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City hall instability could be death blow to Surrey mayor's dream of municipal force, political watcher says

Last Updated Jul 18, 2019 at 1:53 pm PDT


Plans for Surrey's new police force may be up in the air now that another councillor has left mayor's party: columnist

Political columnist Frank Bucholtz says the ongoing conflict at Surrey city hall could jeopardize the police transition

Jack Hundial is the third councillor to leave Doug McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition this year

SURREY (NEWS 1130) –¬†With the latest departure from Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, the conflict on city council could ultimately make or break the transition to a municipal police force.

That’s coming from Frank Bucholtz, a political columnist, who says as the province reviews the city’s plans to scrap the RCMP, concerns raised against the transition could affect whether or not it’s approved.

“There are legitimate concerns on the RCMP model. The proper way to go about looking at changing the police would [be] to have public consultation, an independent taskforce, and to not be rushing it. I think what most people in Surrey want, whether they support RCMP or a new police force, is more boots on the ground.”

Bucholtz says Jack Hundial, who is a former RCMP officer himself, hasn’t been included in discussions around the police transition, Bucholtz believes concerns Hundial has raised about the proposal won’t go unnoticed.

“The execution has been flawed, and Jack Hundial has pointed that out. And the Mayor seems completely oblivious to the members of his own coalition, let alone any other member of the community, and I think he’s making a mistake by proceeding that way,” he says. “The province is clearly looking at the situation in Surrey politically as it develops — Jack Hundial is the one member of council who has significant policing experience. He hasn’t really been asked anything on how to proceed and the province has got to be weighing those things”

He adds when it comes to the plans to ditch the RCMP, more needs to be done to clarify details to the public, and even city councillors.

“A report written from inside city hall by the director of public safety with no input from Surrey residents, no input from Surrey city council, that’s not a very strong basis to make a request to change the policing model,” he says. ” I think what many Surrey residents are concerned about is why would we pay more for less police officers? It doesn’t make sense, it’s not logical.”

With the 5-4 split at council, Bucholtz says the mayor can’t afford to lose another councillor.

“The mayor would lose most of his power. He can’t really get anything accomplished if he doesn’t have support of majority of council. He won’t have the ability to do all that much. He may think he does, but he should know that he won’t. He’s been there before, he’s not inexperienced,” Bucholtz says.

“When he was mayor before, he always had a majority. If he loses one more councillor, he won’t have a majority. For Doug McCallum as an individual, that’s uncharted waters and I don’t think he really knows how to proceed in that situation.”

However, councillors who are still with the Safe Surrey Coalition are adamant that’s not the case, and insist they’re confident a new police force will get the green light from the province.

When asked whether Surrey residents should be worried about the change in council in recent months, Councillor Allison Patton believes residents’ confidence in council shouldn’t change.

“I had been aware of that perspective of these individuals for months and months, so it was planned in my opinion. It doesn’t surprise me and it doesn’t concern me,” she says. “We have a lot going on in the city, everything is positive. We have a city council that is envied by other cities because of how functional we are. I feel good, I’m excited.”

She says when it comes to the province’s stance on the police transition, she doesn’t think anything will stop the B.C. government from approving the project.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Laurie Guerra, who also remains with the Safe Surrey Coalition.

“I don’t think so at all. We promised to get things done, we all voted in favour of it. We gave staff direction to pursue this back in November. There’s no procedural outline for how to change your mind months into it,” she says. “No, I just think we are going to get things done like we promised to do. No more empty promises.”

Mayor McCallum has since responded to Hundial’s departure from his slate, saying “The majority we have on Council is solid and strongly united. I can assure you the Safe Surrey Coalition is now even more focused and energized to deliver on what we promised to the voters of Surrey.”

Hundial is the third councillor to leave the mayor’s civic party this year.