A second member of Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition has split to sit as an independent.
Last month, Councillor Steven Pettigrew parted ways with the party and now, Councillor Brenda Locke has followed suit.
“I was elected by the people of Surrey to speak up for them and advocate for their interests, but it has become impossible to do as part of Safe Surrey,” Locke said in a release Thursday morning. “I ran as part of a coalition, but it’s become obvious that Mayor McCallum has a my-way-or-the-highway approach to governing.”
Locke stated she is “shocked by McCallum’s aggressive response to my concerns about the future police staffing levels at Sophie’s Place — as outlined in his recently released Surrey Transition Policing Report.”
She added that she has “asked for a legal opinion regarding the defamatory nature of the statements he made about me.”
“During the campaign I was under the impression that elected councillors would be involved in the development of the Surrey Policing Plan. As with many other issues this was not the reality after the election,” she said.
According to Locke, “far too many decisions are made in the Mayor’s office, behind closed doors, and when I speak up for citizens I am met with personal attacks. This is simply not acceptable.”
She said Surrey Council is “becoming dysfunctional and that’s clearly not beneficial for the citizens.”
Locke told the Now-Leader the “last straw” for her was the mayor questioning her integrity through a city-issued statement earlier this month.
“I just thought, I can’t be part of that team…. Then you add on the canal to that, you add on what happened in council on Monday and there’s just been a built-up. The mayor’s erratic behaviour is problematic to me,” she said.
Asked if she may join forces with Pettigrew, or any others who split to sit as independents in the future, Locke said “I’m not there yet.”
Councillor Jack Hundial who, like Locke, has spoken out against the mayor’s handling of the creation of the policing transition report, wouldn’t say whether he was also eyeing a split.
“I haven’t made any decisions as to what I’m doing as to this point,” Hundial told the Now-Leader Thursday morning. “I read Brenda’s press release this morning and I’m not surprised, but I’d certainly like to hear what the mayor has to say.”
Pettigrew, meantime, said he is “proud” of Locke and supports her decision.
Pettigrew added that he is “hoping the city is going to turn around – we can’t keep going on like this.”
This news comes days after tensions flared in council chambers Monday night between Mayor Doug McCallum and Pettigrew. When the independent councillor attempted to ask a question, the mayor threatened to have him removed from the meeting.
“Councillor Pettigrew, if I have to, I will ask you to leave this council chambers,” said the mayor, his voice raised, after repeating a similar comment several times. “You’re interrupting this meeting and we are not going to put up with it. I will order you out of this council chamber if you don’t sit down right now.”
Pettigrew attempted to ask a question at the outset of the council meeting, but the mayor told Pettigrew he’d “have to wait,” telling him he was asking his question at the wrong time in the meeting. Council was in the section of the meeting in which they were adopting minutes.
“Actually, at this point of information, it just will take a moment and I do have the floor on this right now,” said Pettigrew.
“No, I’m sorry, we’re in adoption of the minutes,” replied the mayor.
Pettigrew, still standing, attempted to ask his question several more times as the mayor continued with the meeting.
The next day, Pettigrew said he is “concerned about democracy in our city right now.”
Pettigrew told the Now-Leader on Tuesday that “there were many things done last night that I believe were in violation of the Community Charter and our city procedural bylaws. These are issues that need to be addressed by staff and by people that are well versed in legislative law.”
Asked if the city was undertaking a review of any potential violations, Surrey City Clerk Jennifer Ficocelli told the Now-Leader in an email Tuesday that “we are working to clarify the rules and processes that are in place.”
The terse exchange between the two politicians is the latest of several in council chambers. In at least two other instances, McCallum has denied Pettigrew’s motions – those two related to allowing the public to see the city’s policing transition report prior to it being sent to the provincial government.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said in an emailed statement to the Now-Leader that Locke chose to run with the Safe Surrey Coalition “fully aware of our platform and agenda.”
“She was elected because of the issues we campaigned on were what Surrey voters overwhelmingly wanted to see action on. Brenda will now have to answer to the tens of thousands of voters she has abandoned,” he said.
McCallum said he and his SSC colleagues are “firmly committed to honouring our promises and commitments we made to Surrey voters, which is to establish a city police department, extension of SkyTrain, and ensure there is Smart Development in support of our neighbours.”