Surrey city Coun. Brenda Locke has presented a motion challenging Mayor Doug McCallum’s legitimacy to continue his duties in light of a provincial bill that will require politicians charged with a crime to take a leave of absence from the date they’re charged until legal proceedings are done.
The motion will be debated and voted on at council’s next meeting on May 30.
So far, Locke is McCallum’ sole declared rival for the mayor’s seat heading toward the Oct. 15 civic election. She noted that provincial government Bill 20, the Municipal Statutes Amendment Act 2022, received third and final reading on May 3 and awaits Royal Assent. The amendments, she said, will have a “profound and long-term lasting affect on the integrity of local government.”
McCallum is charged with one count of public mischief contrary to Section 140(2) of the Criminal Code, stemming from an encounter last September between himself and a group that was gathering petition signatures outside the South Point Save-On-Foods store in South Surrey for a referendum on the policing transition. The mayor claimed a car ran over his foot.
His trial is set to begin on Oct. 31, two weeks after the election. The next step is a pre-trial conference set for Aug. 31 in Surrey provincial court.
Locke’s motion, presented to council May 9, reads that “be it resolved that council be advised in a clear and unequivocal term the impact of the mayor being required to take a leave of absence from council’s responsibilities in assuming the duties otherwise required of the mayor.”
Those duties, she continued, include but are not limited to McCallum’s duties on the Metro Vancouver Board and its committees, TransLink Mayors’ Council, his chairmanship of the Surrey Police Board Board, and his participation in provincial and national municipal associations, “as well as representing the city internationally and representing and speaking as the mayor on or behalf of council or the city on any matter.”
McCallum asked the city solicitor if Locke’s notice of motion was in order.
“The reason I say it, I can’t defend myself because I’ve been told by my lawyer I can’t say anything and on top of that I will say that my particular case does not fall under the legislation and I have been advised by the government, the attorney general, that my case was before the law came in and so will not be affected by this particular law,” McCallum explained.
“Second of all,” he added, he’s been advised that Bill 20 refers only to indictable offences “and mine is not indictable offence, so on both counts it doesn’t affect me, and so I have a tendency to rule this out of order on the basis of that, and I can’t go into any more detail than that, so.”
Coun. Jack Hundial, who is running for election with Locke under their Surrey Connect slate, noted bylaws permit the introduction of a notice or motion “regardless of the circumstances around it, so it is a duly brought-forth notice of motion.”
City solicitor Philip Huynh told council it’s the mayor’s prerogative to make decisions about council proceedings and any councillor can then challenge the mayor’s decision.
“On the point that was raised regarding to Bill 20, it is also my understanding that it does not have retroactive effect, in other words it does not affect charges that were already in place before this bill becomes law,” Huynh added, to which McCallum replied, “OK, then my decision stands.”
The mayor called a vote then declared the chair “sustained.”
Coun. Steven Pettigrew – with Monday his first night back in council chambers following a three-month medical leave of absence – then challenged McCallum on a point of order. “That decision was only three to four, so that was in favour of the four, not the three, so the chair is not sustained,” he said.
McCallum took another count. “So the chair isn’t sustained so we’ll treat it as a notice of motion for the next meeting,” he concluded.
Pettigrew, Hundial, Locke and Coun. Linda Annis voted against McCallum’s decision while McCallum abstained, and Safe Surrey Coalition councillors Allison Patton, Mandeep Nagra and Laurie Guerra voted in support of the mayor. Coun. Doug Elford, also with SSC, was absent.
“Having Elford not there was a bonus, I must say,” Locke said after the meeting.
Meantime, the Crown is proceeding summarily in McCallum’s public mischief case.
Criminal cases are prosecuted either by indictment, summarily or a hybrid of the two. Summary offences are the least serious of the three.
A person charged with an indictable offence is required to appear in court whereas someone accused of a summary offence is not, unless a judge says otherwise. A summary offence in B.C. is considered to be in the realm of petty crime and under the Criminal Code of Canada is the least serious type of offence.
After a 13-year break from the mayor’s chair, which he occupied from 1996 to 2005, McCallum was sworn in by a judge on Nov. 5, 2018 for his fourth term as Surrey’s mayor.
Surrey’s next civic election is on Oct. 15, in which McCallum is expected to run for a second consecutive term in office.
Locke also challenged McCallum’s take on the charge having to be indictable for the legislation to take effect.
“That’s not how I read it at all,” she told the Now-Leader. “There are two sections – one is indictable and one is just charged, a summary charge. And on a summary charge like he has it’s to step aside, but you’re still paid, but you have to step aside. Indictable you have to, you’re gone, right.”