Harsh words were exchanged at Monday night’s Surrey council meeting, leading three councillors to apologize after tempers boiled over during debate on Councillor Brenda Locke’s motion that called for Surrey’s policing transition to go to a referendum.
Last month, Locke lodged a complaint with the Minister of Municipal Affairs against Mayor Doug McCallum after he denied a previous motion of hers that also called for a referendum on the transition to the Surrey Police Service from the Surrey RCMP. On Monday, McCallum denied her latest attempt, deeming it out of order.
“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.”
Locke challenged the chair. “I will call for a vote,” McCallum replied. “Those that support the mayor, those that do not support the mayor.” The Safe Surrey Coalition majority then defeated the challenge on a five-to-four vote. Then on a point of privilege Locke tried to have the legal opinion challenged. “I’ve ruled it out of order,” McCallum replied.
The fireworks began after Locke’s second motion, calling on Chief Constable Norm Lipinski of the Surrey Police Service to report at all council meetings “outlining the actions, plans and financials” of the Surrey Police Service. This too was defeated by the SSC, on a five-to-four vote.
“Not supporting this, not supporting a referendum, to me is just saying to the public that their voices don’t matter and they will not be heard,” Locke said.
Councillor Allison Patton said the “minority” on council is spending a majority of their time on the policing issue “when it is not under our purveyance.
“I’m getting a lot of feedback that because of this focus there is some lacking in skill set and focus in terms of attention to other matters,” Patton said. “I really don’t understand this never-ending focus on something that really isn’t any of our business and I’m highly concerned about the number of individuals that are not feeling well served by our council. We need to keep our focus on the things that matter that are not just the police because that is just one small segment.”
Patton asked her fellow council members “to not forget their role as a councillor in these times.”
“There’s more to it than putting your nose where it doesn’t belong,” she said, “in the sense that us as councillors are not meant to be overseeing the Surrey Police Service.”
Councillor Jack Hundial replied that “if there’s an actual accusation of someone not doing their job I’d like to actually hear it laid out as opposed to the innuendos around it.” Patton’s comments, he said, are “a little almost offensive.”
Locke took umbrage with Patton’s remarks.
“There is no one on this council that should be telling another councillor not to put their nose in where it doesn’t belong. It’s not your affair to do that anyway, and that is highly inappropriate, highly inappropriate language in this setting and I do take offence to that. I absolutely take offence to that.”
Councillor Doug Elford said he wouldn’t support having the police chief report before council.
“Driving the police chief up every month for a Spanish Inquisition is something that – we have a police board, this is why we established the SPS,” he said. “Why some of these councillors resist this process going forward behooves me.”
“To me it’s getting tiresome,” he said. “I mean it’s the third referendum motion we’ve had to address. At what point in time do we introduce a motion not to have a referendum motion? I’m a little frustrated by this.”
Councillor Steven Pettigrew then got into it with McCallum, saying he, as an elected official, has an opinion to express and “please don’t start attacking me.”
McCallum suggested he take time to read reports related to the issue. “The reports are there, publicly.”
“To continually bring these type of things up is in fact wasting council’s time and also wasting a lot of energy,” McCallum said.
At one point, McCallum shut Locke down, saying she was straying from the topic. Pettigrew on a point of order came to her defence. “This is typical approach that you do, you attack us,” he said. “I’m challenging the chair, I’m challenging your decision.
“It’s unfair for you to use your position to attack us and then not allow us to respond,” Pettigrew said. “Don’t start laughing at me, how dare you?”
“You are not a very good example of a mayor,” Pettigrew told McCallum.
“I rest my case on your comments,” the mayor replied.
Locke reiterated she finds it “incredibly offensive and actually very unethical for some of the comments that have happened here today.”
Elford’s Spanish Inquisition comment, she said, was a “ridiculous statement.”
Patton, Elford and Pettigrew later apologized for their outbursts.
Elford said the Spanish Inquisition comment “was not what I meant, and I just want to apologize for that right now.”
Patton also apologized “to my two colleagues who have taken highly offence to what I said and anyone else on council who took offence. That was not my intent, was to offend.”
Pettigrew said “in line of all the other councillors, I’m also going to offer up my apology for anybody I’ve offended.”
McCallum said “the frustration by a number of councillors I share because the majority of this council voted to move ahead on this issue,” he said of the transition to the Surrey Police Service from the Surrey RCMP.
“We should be moving ahead and working to make sure the transition works smoothly and work to solving some of the problems in the transition rather than constantly going back and notice after motion after notice after motion coming forward on the same item, that’s not for a council to be doing anywhere in Canada.”