People filled Surrey council chambers Monday night (Dec. 16) during a raucous meeting that saw the council approve a controversial five-year budget plan.
The evening started with two opposing rallies outside of city hall, with the final vote amid shouts and heckling in a divided council chambers.
At one point, Mayor Doug McCallum prevented councillors from speaking, citing safety concerns as the crowd shouted both opposition and support for the financial plan, which does not allocate any money for hiring new firefighters or police officers next year.
Starting off the meeting, Mayor Doug McCallum said, “You’re gonna have to be very quiet and then you might hear us,” which set off more shouting from the gallery.
The first and only person to speak to the budget was Councillor Laurie Guerra, who thanked staff for the “phenomenal” work they did on the budget.
“I am not an accountant, but I imagine it can be no small feat to orchestrate a $1.3-billion budget for a city the size of Surrey.”
Guerra then went on the add why she was supportive of the budget.
“The Safe Surrey Coalition, which included myself and seven other members of this council, promised that if we were elected on day one, we would replace the RCMP with Surrey’s own city police,” said Guerra, who was continuously interrupted by yelling, booing, clapping and repeated comments from the mayor for the gallery to be quiet.
“According to legislation, a municipality only needs 5,000 residents to have its own police and Surrey with a population of approximately 550,000, is the only city in Canada of more than 300,000 which does not have its own municipal police.
“On Nov. 5, 2018, every single member of this council, even the councillor that was not part of the Safe Surrey Coalition, voted unanimously, and I might add, enthusiastically, in favour of canceling the RCMP contract and transition to Surrey’s own police. The very next day letters were sent to both the federal and provincial government, notifying them of the changes we all supported.”
Guerra added that “at this point, the province has given Surrey the green light to have its own police force.”
After Guerra finished speaking, the crowd started up again.
Guerra could be heard saying, “We should get out.”
Councillor Allison Patton was next up to speak, but she was interrupted as well.
McCallum then said he wouldn’t be putting up with it.
“The ones that are shouting, I’m going to ask you to please leave? and if you don’t leave, we’re going to escort you out. I would ask security to please remove the people that are shouting,” said McCallum, calling a recess shortly after.
During the recess, the mayor and councillors Patton, Guerra, Doug Elford and Mandeep Nagra left the council chambers for about 11 minutes.
When McCallum and the councillors returned, McCallum said there would be no other speakers.
Councillor Steven Pettigrew asked why and McCallum cited “safety conditions.”
Standing up, Pettigrew could be heard saying, “Mr. Mayor, you will let us speak… You’re a pathetic leader… You should resign.” Pettigrew then turned his back on council.
Within four minutes, McCallum breezed through more than 30 motions relating to the budget.
Through all of that, councillors Pettigrew, Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial and Linda Annis all had their mics on, waiting to speak. Both Pettigrew and Locke called for point of order.
After council passed the budget, in multiple 5-4 votes, McCallum called for a second recess amid shouts of “resign” from the gallery. The recess lasted more than 30 minutes.
On Dec. 2, McCallum’s Safe Surrey coalition voted in favour of the budget following a public hearing that saw the public turn out in force to voice fierce opposition to the plan.
“Tonight was utterly embarrassing,” observer Jasmine Kaur Garcha posted to Twitter. “Actions by many were disgraceful and disgusting. It really brought out the ugly in people. The amount of racist undertones I also heard and was even asked point blank about was painful. Sigh. #SurreyBC is divided and it is painful to witness.”
Surrey Board of Trade voiced its disappointment in the budget approval.
“The role of Canadian cities (is) to provide services such as policing, firefighting, sanitation and recreation that are vital to our quality of life,” board CEO Anita Huberman stated. “To do these things, cities raise and spend large amounts of money. Taxes affect decisions about where to live and invest.”
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) December 17, 2019
Some interesting dynamics for sure. At the Dec 2 budget meeting only one speaker for the pro side with prepared speech that hit all the Mayor's talking points. Now we have a large group, some not even Surrey residents, show up. Are we wrong to question their sudden motivation? https://t.co/5NQTYczVPH
— Martin Hoare (@MartinHoare9) December 17, 2019
Has any mayor divided Surrey more? Last night’s budget vote was a travesty.
Every dollar going to the mayor’s proposed police department at the expense of everything else in our city. Ridiculous.
— Linda Annis (@LindaAnnisBC) December 17, 2019
More to come