B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety has sent a letter Thursday (June 1) to Mayor Brenda Locke and city councillors calling on them to make a final decision about policing in Surrey.
Mike Farnworth is concerned that the mayor and city councillors do not have all the information they need to make an informed decision.
He states that over half of Surrey’s city councillors have signed the confidentiality agreement to receive a confidential copy of a report from the director of B.C. police services.
“I am gravely concerned that Council may proceed without considering all relevant information available,” Farnworth’s letter reads.
“It is critical that all of Council understands the full factual context of this decision, as well as its implications, to ensure adequate and effective policing in Surrey.”
Councillor Doug Elford signed the non-disclosure agreement, and he told the Now-Leader that based on the information in the unredacted report, it would be wrong not to go with the Surrey Police Service.
Portions of the director’s report are redacted due to sensitive policing information about the RCMP, Surrey Police Service and federal government. “The safeguarding of this sensitive information is paramount to public safety,” Farnworth says.
Farnworth asks to be informed of the date when the remaining members of Surrey council will sign and return the confidentiality agreement, that the city commits to the mandatory requirements set forth by the province for whichever police model is chosen and for the date when the council intends to decide.
Farnworth notes that there has been significant work that has happened between Ministry officials and City of Surrey staff “to establish a process to provide the City representatives with a confidential copy of the Director’s Report.”
After negotiating some changes in the language of the confidentiality agreement, the distribution of it to city representatives was delayed at the request of City staff.
Farnworth refutes Locke’s statement that confidentiality agreements are unusual for a local government to sign. He states that they are often used to support the sharing of confidential and sensitive information “with a variety of parties, including local governments, especially when other entities own that information.”
He reiterated in the letter the Province will provide up to $150 million to help with the transition to Surrey Police Services.
“If the City of Surrey chooses to retain the RCMP as its service provider, the City will be fully responsible for the fiscal, operational, and all other consequences of that decision, without monetary support from the Province,” the letter reads.
In a statement sent later Friday, Mayor Brenda Locke said she’s “not surprised with the letter from the Solicitor General.
“Throughout this whole process he has avoided direct conversations with me and has once again chosen to do so,” said an email statement attributed to Locke.
“Everyone is frustrated at the time this has taken, but transparency and public safety are paramount to the people of Surrey. The Province has taken over five months to arrive at their recommendations and we are now expected to make a decision in a few weeks?”
Locke said Surrey council will make “an informed and responsible decision, but we will not be pressured or bullied into making a hasty one.
“The City has factored out the costs for retaining the Surrey RCMP and we are confident in our numbers. The $150 million carrot the Solicitor General is dangling before the City only if it chooses the Surrey Police Service does not address the true costs for setting up a new police force. I suggest the Province can make better use of this money to address the infrastructure shortfall in Surrey, such as much-needed new schools or a new hospital.”