SURREY â€” With the Surrey election months away, the mudslinging has already begun.
In a statement released Thursday, candidate Doug McCallum slammed his Surrey First opposition Linda Hepner and Barinder Rasode â€” who has yet to announce whether she is running for mayor or an independent councillor â€” for â€œhypocrisy.â€
McCallum said both politicians regularly call for open meetings and transparency, but instead have â€œvoted for closed police committee meetings for years.â€
McCallum, who served as Surrey mayor from 1996 to 2005, when he was unseated by current mayor Dianne Watts, pointed to a list of more than 10 City of Surrey voting records, dating back to 2008, in which no dissenting votes were recorded against a motion to close the meetings to the public.
â€œEven when I was mayor I was a very strong believer that council â€” in all committees, including council meetings â€” should not have any in-camera meetings,â€ McCallum told Vancouver Desi. â€œThere shouldnâ€™t be any in-camera meetings except (when there are) personnel and legal issues.â€
â€œBut outside of that we should have open council meetings, or at least open to the public.â€
Hepner fired back that those meetings were closed in line with â€œstandard protocol (followed) in every city in this country.â€
â€œWhen youâ€™re talking about human rights issues, legal issues and particularly in the police â€” when youâ€™re talking about some crime suppression plans or some confidential information that will actually put our protective services guys at risk by exposing them in a public session â€¦ it would just be, in my mind, irresponsible leadership to do anything other than (a closed meeting,)â€ she said.
â€œHe knows full well thatâ€™s protocol. Those are legal issues, those are property issues, those are personnel issues and those are issues â€¦ (that) will put our officers at risk.â€
While McCallum acknowledged that he doesnâ€™t know why the meetings were closed, he said: â€œIt would be surprising that every one â€¦ for the last six years had in-camera meetings (for those reasons).â€
According to Rasode, the closed meetings McCallum mentioned and her stance on the need for open, public meetings and government transparency are â€œtwo separate issues.â€
â€œWhen a clerk gives you an agenda that is closed, you really donâ€™t have a choice but to go into close,â€ said Rasode, adding that the clerk makes the decision based on legality issues and the protection of personal information.
Hepner said McCallumâ€™s accusations were â€œthe height of hypocrisy and it borders on the ludicrous that he would even think that the public would not understand that.â€
But McCallum insisted the public has the right â€œto know any information that council knows,â€ adding that heâ€™s â€œalways been an open person in the public.â€
However, in 2002 â€” while acting as mayor â€” McCallum came under fire for allegedly trying to interfere with the RCMPâ€™s release of crime information to the media when he was accused of telling off police for releasing bad news.
â€œI was just asking questions of the RCMP,â€ McCallum said of that incident. â€œI actually did it in public.â€
Surreyâ€™s civic election will take place Nov. 15.
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