Surrey’s finance committee’s public hearing dealing with the 2021 city budget Monday afternoon devolved into a fierce verbal attack against Mayor Doug McCallum as speaker after speaker lined up, virtually speaking, to give him what-for.
So far the mayor has cut five callers off as the meeting is still going on, digitally.
“Your comments must be respectful,” McCallum said at the outset. “I’ll say it again, you must be respectful.”
Surrey’s general manager of financing Kam Grewal says the city’s policing transition from the Surrey RCMP to the Surrey Police Service is expected to be “fundamentally complete” by the end of 2022.
Ivan Scott, organizer of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign, called the plan an ‘immoral and deceptive budget” and accused McCallum of “haughtiness.” He characterized the budget as an “attack and assault” on low income earners and charged that the current council is the “worst municipal government in Surrey’s history.
“It is personal, Mr. McCallum,” Scott said. “You’re shoving your hand into my pocket.
He denounced the budget as the “deepest display of trickery.”
McCallum thanked Scott for his comments.
Resident Debbie Johnstone called the budget a “kick in the gut,” as well as “insulting, heartless, cruel and mean-spirited.”
She was cut off after telling McCallum “there is a special place in hell for you.”
Resident Richard Landale was also cut off.
“Just a minute!” he protested. “You can’t cut me off!”
Lori Haliburton accused the mayor of using his power to “abuse us.
“You are jeopardizing my health and my safety at my expense,” she said.
Other speakers hurled words at McCallum like “horrific” and “shame on you.”
One speaker slammed what she called “stupidly arrogants budget increases.
“McCallum shows no compassion with these tax increases,” she said.
Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, presented a 12-page treatise on the proposed budget.
“We need tax relief for businesses and residents,” Huberman said. She called on city hall to focus on economic recovery, “pause the police transition” and “put a hold on the parcel tax increase.”
Prior to the meeting, Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis issured a press release in which she denounced the proposed 2021 city budget as a “public safety and financial minefield.
“This budget includes a massive property tax increase, more than $130 million in borrowing, and a $45 million cut to the RCMP,” she said. “In addition, we’re actually borrowing $7 million to pay operating expenses, something every business and family in Surrey knows is no way to stay afloat or manage your home or business. We’re literally spending more than we’re taking in and that always costs taxpayers in the long run.”
Annis said the draft budget, the “incredible tax increases” and Surrey’s “struggling finances” can be “connected by a straight line” to the policing transition, “where every available dollar, even during the pandemic, is being syphoned off to pay the growing cost” of the Surrey Police Service.
Annis said the budget “should go back to the drawing board” because it is not ready for a council vote and needs a serious rethink.
Annis warned that the $45 million cut in the RCMP budget “means the RCMP will be out of money by October 1,” while it’s not certain the Surrey Police Service “will be completely up and running by the end of September.