Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke has tried a different tack in her efforts to get council to vote on whether Surrey’s policing transition should go to a referendum.
Last month, she lodged a complaint with the Minister of Municipal Affairs against Mayor Doug McCallum after he denied a previous motion of hers to that also called for a referendum on the transition to the Surrey Police Service from the Surrey RCMP. Locked said Friday she has not yet heard back from the minister.
“It’s a little frustrating, I must say.”
On Monday, April 12, Locke presented two more related notices of motion to council. Her first of the night noted that the provincial executive council or cabinet can order a referendum and called on the City of Surrey to request that it order a referendum “to be held as soon as possible and before additional significant expenditures are made on the issue of whether Surrey should continue to be policed by the RCMP or by the proposed Surrey Police Service.”
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum wasn’t convinced.
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I’ll have to ask legal, I’m going to refer that to our legal department before I accept it, Councillor Locke, because that’s not my understanding of the referendum. We’ve been told very clearly by the government that the only people that can call a referendum on this are city council.”
Councillor Steven Pettigrew tried to interject. McCallum replied “I’m not talking to you, Councillor Locke’s got the floor.” Pettigrew responded on a point of order that referring the matter to the legal department is in itself a referral motion.
“I’m sending it back for clarification,” McCallum rejoined. “My understanding is that cabinet cannot call a referendum.”
Locke then asked for the city’s solicitor to address the question right then and there, at the meeting. “It’s cited in the act,” she said.
McCallum told her she can’t speak on a notice of motion. Councillor Jack Hundial then, also on a point of order, picked up where Locke left off.
“We have access to legal currently and I don’t want to see this sort of lost in the wind somewhere,” he said.
McCallum told council, once he gets the legal opinion back on it, “then I’ll look at the ability to have council vote on it. We will bring it back as a motion then council can vote on it. It’s council’s decision on this. We can vote on it after we get legal clarification on it.”
Locke’s second motion calls on Chief Constable Norm Lipinski of the Surrey Police Service, “effective at the next meeting of council and all regular council meetings thereafter provide a publicly available report outlining the actions, plans and financials of the Surrey Police Service.”
Both notices of motion will be dealt with at the next council meeting on April 26.
Meantime, the Surrey Police Board’s next public meeting is at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 20. Lipinski typically provides a progress report at these meetings, and according to the agenda, Tuesday’s meeting will be no exception. He is also set to report on community consultation and “hiring diverse leadership.”
To date, his report notes, of the 18 executive and senior officers already hired to the SPS four are women, three are Indigenous, two are South Asian, one is Japanese and one is Iranian/Belgian. Of the 18, eight are from municipal police departments and 10 are from the RCMP.
Finance committee chairwoman Elizabeth Model is also expected to present a report on 2022 provisional budget preparation for the SPS.