Surrey city council’s Monday night meeting did a figurative crash-and-burn out of the gate as Mayor Doug McCallum called for a recess after being heckled by the audience in chambers.
An hour later, it was announced that the meeting was adjourned to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 1.
“Councillors were calling for the mayor to resign over his criminal charges, the mayor was having none of it, and the public audience’s contempt for Doug McCallum just boiled over,” Coun. Linda Annis said, summing up the scene. “It was an embarrassing night for our city and its taxpayers.”
The meeting began with Coun. Brenda Locke asking the mayor to “do the right thing to uphold the integrity of the office and take leave of your duties until the court decides your fate,” referring to his being charged with public mischief. When McCallum declined, Coun. Steven Pettigrew challenged his decision.
“I’m not sure you can,” McCallum replied.
“I can do this,” Pettigrew rejoined. “The decision the mayor made was to not step down and that is the decision I am challenging.”
After city lawyer Philip Huyhn weighed in that it’s not challenge-able, Coun. Jack Hundial rose on a matter of privilege.
“I demand that you do the right thing, uphold the integrity of the office and take leave of your duties until the court decides your fate,” Hundial said to much applause.
“I will not,” McCallum said.
There was a full crowd in council chambers. Many milled about inside and out in the atrium, wondering if the meeting would be called back to order which it of course was not.
Annis says Surrey council has “hit rock bottom.
“Respect, consensus, and simple good manners have gone out the window.”
Rough start to Surrey Monday night council meeting. Calls for Mayor Doug McCallum to resign. He says no. Much heckling; he calls a recess and we're what, seven minutes in?
— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) May 31, 2022
Coun. Laurie Guerra, of the Safe Surrey Coalition, told the Now-Leader she’s “disgusted with what happened.
“There was so many people in there that really needed to be there for the public hearing, they were either opposed or in favour of projects, many of the people that were speaking in favour of their own projects were there and they were very upset about it and I really feel for them,” she said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it and it’s disgraceful,” she said, calling it “very scary.”
“It’s gotten very personal and very ugly,” Guerra said. “My husband is horrifed and very worried…we had escorts to go out to our vehicles, this is disgraceful that it’s happening in our beautiful city.”
Ivan Scott, of Keep the RCMP in Surrey, was in the audience and said the city’s reaction is overblown.
“We did what we did, police arrived eventually, they did nothing,” Scott said. “We just got in, had our say and we left. I don’t see how people can say that we were an unruly mob or anything like that, it was ridiculous.”
Annis, of Surrey First, said she’s “really deeply troubled from the standpoint that I feel like council has never, ever been more divisive than it is right now and to not be able to conduct the city’s business because the disruption within the council chambers is hugely troublesome to me.”
Bylaw officers were in the lobby, she noted, police were on “standby” after council members left the chambers.
“I think there was concern, and rightfully so, for not just for the council’s safety but also for the staff’s safety who of course have their back to the audience so they can’t really see what’s going on.”
— Jack Hundial (@JackHundial) May 31, 2022
Jeepers. Surrey Monday night council now adjourned to Wednesday night after meeting collapses just minutes out the gate. Never seen anything like it in more than 30 years of reporting in Surrey. #newground
— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) May 31, 2022
Annis said extra security was dispatched to the parking lot.
“It’s such a sad state of affairs when government gets to this point,” Annis said. “Several people had come out for the public hearing and of course they were turned away and will be given the opportunity again on Wednesday but I think it’s just very, very, very unfortunate that council has got so dysfunctional and that we’re not even able at this point in time to be able to conduct the city’s business.”
She described the audience as “agitated” and the scene in council chambers “chaotic.” Asked if she’s concerned there might be a replay on Wednesday night, Annis said she thinks there will be more security protocols in place. Also, on Wednesday morning McCallum is scheduled to present his Surrey Mayor’s 2022 State of the City Address at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel.
“I’m fearful that this whole thing will just reoccur there again and I don’t wish anyone’s safety to be at risk and it’s a huge concern for me,” Annis said.
“Everyone at the meeting tonight, mayor, councillors and the community have to step back and see what this is doing to our meetings and to our city. There’s plenty of blame to go around on a night like this, but if Surrey residents were watching this tonight they would be shaking their heads and wondering how our city can run now until election day on October 15.”
The City of Surrey’s communications department confirmed Tuesday that McCallum’s city address was “going ahead” on Wednesday and he “won’t be commenting” about it.