The Surrey Police Vote initiative that, if successful, would have forced a referendum on the police transition in the city, was mostly funded by the National Police Federation, financial statements reveal.
According to financial documents filed to Elections BC, the National Police Federation contributed about $104,124 to the Surrey Police Vote Elections BC-authorized initiative petition. The campaign received a total of $118,264, and $14,140 of that was contributed from private, individual contributions.
The Elections BC-approved initiative petition was launched by Darlene Bennett in mid-August. Bennett, whose husband Paul Bennett was killed in a gang-style hit after a case of mistaken identity, was given 90 days to collect signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters in each of the province’s 87 electoral districts.
Instead, the petition campaign, led by experienced campaigner Bill Tieleman, only focused on Surrey ridings.
The group collected signatures from 42,942 registered voters in Surrey. The day after the Surrey Police Vote group submitted the signatures, Elections BC announced that the petition failed to meet the requirements.
Of the money Surrey Police Vote spent on the petition, $30,755 went to advertising, $66,408 went to professional services, $2,823 was spent on telecommunications and IT, and $3,557 was spent on postage and courier.
We shared our numbers with Elections BC recently.
•$14,139 from 152 donors
•$108,298.82 90-day campaign spend
•$38,599 pre and post
•42,942 signatures (over 10% of Surrey residents) achieved!
Stay tuned-more to come! 🙏Surrey!https://t.co/xC6uLtbzYV
— SurreyPoliceVote (@SurreyPoliceSay) December 15, 2021
Safe Surrey Coalition also submitted financial documents, noting that it spent $1,889 on internet advertising. SSC’s financial statements were signed off by Surrey Coun. Laurie Guerra.
Surrey Connect Public Information Association also filed a financial report, noting it spent $599 on internet advertising. Surrey Connect’s financial statements were signed off by Coun. Brenda Locke.
Surrey Police Union president Rick Stewart said the union is “disappointed to see how many resources the NPF have put in to try to unnecessarily complicate this process.”
“Despite this, we’re still hopeful, now that the referendum campaign has been unsuccessful, that the NPF will stop trying to obstruct this process, and join us in working towards a strong SPS, and a strong RCMP.”
A group of experienced SPS officers started working alongside Surrey RCMP at the end of last month. Stewart said SPS officers have built an “excellent rapport” with their RCMP counterparts.
Tieleman said while he cannot speak on behalf of the NPF, he said the money spent on the effort was not a waste.
Tieleman also disputed that the petition initiative campaign failed.
From ElectionsBC: the NPF wasted at least $105,947 on their failed, “grassroots” referendum petition. Thousands more spent on other advertising (possibly over $1 million). The real cost to manufacture opposition to the SPS will likely never be disclosed to RCMP members or public.
— Surrey Police Union (@surreypolunion) December 15, 2021
“It’s not a failed project in our view at all. The BC referendum act allows cabinet at any point to order a referendum under the referendum act. We continue to push,” Tieleman said.
Tieleman said Bennett wrote a letter to Premier John Horgan, which was CC’d to a couple cabinet ministers, asking for a referendum to go forward. Tieleman said they have not yet received an official response.
“And of course, that was all before the mayor was charged with public mischief. And we also haven’t seen a city budget yet. So I think there’s a lot of water still to go under the bridge,” Tieleman said.