The boots of 20 new RCMP officers bound for Surrey may be “on the ground,” as Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney assured Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP Russ Hiebert in the House of Commons last week.
It’s just not Surrey ground.
A check with Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner this week – who, in turn, checked with Surrey RCMP Officer-in-Charge Bill Fordy – confirmed the current complement of officers in the city is 703; exactly where the figure stood on April 1 before Blaney’s announcement.
Now Jasbir Sandhu, NDP MP for Surrey North – among party MPs who have been hammering the government for weeks for a date of deployment for the 100 new officers promised for the city – is accusing the Conservatives of playing pre-election politics with Surrey.
“I think the Conservatives are playing games with the safety of people in Surrey,” Sandhu said. “That’s shameless.”
During question period on June 11, Hiebert asked Blaney to confirm that the first 20 of the new 100 had already been posted to Surrey.
“The people of my community want to be able to enjoy life without fear of gang-related violence in their neighbourhoods, and they know that only our Conservative Government can deliver on a solid tough-on-crime agenda,” Hiebert said. “Can the Minister of Public Safety update this House, as to the situation on the ground in Surrey?”
“I am pleased to announce that the deployment of the first 20 members committed to Surrey is underway and that boots are already on the ground,” Blaney replied.
In a news release following the exchange, Hiebert said “I’m pleased to be part of a government that listens to the concerns of Canadians and takes action to address those concerns. Cracking down on gang violence is a priority for Surrey, and today’s announcement by the minister is a positive step forwards.”
But Hepner told Black Press this week that Fordy could confirm only that an unknown number of officers have been identified to come to Surrey – and these have yet to swell the ranks in the city.
At Peace Arch News press time, a representative for Hiebert said a clarification on the deployment was being sought from Blaney’s office and was expected soon.
Hiebert was not available for comment at press time.
Speaking in the house on June 4 – a week before Hiebert’s question and Blaney’s announcement – Sandhu claimed the Conservatives’ pledge was merely an empty campaign promise, and called for Blaney to provide a clear timeline for deployment.
In his June 11 announcement, Blaney fired back, accusing Liberals and the NDP of voting against some 30 new “common sense” measures to crack down on crime introduced by the Conservatives, including “new prison sentences for drive-by shootings.”
“They should be ashamed,” Blaney said.
Following the press deadline, a representative of Blaney’s office contacted Peace Arch News, referring further questions on the issue to the RCMP.
– with files from Kevin Diakiw