Solicitor General Mike Farnworth’s decision not to make a decision on the future of Surrey policing will prove costly to Surrey taxpayers.
Right up until Jan. 26, when the announcement of “no decision” was made, Farnworth, the provincial government and the City of Surrey were all maintaining a decision would be made by the end of January.
Now there is no date set for a final decision, as the minister says more information is needed. He says the transition is “unprecedented and complex.”
Meanwhile, Surrey Police is continuing to hire more officers, and Surrey RCMP is preparing to resume being the sole police force in the city. Farnworth did not ask both agencies to pause their personnel activities when he said his ministry needed more information.
The net result is that, as a number of Surrey residents point out, we have two police forces. We are paying for both of them, and we are not getting additional, superior police service for our money. Instead we are getting a lot of confusion.
Council is supposed to pass a 2024 budget.
It is impossible to do so when there is no knowledge of what policing will cost.
Remarks made by the mayor and councillors about the costs of policing are all informed by their political viewpoint, and it is impossible to know what the true cost is.
Some observers say that Farnworth is hesitating because the government is concerned that it will lose Surrey seats in the next election, if Surrey Police is not chosen. Political considerations should not play any part in this decision.
The provincial government would have been wise to put the matter to referendum soon after council made the decision to switch to Surrey Police in November, 2018.
Farnworth could have insisted on that instead of simply approving the transition to Surrey Police, and Wally Oppal, his special advisor, could also have made that recommendation. They declined.
Had the issue gone to referendum, there would be no doubt about how to proceed. The public would have made the decision, in a democratic way.
The cost of the referendum would have been minimal, when compared to the money that has been spent on the transition since that time.
When Surrey RCMP became the police force in Surrey in 1951, it was because the public had chosen that option by referendum.
An awareness of history and a willingness to put a political decision into the hands of voters would have been a smart move.
On another topic, Surrey has lost one of its most committed citizens with the passing of Larry Fisher.
He has been deeply involved in local politics, construction, development and charitable activities in Surrey for more than 40 years.
His company, Lark Group, has been one of the most significant builders in the city and he and the company have been very committed to the well-being of citizens. People of his kind don’t come along too often.
He will be greatly missed.
Frank Bucholtz writes twice a month for Black Press Media.