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Surrey Police Service to replace RCMP by November: Farnworth

Mayor Brenda Locke says Tuesday’s announcement looks like a ‘vendetta’ against Surrey
The war of words between Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Mayor Brenda Locke escalated Tuesday after Farnworth’s announcement that the Surrey Police Service will take over from the RCMP effective Nov. 29. Farnworth photo: The Government of British Columbia/ Locke photo: Anna Burns

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the Surrey Police Service will replace the RCMP as the city’s police of jurisdiction on Nov. 29, 2024 and the transition will be complete within two to two-and-a-half years.

Meantime, Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke accused Farnworth of engaging in “almost a vendetta” against Surrey residents “and I don’t know why. I still don’t know why we’re doing this. I wish he would tell us because as far as I can see, there is no good reason.”

At a press conference Tuesday in Vancouver, Farnworth revealed this “major milestone” in what has to date been nearly six years of acrimonious debate over the issue. “The BC RCMP will continue to operate in Surrey providing temporary support to the Surrey Police Service until the transition is completed.

“In the coming weeks, I will be issuing a notice to the City of Surrey that will terminate the city’s municipal police unit agreement with the Province for the use of the RCMP as its police of jurisdiction. At the same time, the Surrey RCMP municipal unit will be removed from the Province’s policing agreement with the federal government. This will effectively transfer responsibility for the delivery of policing and law enforcement in Surrey from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service.”

Locke called it “concerning” that Farnworth did this three working days before the City of Surrey’s petition to quash Farnworth’s order to replace the RCMP with the Surrey Police Service goes to court, set for a five-day hearing starting Monday, April 29 before Justice Kevin Loo in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

“If he had a plan, he probably should have done something about it five years ago,” she told the Now-Leader. “There’s still no plan. For the City of Surrey, we’re in court on the 29th, that’s where the truth will come out, and we’ll see what’s going to be next. I look forward to the truth being told to the public. I think the political speak that has come from the minister to date, it’s obvious to me that this is very personal to him, and I don’t know why he wants to saddle the City of Surrey and the taxpayers of Surrey with this extraordinary fiscal bill that’s going to happen.”

On the coming court case, Farnworth said it won’t have an impact on the transition. “It is not about overturning the decision that was made, and we are confident in our position, and if it were to go the other way, it would bring it back to what is the law of the province today, and the law of the province today is Surrey will be policed by the Surrey Police Service.”

Deputy RCMP Commissioner Dwayne McDonald said that, now the pathway for the transition has “been identified,” the RCMP is committed to “working closely” with the provincial government, Public Safety Canada, the SPS and City of Surrey “as we identify in advance necessary work to reach this next milestone in November.”

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski of the SPS called Farnworth’s announcement “very exciting.”

“I know this has been a long road and has not been easy for any of us,” Lipinski said. “However, I think we can all agree that completing this transition is good for both Surrey residents and all policing staff who serve Surrey.”

READ ALSO: City of Surrey rejects province’s ‘final offer’ for SPS transition

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

On April 22, Surrey council gave third-reading approval to a 2024 budget that includes a six per cent property tax hike, a one per cent increase in the roads and tax levy, and a secondary suite fee increase on top of costlier utility rate fees

The policing transition, as expected, surfaced in Monday’s budget debate, and subsequent press releases were issued by all sides on council. Locke issued a statement Monday night charging that the Surrey Police Service “is putting a financial strain on our ability to deliver new projects, not to mention SPS exceeded its budget by more than $22 million in 2023.

“Today, our general manager of finance confirmed once more that the City has not received any of the promised or publicly committed funding from the Province for policing, nor have we received any formal funding commitment. If we are mandated to continue with the police transition, we are likely facing, at a minimum, over half a billion dollars over the next decade compared to the costs of the Surrey RCMP. Times are tough, and I will not artificially inflate taxes when families are struggling to pay for mortgages, rent, food and other essential expenses. My priority is meeting the needs of our residents while being as fiscally prudent as possible.”

READ ALSO: ‘No mechanism’ for Mounties to serve under Surrey Police Service, National Police Federation says

READ ALSO: Surrey council approves budget with 6% property tax increase

READ ALSO: Surrey Police Union denied intervenor status in transition court case

Surrey First councillors Linda Annis and Mike Bose voted against the 2024 budget.

“The mayor turned down the $250 million offered by the province to help offset the police transition over the next 10 years,” Bose said. “The province is continuing to put up the original $150 million commitment to cover the next five years, but it will be managed by the province and the Surrey Police Service, not the city. That means $30 million in revenue from the province is not part of this year’s budget, reinforcing just how shortsighted it was to turn down the province’s financial support.”

Annis said considering having two police departments costing Surrey $8 million monthly, “you’d think we would have accepted the province’s $250 million and completed the transition as quickly as possible. That’s not happening, and our taxpayers are paying the price for this mismanagement and lack of vision. It’s frustrating to think that the police transition continues to sideline every other important issue in the city, with no real thought about how we’re preparing Surrey for its future.”

Safe Surrey Coalition councillors Doug Elford and Mandeep Nagra also voted against the budget. Their press release charges that Locke’s “mismanagement of taxpayer dollars is staggering.

“The $136 million squandered on futile political battles with the Province could have been a lifeline for our community, easing the burden of rising living costs and inflation. Instead, Mayor Locke has chosen to prioritize personal vendettas over the welfare of Surrey’s residents, betraying the trust placed in local government,” it states. Nagra further remarked that “when you look at the bottom line of your property tax bill and add up all the taxes, residents will see a 10.5 per cent property tax hike.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

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