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Mayor-premier policing deal ‘irrelevant’ to Surrey court case: lawyer

It doesn’t matter whether Locke and Eby struck an agreement on policing transition, judge hears
The provincial government’s lawyer in the Surrey policing feud made his case today in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Black Press Media file)

A B.C. Supreme Court judge was told Thursday (May 2) it’s “irrelevant” whether Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke and Premier David Eby struck a deal on the city’s policing transition before Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issued his edict July 19, 2023 that the RCMP must be replaced by the Surrey Police Service.

Justice Kevin Loo is presiding over the City of Surrey’s petition for a judicial review aimed at quashing that order in a five-day hearing that began April 29 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. He heard evidence on the second day of the hearing about a deal reached between Locke and Eby, contained in an affidavit from a political advisor and note-taker for the mayor, before Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth “reneged” on it.

On Thursday (May 2), lawyer Trevor Bant, representing the provincial government, told Loo that “I don’t propose to deal with the mayor’s affidavit in any way,” he said, adding “the respondent’s position is that virtually all of the statements attributed to the premier and the minister in the mayor’s affidavit are inaccurate, taken out of context or both.”

He told Loo he won’t tender a “tit-for-tat” reply.

“It’s irrelevant, in my submission on the judicial review component of the proceedings. The submission I’ll make there is that it’s really quite irrelevant whether the premier and the mayor entered into some kind of deal about the timing of a vote. It’s not germane to the legal issues that are before you.”

READ ALSO: Surrey lawyer argues Farnworth’s SPS order akin to reversing 2022 civic election result

READ ALSO: Judge hears Farnworth ‘reneged’ on deal struck between premier and Surrey mayor

READ ALSO: Judge orders information sealed in Surrey’s police transition case

Bant said “there’s no evidence whatsoever” that Farnworth “was thinking about anything other than public safety. The City can certainly challenge the reasonableness of the minister’s conclusions, but not for sincerity.”

He noted that a ministry analysis of a strategy to keep RCMP and restaff the Surrey detachment was “ambitious but feasible only when considered in isolation of the RCMP resourcing pressures across the province.”

A report from the City of Surrey, Bant said, concluded that while neither keeping the RCMP as Surrey’s police of jurisdiction or continuing with the transition to the Surrey Police Service are “straightforward” options, “both options are feasible.”

Bant said redactions were applied by the City of Surrey before it was given to the minister that included a summary where “the conclusion is really that both options are feasible. Where a council decision to maintain the RCMP is feasible with conditions (and) continuing the transition to the SPS is also feasible with conditions.”

“Neither pathway is straightforward and each requires fundamental conditions to be met by other parties in order to be successful,” Bant told the court.

“The conclusion of this report, the City’s own report that both options are feasible, neither option is straightforward, but both are feasible,” he reiterated.

Bant told the judge some “candid” sections suggest that “this report was probably never meant to be seen by the minister.”

READ ALSO: Surrey opposes B.C.’s bid for judge to seal info in cop transition case

READ ALSO: Surrey Police Service to replace RCMP by November: Farnworth

READ ALSO: No ‘parade of witnesses’ in Surrey’s cop transition court case

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke announced in November 2023 the City would challenge the “constitutionality” of Farnworth’s order.

Bant said this issue was “the simplest, in my submission.”

“By the way of overview on the constitutional issues,” he began, the City’s argument is contrary to the law’s “meaning and scope.”

“Notwithstanding the creativity and the very able submissions that have been made on behalf of the City, it really is a radical expression of freedom of expression that would convert our representative democracy into a direct democracy in which voters have that very literal right to get what they vote for.

“The legislation has not restricted anyone from expressing themselves, including by voting, and that’s really dispositive of the constitutional argument.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

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