Surrey’s controversial policing transition is being tossed around like a political hot potato between the Liberals and NDP in these early days of the provincial election campaign.
BC NDP Leader John Horgan said Wednesday that Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum opened a “hornet’s nest” when he moved to replace the Surrey RCMP with a city-made police force, “and Mayor McCallum is responsible for it.”
Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson told CKNW that, “It’s going to have to be re-evaluated because there are huge disagreements in Surrey about this” and, “There needs to be a new lens on this because right now nobody trusts decision-making in Surrey on this issue.”
The Now-Leader has sought McCallum’s response to this.
“Mayor McCallum will not be commenting on the provincial election,” City of Surrey communications project manager Amber Stowe replied in an email Wednesday.
Opponents of the policing transition have vowed to actively campaign against Surrey’s NDP MLA incumbents heading up to the Oct. 24 provincial election, accusing them of sitting on their hands while the opponents fight for more transparency from the province and city hall.
Asked if he’s concerned about his Surrey MLA incumbents’ prospect for re-election if a concerted campaign is mounted by opponents of the policing transition to oust them from office, Horgan had this so say.
“Well, I’m not,” he told the Now-Leader. “I’m concerned about the issue, I’m not concerned about the competence of my team. I know that all this isn’t about pats on the back all the time, sometimes you have to take a bit of a poke in the face, they know that.
“We’ve got a pretty seasoned group here, but I’m not skating away from the issue. These are divisive issues that were brought to us by the election of a new council and a new mayor in Surrey and we’re working with the community as best as we can to make sure they know all of the information, to make sure they understand what the costs of a transition will be, what the impacts will be on the delivery of services.
“That’s our responsibility, that’s the responsibility of my colleagues, trying to find a way forward that meets the interests of all of the people in Surrey and I know I’m committed to that and so is my team,” Horgan said.
Horgan also told reporters during an NDP campaign presser in Surrey on Wednesday that the policing transition is an “issue that’s the responsibility of the local mayor and council.
“Ultimately the decision rests with council. I suggest – and I have suggested repeatedly, my colleagues here know this full well, they hear it in their constituency offices and around the community all the time – this is a divisive issue. Mayor McCallum opened up the hornet’s nest, and Mayor McCallum is responsible for it.”
At Surrey council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5th, 2018 it served notice to the provincial and federal governments it is ending its contract with the RCMP – which has policed these parts since May 1, 1951 – to set up its own force. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on Aug. 22, 2019 gave the city the go-ahead to pursue the plan.
Paul Daynes, a strategist for the Keep the RCMP in Surrey, which to date has roughly 6,000 lawn signs posted on local residents’ lawns, told the Now-Leader in March that “We are going to hold the politicians to account. We feel that we, and the people of Surrey, have been totally betrayed.”
Daynes’ message to Horgan in March was “If you want to lose the next provincial election, just carry on as you’re doing betraying and basically letting down the people in Surrey as you do, and we’ll vote you out.”
That’s not to say the Liberals or any other party will receive the group’s endorsement, though.
Ivan Scott, organizer of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign, told the Now-Leader on Wednesday that his group is scanning the lay of the land in Surrey politics this week before settling on it’s plan of attack.
“We’ve got to pressure on all of them, to be quite honest,” Scott said. “I can assure you that by the end of this weekend we’ll have something very definitive, how we are going to go.”
He said the group plans to release a list of candidates it endorses, and those it does not.
“We are a-political,” he stressed. “We have NDP supporters helping us, we have Liberal supporters helping us. We don’t ask them what they belong to, we don’t care.
“When it comes down to it, we’re not going to endorse the parties as such, we’re going to endorse them as people because they’ve got the balls to come out and actually say something about it, make a stand.”