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Locke’s political rivals slam $500k PR campaign against Surrey policing transition

‘The expenditure of something this size should be coming before council in an open council meeting,’ Coun. Linda Annis says
Electronic billboard sign outside Cloverdale Arena off 176 Street, as part of City of Surrey’s PR campaign against ‘NDP police transition’.(Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke is taking it on the chin from political rivals who say the city’s $500,000 PR campaign against the Surrey Police Service – aka “NDP police transition” – is expensive political propaganda being funded by already overburdened taxpayers.

The campaign includes social media posts, a direct-mail householder, and electronic billboard displays that, under the heading “NDP police transition WILL COST YOU MORE,” claim it will cost $464 million more over the next 10 years, and forecasts a MASSIVE DOUBLE-DIGIT tax increase meaning LESS $ for schools, health and transit.

“The expenditure of something this size should be coming before council in an open council meeting,” Coun. Linda Annis said. “It’s not good use of taxpayers’ money, particularly when the information to me feels like misinformation because it’s not based on anything that’s come before council.”

Locke said there’s three, maybe four such billboards. Asked if it was voted on in closed council, she replied she “can’t speak to that” but added that the city manager has “the ability to make decisions, discretionary spending. I don’t think this is any surprise to anybody that we have to do an information campaign, there’s no doubt about it. The public needs to be educated, the public needs to know. They want to know what is the cost of this very unprecedented decision by the solicitor general.”

Locke added the city through this is “doing the work to be transparent, the very work that should have been done at the beginning. This was all done behind closed doors and never did see the light of day.”

As for Annis’s comment about not seeing this information come before council, Locke said “I think she better go check her notes. I mean, we absolutely know that the $464 million that has come to us, she absolutely knows that.

“Councillor Annis is the one that has been saying it constantly, that there needs to be the numbers, that the numbers need to be shared with the public, that they had to be exposed and so this is a way of doing it and we must do it, the taxpayer needs to know.”

Meantime, former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum, who Locke defeated in the last civic election, issued a statement Wednesday condemning Locke using tax money for “partisan political ads.”

“These claims are not just misleading, they’re patently false,” he charged. “The funding for schools, health, and transit falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial government, not the City of Surrey. This blatant spread of misinformation by Mayor Locke shows a disturbing pattern of deceit, consistent with her previous misinformation about the transition costs and misleading the public and 27 metro Vancouver mayors.”

The campaign has its supporters.

“It needs to be published to the population in Surrey, educating them on the cost of transitioning to a very expensive and unaffordable and wanted Transition for our own police force,” resident Linda Ypenburg wrote in an email to the Now-Leader.

READ ALSO: Surrey being ‘obstructionist,’ public safety minister says

Last month Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth accused the City of Surrey of being “obstructionist” against the provincial government’s efforts to advance the city’s policing transition from the Surrey RCMP to SPS. To that, Locke replied, “I think the challenge that Mr. Farnworth has is he’s expecting absolute obedience by cities, and that is patently unfair and we’re going to make sure that due diligence is done for the taxpayer, period.”

The city filed a challenge to the ‘constitutionality’ of the provincial government’s decision to replace the Surrey RCMP with the Surrey Police Service in B.C. Supreme Court in November.

“Should the courts make the decision to stay on track with the transition the public are going to be absolutely hit with enormous taxes and these are going to be taxes imposed on them by the NDP and so we need to make sure the public know the cost,” Locke said Wednesday.

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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