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'It will hurt my family and yours': No new officers, firefighters for Surrey as council passes divisive budget

Last Updated Dec 3, 2019 at 6:29 am PDT

Surrey City Hall (NEWS 1130 File Photo)

The cuts in funding were made to pay for the municipal police force with $129-million allocated to the transition

Some councillors expressed their discontent with the budget as soon as the meeting started

McCallum defends the budget, arguing it is fiscally responsible

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — Surrey city council has voted in favour of a controversial new budget for next year, which will put a hiring freeze on any new police officers or firefighters.

The cuts in funding were made to pay for the city’s new police force, with $129-million allocated to the transition over the next four years.

This is the second year in a row that Surrey will not hire a single new police officer.

RELATED: ‘Highly problematic’: Surrey residents given little time to weigh in on city’s draft budget, group says

Some councillors expressed their discontent with the draft budget as soon as the meeting started on Monday evening.

Coun. Steven Pettigrew apologized to the residents of Surrey after the vote, saying he had done all he could to prevent it.

“In 28 minutes we have destroyed so many lives,” he said. “I’m embarrassed by this budget and I want nothing to do with it.”

“I’m ashamed of this, it doesn’t serve our city well. It will hurt my family and yours,” Pettigrew argued, adding the city is being bled dry by the budget and new police force.

Similarly, coun. Linda Annis said Surrey needs more police officers and the money should be going to the existing RCMP force, instead of funding a new one.

“We need to make up the number of firefighters that are required to serve this city, and protect us and keep us safe, as well as the RCMP. Clearly we need about another 300 RCMP members,” she said.

Mayor Doug McCallum claimed councillors who opposed the budget are also the ones who will say anything to get elected.

“Some of the comments you heard out there are reflective of how some councillors look at elections and to say certain things in elections to get elected and then to change their mind after they get elected,” he said.

McCallum continued to defend the budget following the vote, arguing that it is fiscally responsible.

“I can honestly say this is one of the best this year that we’ve gone through,” he said.

McCallum said the police chief and fire chief decide the number of officers and firefighters they need, and confirmed this process was completed.

“Both of them assured me we could get by this year and continue to make our city safe by the same number of officers we have now,” the mayor said.

Coun. Brenda Locke put forward a motion to stop all work on going forward with a new police force and get a third party to review the process. She argued consultation wasn’t done in good faith.

“This whole transition process for us has been devastating quite honestly,” she said. “We have been disrespected, shut out of the process and what’s worse is the public has been ignored. This is all about the mayor’s project. He wants it and he wants nobody to have say so in it.”

The only public consultation on the budget was held earlier in the day, however, the city had argued that the public had two weeks to comment online.

Editor’s Note: The amount to be allocated to the police transition over the next four years is $129-million. NEWS 1130 has updated this article to include that figure.