Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s exclusion of councillors who aren’t with his Safe Surrey Coalition from serving on a committee dedicated to the city’s yet-to-be-approved policing transition plan demonstrates that he doesn’t care about anyone’s opinion but his own.
That’s the charge Councillor Linda Annis, one of the four councillors shut out of this new Interim Police Transitory Advisory Committee, levelled against the mayor Tuesday.
“Doug McCallum has stopped listening to anyone who thinks differently, and that’s not good for our city,” Annis charged.
But McCallum insists it’s not as petty as all that.
“I look at myself as only a messenger of the people of Surrey, what they want,” he told the Now-Leader on Wednesday afternoon.
“That’s how I’ve always felt in politics, and so I listen to what the public wants, and they want their own police force.
“I never act on my own at all,” McCallum added. “The fact remains that the majority of council is the ones that make the decisions, and it doesn’t matter who’s in that majority, but a majority like five out of nine is what makes every city operate, it’s not one person. I’ve said this many times – one person can’t make decisions or anything unless the majority of council agree.”
Since taking office eight months ago, three former SSC councillors have jumped ship from McCallum’s crew. One of them, Councillor Brenda Locke, described the current situation on Surrey council as “constantly a one-man show.”
On Monday, McCallum appointed remaining SSC councillors Doug Elford, Allison Patton, Laurie Guerra and Mandeep Nagra to the new committee. Previously, all members of council sat on the Public Safety Committee, which the mayor dissolved on July 15 to replace with this one.
Independents Locke, Jack Hundial and Steven Pettigrew, like lone Surrey First Councillor Annis, were not invited to the table.
McCallum explained why he didn’t choose Annis – executive director of Crime Stoppers since 2004 – or Hundial, who served for 25 years as a police officer, to sit on the committee.
“Well, both of them have spoken against our police force and they constantly speak against it, and we can’t have on any committee, it doesn’t matter what you have, to put somebody on that’s completely against what the committee is doing. It doesn’t work,” McCallum said. “When you’re developing something new, you have to at least have people, outside of councillor Annis, the rest of the people on council all campaigned, and promised to the Safe Surrey Coalition, that they would support, if elected, support our police and a couple of them have turned completely not supporting it.”
“Councillor Hundial is one,” he replied, “and councillor Locke has also indicated she is not happy with the way it is going, so they’ve been very outspoken about it, and so what we need is people on the committee, because we need to get a lot of decisions made once we get the green light, we need people on there that are positive, and also we need people on there that actually campaigned in the public on their number one platform, which is the number one issue that the public want to see, is their new police force.
“It makes complete sense, on any type of committee, to have those people that have carried the message from the residents who want their own police force, to be part of that committee.”
McCallum says the new policing transition committee will be in place for three to six months, “to support the policing transition process leading up to the establishment of the police board.”
The City of Surrey sent its 189-page Policing Transition Report to the provincial government for review on June 3, but there has been no word of it being approved.
Meantime, Annis maintains shutting down the Public Safety Committee was a “poor decision because that committee includes every councillor and deals with so much more than just policing.
“But more than anything, this latest decision is a sad commentary on the state of our city hall and the Mayor’s office,” she said.
“Dissenting or different opinions are no longer welcome, and by only including his remaining Safe Surrey councillors on his advisory committee the mayor is guaranteed to hear exactly what he wants to hear. But, it’s out-of-touch with our community and taxpayers and that has to concern our community.
“We can expect to feel their grip on power tighten even more,” she said of the Safe Surrey Coalition. “I think we’re going to see more of this sort of isolated and intolerant behaviour, and that has to raise red flags for all of us in Surrey.”
Hundial told the Now-Leader he had emailed the mayor asking to be on the new IPTAC committee.
“He didn’t get back to me on that.”
Despite the mayor’s decision, Hundial said, “I’m going to keep advocating for the community, for the people that elected me and put me here. I’m certainly going to be outspoken, not a critic, but certainly highlighting gaps in the policing transition.”
“You can block my comments out in chambers,” he said, “but you can’t block out comments from (Public Safety) Minister Farnworth.”
Locke said it should be “a concern to everyone” that Hundial was not appointed to the new committee, “because he has more experience” in policing matters “than all of them put together.”
– With files by Amy Reid