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BUCHOLTZ: Pre-election posturing in Surrey, where the policing mess drags on

Officers with Surrey RCMP and Surrey Police Service share a laugh at last year’s Vaisakhi parade in Newton. (File photo: Anna Burns)

By Frank Bucholtz, columnist

“What’s the story on Surrey Police?”

That question is being asked by a lot of Surrey residents, who aren’t getting many answers.

The NDP government has forced the police transition to continue, despite the opposition of city council and massive cost to Surrey taxpayers. While Surrey Police officers continue to be trained and hired, the transition is a very slow one.

There are very few clear answers as to how much extra it will cost taxpayers over the next few years. Taxes already jumped significantly last year – partly due to police costs, and partly due to inflation. A similar tax increase is very likely this year.

There were some interesting political developments last week. After a question from BC Conservative MLA Bruce Banman in the B.C. Legislature, it became clear that there are negotiations underway between the province and the city.

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For a change, Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke isn’t talking. For another, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth is being respectful of the mayor. Times indeed have changed.

Rumours suggest that there may be another $110 million on the table for Surrey, on top of the $150 million that has already been offered. This is despite Premier David Eby very clearly saying last October: “There is no more money.” For emphasis, he repeated that answer twice more, in a news conference.

An extra $110 million would certainly ease the pressure on property taxpayers, although Surrey taxpayers would still pay more for police on an ongoing basis than they would if the RCMP stayed as the police force.

Eby is now being coy. Last week, he seemed upset that there has even been a revelation that negotiations are underway. It likely gets in the way of his carefully stage-managed appearances and promises of better things to come, as the provincial election approaches this fall.

Surrey residents are waiting for something concrete. They have received a lot of vague promises in recent weeks and months from the province – over schools, hospitals, housing and many other badly-needed services.

Most of these promises have yet to materialize, and if the Cloverdale hospital project is any indication, they will be exceedingly slow to do so. Surrey will continue to get the short end of the stick, despite continued growth. It will soon become B.C.’s largest city.

The latest negotiations are apparently directly related to the upcoming election. Surrey residents will elect 10 MLAs in the October election.

While the NDP are likely to win the majority of those seats, the ongoing police challenges aren’t doing them any good. Nor are the prospects of higher property taxes in Surrey, for the foreseeable future.

Frank Bucholtz writes every second week for Black Press Media publications