The BC Liberal Party, if elected, would hold a referendum on the City of Surrey’s decision to terminate its contract with the RCMP to start its own police force.
A BC Liberal government would pause the transition process, provide accountability and transparency, and then hold a referendum on the issue, according to a statement issued Sunday (Oct. 4).
“The NDP’s mismanagement of the Surrey policing issue has resulted in broken trust and lost confidence,” the release states.
BC Liberal candidate for Surrey South Stephanie Cadieux said that for the last year she’s been hearing from constituents who are concerned with the police transition.
“On their behalf, we’ve been asking for those answers. We’ve been asking for that clarity and transparency. It hasn’t been provided, instead, everything has been going on behind closed doors,” Cadieux said.
“The reality is, there’s only one tax payer. At this point, the costs and implications are hidden and no one knows what the impacts are going to be for the citizens.”
Shortly after the BC Liberal Party announcement, the BC NDP issued its own press release, saying the promise of a referendum is “offensive to the City and citizens of Surrey.”
“This is a major violation of the relationship with a municipal level of government and an unwarranted interference in the affairs of the city of Surrey. The law makes it clear that this is a municipal decision. The role of the provincial government is to ensure public safety is maintained and that is what we will continue to do,” Port Coquitlam BC NDP candidate Mike Farnworth said in the release.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, who told Black Press Media last month he will not be commenting on the provincial election, issued a news release Sunday, saying that the Surrey Police Service is a “done deal.”
“BC Liberals are playing politics with the public safety of our residents,” the release said. “I am appalled that the BC Liberal Leader has stooped to this level of desperation in an effort to garner votes. Surrey City Council acted in accordance with the law when we unanimously voted to transition to a municipal police force. For the BC Liberals to interfere in the unanimous decision of an elected city council should be a concern to all municipal governments in our province.”
Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign founder Ivan Scott told Peace Arch News Sunday that he’s thrilled with the BC Liberal Party promise, and that a referendum is the correct call.
“I think it’s exactly the right thing to do. We’ve been calling for that for the last two years,” Scott said. “(BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson) said that we will stop the process, we will reorganize and get transparency, and we will have a referendum. This is enough for me to say that this will and must happen.”
The Surrey Police Service is expected to have 805 police officers, 325 civilian employees, and 20 community safety personnel.
By comparison, Surrey RCMP has 1,145 employees, 843 of whom are police officers.
At Surrey council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5, 2018 it served notice to the provincial and federal governments that it would end its contract with the RCMP – which has policed Surrey since May 1, 1951 – to set up its own force. The target date for the Surrey Police Service to take over from the Surrey RCMP is next April.