Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke says she’s prepared to take Mayor Doug McCallum to court if he once again finds her motion, which called on the city to ask the province to hold a referendum on whether Surrey should be policed by the RCMP or a city-made force, out of order after she re-introduces it at the May 31 council meeting.
Armed with a legal opinion from ARVAY FINLAY LLP that her motion was not out of order, Locke told the Now-Leader on Thursday it’s “a possibility, absolutely” that she will seek legal action if McCallum reprises his response.
“I think the public want to have their say, the public deserve to have their say,” Locke said. “I really think it’s time, once and for all, to put this thing to bed one way or another and right now the referendum is probably the only way. There’s just way too much opposition. It hasn’t slowed down in two years and, if anything, it’s mounting.”
The legal opinion Locke received from the law firm on May 19 addressed four questions, namely, does the provincial government have jurisdiction to order a referendum on whether the Surrey RCMP should be replaced by the Surrey Police Service, and if so, is its discretion to do so “constrained by any preconditions or other legal limits in these circumstances?”
She also asked if Surrey council can request the Lieutenant Governor in Council to order a referendum “as soon as possible, before additional expenditures are made, on the issue of whether Surrey should continue to be policed by the RCMP, or by the proposed Surrey Police Service,” and lastly, if her motion presented to council was out of order.
“In our view, the Lieutenant Governor in Council has jurisdiction to order a referendum on the issue of policing in Surrey,” the law firm told her. “The issue of policing is a ‘matter of public interest or concern.’” Locke was also advised that if the Lieutenant Governor in Council considers an expression of public opinion to be desirable on the issue, “its decision to hold a referendum is lawful.”
“The fact that steps have already been taken to establish the Surrey Police Board and Surrey Police Service would not, without more, establish bad faith or improper purpose. Thus, these circumstances would not make a decision to hold a referendum unlawful, or vulnerable to being overturned by the courts.”
ARVAY FINLAY LLP also advised Locke there is “no reason why” city council cannot ask the province to order a referendum. “We are not aware of any provision in the Community Charter, Local Government Act, or the Surrey City By-laws that would prevent such a request.”
As for her question whether her motion was out of order, the law firm responded that “Given that the province has jurisdiction to hold a referendum, and the city may properly request that the province do so, our opinion is that the motion was within council’s jurisdiction to decide, and did not otherwise violate rules of procedure. Thus, in our view, the motion was not out of order.”
McCallum said Thursday he “can’t talk about this. It was in-camera so I’m not going to talk about it.
“The legal opinion is,” he rejoined. “From our lawyers, and that’s privileged information.”
During an open council meeting on April 26 McCallum deemed Locke’s referendum motion out of order. She challenged his ruling but the Safe Surrey Coalition defeated her challenge on a five-to-four vote.
“The legal opinion is, I cannot read it out because it’s privileged and confidential, but I am going to rule her motion for a request for a provincially directed referendum regarding Surrey police services out of order based on that legal opinion that I got back,” McCallum said in open council on April 26.
On Thursday, McCallum told the Now-Leader, “This is out of bounds, even from the press. We have privileged legal opinion from our lawyers on it and that’s it.”