There was a lot of soul-searching,” Locke told the Now-Leader. “I just think the residents of Surrey deserve better, they need to be respected, they need to be heard. That’s really why I ran in the first place, because I felt Surrey residents needed to be heard at city hall.”
In response to Locke’s vow to halt the policing transition, Melissa Granum, the Surrey Police Board’s executive director, issued a statement on Monday seeking to “clarify” some “recent public statements” on pausing or stopping the transition. It noted the Surrey Police Service falls under the provincial government’s authority and not local government and that the “claim by some parties that a mayor and council could unilaterally pause or stop the development of SPS is misinformed.
“Mayor and council cannot make this decision without the approval of the province.”
Councillor Jack Hundial, also with Surrey Connect, replied that “technically that is correct, but at this point the provincial government said two things – one, that it is up to the elected officials in the City of Surrey, and the second piece of that, if that was the case, then why did they approve Darlene Bennett’s call for a referendum?”
Last month Elections BC approved Cloverdale resident Darlene Bennett’s initiative petition to give Surrey residents a say on whether a binding referendum should be held on Surrey’s controversial policing transition. After the petition is issued on Aug. 16 Bennett will have 90 days to collect the signatures of at least 10 per cent of registered voters in all of B.C.’s 87 electoral districts, and submit them by Nov. 15.
Surrey Connect issued its own press release Tuesday, to “refute” Granum. It noted that over the past three years “several millions of dollars” have been spent on the SPS “without improving public safety in Surrey.”
“There are no boots on the ground, so nothing is stopping,” the Surrey Connect statement reads. “It hasn’t even started.”
Meanwhile, the Surrey Police board statement said that “while it is clear that the continuing development of SPS will unfortunately be politicized in the upcoming municipal election, it is necessary for the board to protect the service from political interference.”
To this Hundial noted that only those councillors on Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition were invited to a July 16 ceremony at city hall where 46 Surrey Police Service officers were sworn in.
“It’s juvenile is what it is,” he charged.
“It’s completely inappropriate. And this is political – the whole transition is unfortunately a political piece.”
Locke said she has no illusions the next election is “going to be a very challenging fight, and I’m up for it.
“I think it’s an important time for Surrey,” she said. “We’re going to be the largest city in British Columbia and we have to be much more dynamic, we have to be looking forward more, we have to be more visionary about what we’re doing and I don’t see a vision for this city right now and I think this is a huge impediment.”
Locke said she’s been thinking about running for the mayor’s chair “for quite a few months now.”
McCallum told the Now-Leader in July 2019 he plans to go for a second consecutive term in 2022. If he wins, it would be his fifth as mayor. McCallum re-affirmed on July 21 he will seek re-election.
Sajda is president of Force of Nature and organizer of Friends of Bear Creek Park. He’s an outspoken opponent of the city’s plan to connect 84th Avenue to King George Boulevard and 140th Street, at the south end of Bear Creek Park.
He’s joining Locke, Hundial and council candidate Ramona Kaptyn, the president of C.A.R.P. White Rock/Surrey, in their quest for election.
Locke said she thinks the 84th Avenue project is “completely wrong.”
“We don’t need that road there,” she said. If she is elected mayor and the road is not finished, Locke said, “the road will not be finished.”
As for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain expansion, Locke said, “certainly I’m very supportive of SkyTrain, I absolutely have supported SkyTrain, the transportation spine for the city. I think it’s an appropriate thing for the city.”
If she’s elected mayor, she said, she’ll make it a priority to give people their voice back.
“I think community engagement is a big piece of it. Bringing back the committees, bringing back the public safety committee, bringing back the committees where residents have the opportunity to talk to council, not cutting people off when they have questions to council,” Locke said.
“I think re-engaging the public and giving them their voice back – that’s critically important to me. I think one of the other things we’re going to be looking at doing is getting out into every community, every town centre, and talking directly with residents because I do believe people feel they’ve been shut out of city hall and what’s happening with their city, and we hear that every day.”
It looks as though Surrey voters will be seeing more familiar names on the ballot, besides McCallum, Locke and Hundial.
Asked if they will seek re-election in 2022, Councillor Allison Patton replied “Yes!!!” and Laurie Guerra replied “Absolutely!!!”
Doug Elford said, “At this time yes,” while Steven Pettigrew replied, “At this time, I am seriously considering running for office and will be reflecting upon this decision over the summer.”
Councillor Mandeep Nagra will also seek re-election in 2022.
“Yes, I am very proud of the work our team has done in this short time,” Nagra said. “I am super excited to run along with my Safe Surrey Coalition colleagues, under the leadership of Mayor McCallum.”
Councillor Linda Annis said she “absolutely will be seeking re-election” to council and is contemplating running for the big chair itself.
“Who wouldn’t want to run for mayor, for Surrey? It’s the fastest growing city in British Columbia, you know, a great opportunity,” she said. “Have I made a decision positively about it? Not yet. But is it something I’m contemplating? Absolutely. I’m not saying I’m going to, I’m just saying it’s certainly something I would give consideration to.”
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for anybody and I think we need to make sure our city hall runs much better than what it runs currently,” said the lone Surrey First member on council. Annis said she will be running under the Surrey First banner.
“That’s where my allegiances are.”
Annis said she has a team working with her. “We’re looking at who we might put forward and what we’re going to look like but I can say that whatever we do, it would be a very diverse group of individuals from all areas of Surrey.”