Former Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is calling the province’s recommendation to continue the transition to Surrey Police Service a victory for the people of Surrey.
“What a great decision, I feel like doing some dancing up here,” McCallum said during a press conference on Friday (April 28) morning. “It’s a great decision for the people of Surrey.”
McCallum said Surrey council has an easy decision to make in accepting the province’s offer to financially support the transition to a municipal police force.
“The RCMP over the years have not moved forward,” he said.
“Their type of policing, their model of policing is broken and it needs to be fixed… They can’t recruit officers. Across Canada, (the RCMP is) 1,500 officers short right now and they can’t recruit them.”
He added that Surrey Police Service has not had an issue with recruiting new officers.
In response to a reporter’s question about how SPS will staff a full force, McCallum said they are recruiting from around the world and it won’t be an issue.
“The decision has basically been made. Yes it’s a recommendation but it’s a strong recommendation that we need to carry on — we now need to carry on.”
While Mayor Brenda Locke has indicated that the city will ignore Solicitor General Mike Farnworth’s recommendation to continue the transition to the SPS, McCallum said not to rule out any possibility when council decides.
“I know I’ve been quiet since the election, but I’m not going to stay quiet any longer because I think it’s really important for our people right now. They need some strong leadership,” McCallum said.
Asked whether he plans to run for mayor again in the next municipal election, McCallum replied that he has not yet made a decision.
Coun. Linda Annis, from Surrey First, says the province’s report provides voters with enough information to finally make a decision via referendum.
“Like so many of our residents, I’m frustrated that while the province has done tremendous work on getting the facts and doing the comparison, including recommending we stick with the transition to the SPS, the issue has been returned to us for a final decision,” said Annis. “I’ve always believed that the choice of police departments is too big, too costly, and too fundamental to be decided by city council alone. Surrey residents have been ignored and sidelined on this issue for five years. Now, they should be given the facts and the options and allowed to have the final say, rather than nine people on city council.”
Annis said the policing issue has “been a political football” for too long, all because voters were never given their say.
“The best way to resolve this issue is to let voters decide, something they should have done four years ago. Without a referendum, I worry that this issue will continue to be divisive, politically motivated, and foster resentment for years to come. A referendum gives all of us our say, and the ability to respect a decision that we make together when we hear the facts and the options.”
Meanwhile, the Surrey Board of Trade says it is unhappy with the province’s recommendation.
“We are disappointed that the B.C. government has made this decision,” said Anita Huberman, Surrey Board of Trade CEO. “However, with this decision, the City of Surrey can reinvigorate its public safety efforts, advocate for needed wrap-around support services to support the police service and focus on a renewed Surrey economic and jobs plan. We look forward to working with the Mayor and Council as well as the chosen police service to provide industry input on economic issues.”
- with files from Sobia Moman