SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Those against Surrey’s planned transition to a municipal police force have one more chance to raise their voices tonight as a contentious new budget comes up for a final vote.
The draft budget passed by a 5-4 vote earlier this month includes a 2.9 per cent property tax hike for 2020, places a hiring freeze on new police officers or firefighters, and sets aside $129-million for the transition away from the RCMP.
The move to replace the Mounties — a cornerstone of Mayor Doug McCallum’s election campaign — has been met with sustained opposition from both inside and outside city hall.
“I’m ashamed of this [budget], it doesn’t serve our city well. It will hurt my family and yours,” Coun. Steven Pettigrew said before a passionate crowd at the Dec. 2nd council meeting.
For his part, mayor McCallum has dismissed the opposition to his proposed budget, describing it as “one of the best” he’s seen in all his years as mayor.
A rally dubbed “Speak Up Surrey” is expected to draw out hundreds of people to city hall today, including several members of the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP).
“We desperately need more boots on the ground — seniors are afraid to go out after dark,” argued CARP White Rock/Surrey chapter president Ramona Kaptyn. “We are calling the mayor ‘Mayor McCallous’ because he’s saying taxes won’t go up, but of course taxes are going up.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Brenda Locke intends to table a motion resetting the transition process, which she has described as being deeply flawed and rushed through.
“This is probably the most significant thing we will do in in a generation in terms of public safety in Surrey. So I think doing it right is more important than doing it fast. And so that was my suggestion, that we stop,” she said.
Locke also suspects the nine-figure sum set aside for the transition will be far less than what it ends up costing taxpayers.
Despite the mayor’s insistence that the RCMP and fire department have told him they can “get by” with current staffing levels, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald has said publicly that the hiring freeze will have a “detrimental effect.”
McDonald noted that calls for service have been increasing, and with no new officers this year or next, staff will have to be shifted away from important community-based crime prevention efforts.
Surrey council is scheduled to convene at 7:00 p.m.