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Elections BC says petition failed for referendum on Surrey’s policing transition

Initiator Darlene Bennett is undaunted, vowing to keep pressure on provincial government
Darlene Bennett holds a piece of paper showing how many elgible Surrey voters signed the Surrey Police Vote petition. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Darlene Bennett is undaunted by Elections BC’s announcement Tuesday that her initiative petition calling for a referendum on Surrey’s policing transition has failed.

“It think it’s a clear voice for Surrey, Surrey wants a referendum and we’ll keep the pressure on the provincial government because they still have the ability to call for one,” she told the Now-Leader. It’s not a provincial “problem” but a regional one, she said, adding she was expecting this outcome but the fight is not over.

“We’re asking for a referendum only for Surrey.” She said she’s not disappointed.

All told, 42,942 signatures were delivered to Elections BC in Victoria on Monday. That’s just 2,622 shy of the 45,564 votes Mayor Doug McCallum, champion of the controversial policing switchover, received in the 2018 civic election.

McCallum issued a statement Tuesday that since Elections BC announced the “failure” of the petition “it is clearly time to move on.

“The work of the Surrey Police Service has remained focused on the task at hand for a safe and smooth transition. Surrey Police will take another significant step forward when the first SPS officers hit the streets alongside Surrey RCMP members by the end of the month,” he said in his written statement.

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Elections BC’s statement notes that under the Recall and Initiative Act a petition must gather signatures from at least 10 per cent of the registered voters in each of the province’s 87 electoral districts to succeed.

“It was clear upon submission that the petition did not receive the required number of signatures in each electoral district. As a result, Elections BC will not be counting or validating any of the signatures submitted,” Elections BC’s statement reads.

Bennett said it was always her campaign’s intention to collect signatures in Surrey.

“You know, 42,942 signatures during a global pandemic, crazy weather systems and you know, the interference with the mayor, this is huge. People are mad and they want a voice in this,” she said.

“It’s still in play, it’s still a win and this is a clear message to the provincial government that the residents of Surrey want a referendum.”

Campaign strategist Bill Tieleman said as far as the campaign for a referendum in Surrey is concerned, it’s still “totally game on.” Cabinet, he noted, could make a decision “today, tomorrow, a week before Christmas,” and proceed with a referendum in Surrey. “It doesn’t end the issue at all.”

Tieleman said the campaign team will be making public and private “representations” to the provincial government and will meet later this week to discuss what the future holds for their cause. “People want a vote,” he noted. “I don’t think there’s any reason we should stop this campaign at this stage because we don’t have a referendum yet. And if we don’t get a referendum I think the municipal election will be the referendum, next year.”

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

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