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Fight to keep Surrey RCMP ‘not over,’ campaign vows

Surrey’s NDP MLAs are now in the hot seat
Some members of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey Campaign delivering boxes filled with petition signatures to Premier John Horgan’s Vancouver office on Valentine’s Day. (Submitted photo)

Now they’re really mad.

There’s no appetite to drop the fight against Surrey’s resolve to replace the RCMP with a city police force, despite Solicitor General Mike Farnworth resounding advancement of the city’s cause last Thursday by giving thumbs’ up to the establishment of a police board to get the new force up and running.

While one might suspect, given this latest development, that some residents angry about Surrey ditching the RCMP would be tempted to throw in the towel. Instead, it has enraged them further and, politically speaking, Surrey’s NDP MLAs are now in the hot seat.

“This is not over,” says Paul Daynes, a strategist for the Keep The RCMP in Surrey Campaign. “We will never give up, we’re in this to win. By winning, we define that as keeping the RCMP in Surrey and I can give you a statement right now, we will win. We’re absolutely determined.”

Daynes said since last week’s announcement he’s been inundated with calls from volunteers and supporters who “want to do more, want to volunteer for the first time.” The South Surrey resident has a list of capitulations his group is calling on the provincial government to make good on.

“We are going to hold the politicians to account. We feel that we, and the people of Surrey, have been totally betrayed,” he said.

These include giving Surreyites the right to a referendum on the issue, or, in lieu of that, make a declaration to keep the RCMP in Surrey, or introduce legislation enabling the recall of civic politicians.

Paul Daynes. (Submitted photo)

An online survey conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights on behalf of the National Police Federation suggests 83 per cent of Surrey residents favour a referendum “before a final decision is made on the issue of replacing the RCMP in Surrey.” Pollara Strategic Insights surveyed 800 “randomly selected Surrey residents” ages 18 and above, between January 21-31, 2020.

“We’ll have McCallum and his crew recalled in a heartbeat, or we’ll vote you out at the next election,” is Daynes’ message to Premier Horgan. “If you want to lose the next provincial election, just carry on as you’re doing betraying and basically letting down the people in Surrey as you do, and we’ll vote you out.”

The same goes for the Safe Surrey Coalition, Daynes says.

“We’re going to mobilize against Doug McCallum. We’ll vote them out, we’ll vote them all out. We’ll continue to support the group on council that are trying to mitigate the worst of McCallum’s behavior. We believe this was basically a dereliction of duty by minister Farnworth and premier Horgan. They have not made public safety the priority for the people in Surrey. They’ve ignored us, or just given us political bafflegab and gobbledygook, I mean it’s outrageous.”

“Farnworth and Horgan are acting more like they are McCallum’s re-election campaign managers than they are ministers of the Crown, duty bound to uphold the safety of the citizens of Surrey, which has been seriously compromised by their behaviour,” Daynes charges.

READ ALSO: Survey suggests 83 per cent of Surreyites ‘favour a referendum’ on policing transition

READ ALSO: Farnworth says Surrey RCMP boss’s statement on budget should be taken ‘seriously’

READ ALSO Hardie: With so much uncertainty, Surrey needs referendum on policing transition

The Keep the RCMP in Surrey Campaign recently delivered 41 boxes filled with petition signatures against the transition. Daynes says the petition is at 44,000 signatures and growing. The campaign aims to collect more signatures than the 45,564 votes McCallum, who “claims he has a democratic mandate got when he was elected,” received in the 2018 election.

“By the way, 60 per cent of the mayoral vote went for candidates opposed to McCallum, and that is hardly an electoral mandate to commit the suffering and misery that he’s inflicting on this community with his budget and all of his other mini-Trump-like antics.”

The next civic election is Oct. 15, 2022 and the next provincial election will be on or before Oct. 16, 2021.

The Keep the RCMP in Surrey Campaign on March 1 put out a call to “all persons, groups and friends opposed to the removal of the RCMP from Surrey to actively join and rally with us in our quest and let the BC government, and the BC NDP party unequivocally know that because they chose to actively ignore our opposition to the policing change, we will do everything that we possibly can to ensure a change of government.”

“In the weeks leading up to this last pronouncement, all of the Surrey MLAs gave no public indication as to where they stood on this very important issue and we therefore take it that they are 10o per cent for the proposed change and thus 100 per cent opposed to retaining the RCMP in Surrey,” the press statement reads In arrogantly keeping with this then, the BC NDP party just yesterday announced Garry Begg as their first nomination candidate for the next provincial election and whose election campaign (together with any other nominations that do not support our cause) we will thus actively oppose to ensure their non-election.”

While the campaign has declared war on Surrey’s six NDP MLAs, Daynes said this doesn’t necessarily mean support for the Liberals. “We’ll support the candidate that supports our position,” he said. “We remain non-partisan.”

Meantime, Surrey Councillor Linda Annis is calling on all of Surrey’s nine MLAs – NDP and Liberal – to support a call for a referendum.

“I really feel we need to be getting our MLAs to be advocating to do a referendum for a couple of reasons. One is the fact that there is so many people in Surrey that are against the transition,” Annis told the Now-Leader.

“I also think the people aren’t aware of what the implications are, how much this is really going to cost, and what the operational model is going to look like. There’s too many unanswered questions and I think the facts need to be put out on the table and a referendum to take place, and I really, really hope and would like to encourage the MLAs, who are ultimately responsible for policing, to step forward and make this happen in Surrey.”

READ ALSO: Wally Oppal says policing ‘too important’ to be left to the police

READ ALSO: Solicitor General has ‘no illusions’ about acrimony over Surrey’s police transition

Last week Wally Oppal, a former B.C. Supreme Court judge and attorney general who was appointed by the provincial government to oversee Surrey’s transition plan, said it’s “far fetched” to expect the provincial government to stage a referendum because that’s the city’s jurisdiction.

Garry Begg – the NDP MLA for Surrey-Guildford, and incidentally also a retired Surrey RCMP officer – echoed that. Concerning Annis’ call for Surrey’s MLAs to lobby for a referendum, he had this to say.

“It’s entirely within the purview of the municipality of Surrey, and I don’t think that the provincial government would interfere in what clearly is a municipal area,” Begg told the Now-Leader. As for the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign’s intention to hold the NDP’s feet to the coals in the next provincial election, he noted policing is the responsibility of municipalities with a population of more than 5,000 and the provincial government was seized with its responsibility once the City of Surrey indicated it no longer wished to contract with the RCMP, to examine options for the city.

“I think Mike has said this really well, all the time, it’s a statutory responsibility that he has,” Begg said. “There is a process that’s enshrined in legislation for those municipalities that wish to opt out.”

“And so what he did, what we did, what his ministry did, was just invite the submission of supporting documents for a municipal agency and then, after they examined them for a long time, after the city contracted police experts from around the country to help them make their case, the decision was made that they could proceed to set up a police board which would pave the way for them to hire a police chief and all of the other requirements that fall into line with forming a police department.”

Garry Begg. (Submitted photo)

Does he think it’s fair for critics of this process to be gunning for the NDP, figuratively speaking?

“Putting the whole thing in context it, would appear to be very biased if elected members of the provincial legislature, who are ultimately the decision makers on whether or not it should proceed, would prejudge it and say this is a non-starter based on any issue,” Begg explained. “We have a responsibility, right, enshrined in legislation.”

He said the public would not want politicians to act on their bias, one way or another, if they are the decision makers “on the process that you are either for or against.”

Surrey Councillor Jack Hundial, also a retired Surrey RCMP officer, suspects the police board is “probably six months out still before it’s up and running.”

Asked if he thinks it’s time to concede this is a done deal, Hundial replied “Not at all.”

“Ultimately, it’s the public’s decision because we do police by consent in this country. I mean, you have to have the consent of the people to do policing.”

And that, Hundial said, hasn’t been given, “certainly not with the multiple polls and surveys out there.

“I think the costs need to be known, what the difference is going to be.”

Last week McCallum noted police officers in Ontario, Alberta and the Maritimes have expressed interest in joining the Surrey Police.

“It runs really counter to the mayor saying we want to have local people policing Surrey,” Hundial said.

Moreover, “It’s been very clear with the province the ability to have an RCMP force is still viable. So there’s a lot of unknowns, and the mayor is used to making grandiose statements which are quite unsubstantiated as we move along, without any facts behind them.”

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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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