The crowd at Surrey City Hall on Monday evening (Dec. 16)

The crowd at Surrey City Hall on Monday evening (Dec. 16)

Former Surrey mayors speak out against ‘disgraceful’ council meeting

‘I’m just astonished,’ Dianne Watts said. ‘It’s just being run as a dictatorship.’

Former Surrey mayors are thunderstruck by the way Surrey’s infamous budget approval meeting played out this past Monday night in an overflowing council chambers, but what can be done about it after the fact?

Mayor Doug McCallum has been taking brickbats for the chaos that erupted there. But it’s not known if he would have done anything differently, in retrospect. He did not return a request for comment by press time.

Dianne Watts, who served as Surrey’s mayor from 2005 to 2014, said Monday’s council meeting was a disgrace.

“I’ve never seen anything like in all the time I’ve been in politics, it’s just so disgraceful,” she told the Now-Leader. She said there must be recourse, “without a doubt.

“I mean, this isn’t a dictatorship. When you look at how the meeting unfolded, I mean it’s an absolute affront on the democratic process, without a doubt. Ignoring councillors calling for points of order, denying councillors to speak, I’m just astonished. It’s just being run as a dictatorship.”

homelessphoto

Former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts

“He just runs roughshod over the whole process,” she said of McCallum, “which is really unfortunate because the whole point of having the process and procedures in place is to allow the citizenry to express their views, to allow elected officials, who are duly elected, to put their views forward or make statements. You can’t just shut them down, and especially on points or order. I’ve never seen the likes of this before.”

READ ALSO: ‘A real breach of democracy’: Surrey councillors react to budget decision, rowdy meeting

Councillor Brenda Locke said she intends to speak with Selina Robinson, provincial minister of municipal affairs, to seek recourse. “Certainly we ‘re not going to just take it.

“I called more than once on a point of order and was denied,” Locke said. “That’s just nothing I’ve ever seen happen before. I have never seen a mayor so dysfunctional in a meeting.”

But Watts doesn’t think the provincial government will step in.

“No. He is duly elected. He has a responsibility to the residents, he has the responsibility to the conduct of the City, which is clearly being violated. People are just frustrated, and so they’re looking for every avenue to make their voices be heard. Under the Municipal Act, which is governed by the Province of British Columbia, certainly they’re not going to jump into this. People would have to go through a court process regarding the violations of procedures.”

Linda Hepner, who served as Surrey’s mayor from 2014 to 2018, said in more than three decade at City Hall as a staffer, councillor and then mayor, she never saw anything like what transpired Monday night.

“I have never seen anyone shut down elected officials from speaking at all,” she said. “In my mind, that is unheard of. Both procedurally, and respectfully, I’ve never seen that before, where he just says there is no opportunity for you to speak, because you are the voice of the people. I have never in all of my years of experience seen them actually hog-tied or bullied, and to suggest they’re not going to be allowed to speak, that is unheard of.”

READ ALSO: Surrey budget passes as loud crowd fills city hall

Hepner told the Now-Leader that she expects under the procedure bylaw there “may be some element they can do in terms of a review with respect to legal repercussions, I don’t know. That would take some analysis.

“The person that you would want to censure, which may be worth exploring, probably doesn’t get a vote and so then it would go on a four-four – I don’t know if it fails on a tie,” Hepner said. “You would censure the chair and then I’m not sure how that would play out, but that’s a possibility of exploration.”

She noted Robert’s Rules of Order, that revered manual of parliamentary procedure, is only a guideline and not enforceable.

homelessphoto

Former Surrey mayor Linda Hepner

Meantime, earlier this month Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman sent a letter to B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and the Policing and Security Branch asking for them “to investigate whether Surrey has an adequate level of policing.”

“He said no,” Huberman said Wednesday. “He said that he won’t be able to intervene. I spoke to him in person, actually.”

She called Monday’s meeting “very concerning.”

“The whole situation that happened on Monday night at the council meeting really damages the City of Surrey’s brand. There is a governance procedure, there is a democratic procedure, and that was compromised on Monday night.”

READ ALSO ZYTARUK: Surrey council has a storied history of Monday night fights

The big ticket item of Surrey’s 2020 budget is, of course, the transition from the RCMP to a city-made police force.

Gurpreet Singh Sahota, founding organizer of WakeUp Surrey, notes every large city in Canada except Surrey has its own city force.

“We don’t blame the RCMP, we respect them,” he said, but insists the RCMP model is for policing rural and small cities – “not big cities.”

His grassroots group was formed in response to gang violence after a couple of young South Asian men were murdered in South Surrey, but insists the gang violence is not at all exclusive to the South Asian community.

Sahota noted many South Asians live in Delta and New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver, for example. “They’re everywhere. So why is there no killings there? Why is it happening only in Surrey?”

He told the Now-Leader that professional-looking lobby signs shouldered at the rally Monday at City Hall, before the budget was approved, were paid for by WakeUp Surrey, a volunteer group of parents. “We are paying everything from our own pockets.”

“We need rec centres here, we need more grounds here, we need more schools here and we need all other facilities everyone likes. But the thing is, if your roof is leaking, then you don’t buy a 56-inch TV, first you repair the roof,” he said, venturing a metaphor. “We’re trying to fix the roof first; next year we’ll bring the TV as well.

“Another thing is, if Doug is not keeping his promises, we will protest against him as well. We are working for parents and kids, not for any political party.”

It has been noted that battle-lines at the dueling protests Monday clearly appeared to be drawn along racial lines, with the pro-city police camp Monday having been thick with South Asians. But Sahota rejects this proposition.

“It’s not like that,” he said. “I have lots of Caucasian friends, Latino friends who are supporting the city police but at the same time I have friends who are South Asian but they are supporting the RCMP.”

As for the rally, he said, the vast majority in his group were South Asian because “I’m personally a South Asian, and my reach is to only South Asians. I’m not like Dianne Watts, or Linda Hepner, or Tom Gill so that the whole city can listen to me. My reach is to only my people, so that’s why when people came, most were South Asian.”

“Most of the people that follow me on the Facebook page are South Asian friends.”

That said, crime is not only a South Asian problem. “We have to understand this is a Surrey problem and we have to solve this all together.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Marchers supporting Indian farmers rallied in Surrey last month, from Bear Creek Park to Holland Park along King George Boulevard. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey MP says mayor’s motion to support Indian farmers is his to make

“He has his own sovereignty, right,” Sukh Dhaliwal says

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions against new model; BCSS and its board in favour

Researchers say residents should leave sleeping bats alone while they exit hibernation. (Cathy Koot photo)
Spring ‘signal’ brings White Rock, Surrey bats out of hibernation

Community Bat Programs of BC says it’s best to leave sleeping bats alone

(Photo: Creative Outlet)
YOUR MONEY: Tax tips for a complicated tax season involving CERB and more

With April 30 tax deadline, ‘it is important to understand the tax implications (benefits) will have’

The Delta Police Department’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Unit: (from left) Const. Joel Thirsk, analyst Jody Johnson and Staff Sgt. Sukh Sidhu. (Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police respond to rising number of hate crimes

Police have received 15 reports so far in 2021, compared to 12 in all of 2020

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Dr. Bonnie Henry – in a B.C. health order that went into effect April 12 – granted WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce workplace closures with COVID-19 spread. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
24 workplace closures being enforced in Fraser Health under new COVID-19 order

WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce closures if COVID-19 has spread to 3 or more employees

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue were conducting training operations at Gold Creek Falls when a firefighter broke their leg. (Eileen Robinson photo - Special to The News)
Firefighter suffers broken leg during swift water rescue practice in Golden Ears park

A training exercise at Maple Ridge waterfall on Wedesday results in mishap

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Most Read