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Surrey being ‘obstructionist,’ public safety minister says

Locke says Farnworth is ‘expecting absolute obedience by cities’
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke. (File photos)

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth claims the City of Surrey is being “obstructionist,” snubbing the provincial government’s efforts to advance the city’s policing transition which he says continues apace nevertheless.

“It’s delay, delay, delay and the result of delays of course is that just increases costs.”

Farnworth said Monday that Mike Serr, the administrator he put in place of the Surrey Police Board, has been “working very well” with the Surrey Police Service and the RCMP “both federally and locally.

“Unfortunately, the city has not been participating,” he told reporters. “Every meeting that has been scheduled, they have either cancelled or failed to participate. They seem to be more interested in spending taxpayers’ money on, you know, advertising campaigns than they do on actually being constructive and working on the transition which is moving forward.”

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke says the City of Surrey has done everything that legislation requires it to do and, importantly, has a petition before the B.C. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Farnworth’s amendments to the Police Act aimed at forcing Surrey to capitulate to his order that the city must be policed by the Surrey Police Service instead of the Surrey RCMP, which has been Surrey’s police of jurisdiction since May 1, 1951.

“So obviously we are going to want to see how that is fulfilled,” she told the Now-Leader. “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. It is unfair and unrealistic for him to continue to move forward on a Surrey Police Service that has no plan. It has no plan, it has no budget, it has no feasibility study and we’re not going to allow that without seeing that due diligence is done.”

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Locke said she’s been telling Farnworth for a long time to give her a call “and we can have a conversation.

“Clearly he doesn’t see it that way, so I can’t force him to talk to me, but we are not going to be obedient because he dictates that. Not going to happen. He has to know that the city has made a petition before the courts and we’re going to see that through.”

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The ads Farnworth alluded to, Locke said, are “not really ads, just social media things just putting out the facts there. Yes, we call it the NDP Police Tax, because we know it’s going to cost our residents so we want our residents to know, we want the taxpayers to know. The City of Surrey and certainly our council will always stand up for the taxpayer. This police force, with no plan, we already know it’s going to cost $464 million over 10 years and that doesn’t include a whole bunch of other costs like risk management, like capital.”

While there have been a lot of tripartite meetings in the past in which City of Surrey representatives participated, Farnworth conceded, “in the last while the city has not been participating even though the legislation’s clear Surrey will be policed by the Surrey Police Service.

“It’s also unfortunate too because I know the mayor has complained that with the administer in place there is no input from the city, no city representation,” he said. “The reality is if the city staff were participating there most certainly would be participation and input from the City of Surrey.”

“The work continues, the important work around the budget, for example, which will be presented to the city on the 30th of November,” Farnworth said.

“We know when we compare Vancouver police costs to Surrey police costs, it is at least 70 per cent higher,” Locke said.

Serr is to submit a budget to Surrey by Thursday, Nov. 30 and if the city is not happy with it, Farnworth said, “that goes to the director of police services for them to make a decision, recommendations or changes or what have you. That’s been in existence in the Police Act for a long time and has been used from time to time.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

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