Vancouver Sun


Lib­er­als pledge ref­er­en­dum

- DAVID CARRIGG With files from Stephanie Ip

The B.C. Lib­eral party de­ci­sion to test the ap­petite of Sur­rey vot­ers for a mu­nic­i­pal po­lice force could lead to gains in cru­cial rid­ings, says an SFU aca­demic.

On Sun­day, the Lib­er­als re­leased an unattribut­ed state­ment that if elected they would pause the con­tro­ver­sial RCMP to mu­nic­i­pal po­lice force tran­si­tion that is al­ready un­der­way and hold a ref­er­en­dum.

The tran­si­tion was a cen­tre­piece of Mayor Doug McCal­lum's 2017 elec­tion plat­form and was even­tu­ally ap­proved by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. The Sur­rey Po­lice Board has been formed, but a chief has not been hired.

SFU criminolog­y pro­fes­sor Robert Gor­don said that the tran­si­tion was al­ready heav­ily politi­cized at a mu­nic­i­pal level, where McCal­lum holds the bal­ance of power.

Provin­cially, Sur­rey has nine rid­ings. Three are held by Lib­er­als and six by the NDP. How­ever, in the com­ing Oct. 24 elec­tion three of those NDP rid­ings could swing to the Lib­er­als — Fleet­wood, Guild­ford and Panorama.

Gor­don said the Lib­er­als could make some head­way in Sur­rey on the tran­si­tion plat­form.

“It will be an in­ter­est­ing test of the ex­tent to which this is a ma­jor so­cial pol­icy is­sue, given Sur­rey has a bunch of con­stituen­cies at a pro­vin­cial level,” Gor­don said.

“The (Lib­er­als) will cruise home in some, but there may be some gains made in other ar­eas where peo­ple have be­come ir­ri­tated by the pro­jected fi­nan­cial con­se­quences of dis­en­gag­ing from the RCMP and fir­ing up a free stand­ing mu­nic­i­pal po­lice force.”

Sur­rey South Lib­eral can­di­date and in­cum­bent MLA Stephanie Cadieux said the Sur­rey po­lice tran­si­tion was the No. 1 is­sue in con­ver­sa­tions she has had with con­stituents. Cadieux said that some peo­ple wanted to keep the RCMP, while oth­ers were con­cerned about a per­ceived lack ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency in the tran­si­tion process.

B.C. NDP can­di­date Mike Farn­worth — who is run­ning in Port Co­quit­lam and served as B.C's pub­lic safety min­is­ter and so­lic­i­tor gen­eral be­fore the elec­tion be­ing called — said the Lib­eral move was dis­re­spect­ful to­ward Sur­rey vot­ers.

“This bla­tant dis­re­spect is of­fen­sive to the city and cit­i­zens of Sur­rey, who are quite ca­pa­ble of man­ag­ing the af­fairs of their city, in ac­cor­dance with their le­gal authority,” Farn­worth stated.

Farn­worth called the Lib­er­als' prom­ise a “ma­jor vi­o­la­tion of the re­la­tion­ship with a mu­nic­i­pal level of gov­ern­ment and an un­war­ranted in­ter­fer­ence in the af­fairs of the city of Sur­rey.”

“The law makes it clear that this is a mu­nic­i­pal de­ci­sion. The role of the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is to en­sure pub­lic safety is main­tained and that is what we will con­tinue to do,” he said.

Mayor McCal­lum also hit back. “I am ap­palled that the B.C. Lib­eral leader has stooped to this level of des­per­a­tion in an ef­fort to garner votes,” McCal­lum stated.

“For the B.C. Lib­er­als to in­ter­fere in the unan­i­mous de­ci­sion of an elected city coun­cil should be a con­cern to all mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments in our prov­ince.”

McCal­lum said the tran­si­tion from RCMP to a mu­nic­i­pal po­lice force was a “done deal.” Sur­rey's con­tract with the RCMP ex­pires on March 31, 2021, af­ter which the 805-of­fi­cer mu­nic­i­pal force is ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional.

The force's es­ti­mated op­er­at­ing bud­get would be $192.5 mil­lion, up 10.9 per cent from Sur­rey's pro­jected an­nual polic­ing cost for the RCMP. This does not in­clude one­time cap­i­tal and tran­si­tion costs.

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 ?? NICK PROCAYLO ?? Mayor Doug McCal­lum is not happy with the sug­ges­tion that the Lib­er­als may call a ref­er­en­dum on polic­ing in Sur­rey.
NICK PROCAYLO Mayor Doug McCal­lum is not happy with the sug­ges­tion that the Lib­er­als may call a ref­er­en­dum on polic­ing in Sur­rey.

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