SURREY (NEWS 1130) — As cities grapple with the financial effects of the pandemic people in Surrey don’t seem to think now is the time to spend money on replacing the RCMP, according to a poll commissioned by the National Police Federation.
A similar poll was conducted in January, but the union that represents RCMP officers wanted to gauge whether the COVID-19 crisis has changed citizens’ minds about the transition to a municipal police force.
“We thought that as municipalities, and provinces, and the federal government were implementing measures to offset the financial impacts of COVID we would do another poll to see if the residents of Surrey had any concerns with the respect to the municipality’s finances and how they’re moving ahead on the Surrey transition, spending money there that could be spent elsewhere,” says Brian Sauve, president of the federation.
A statement from Mayor Doug McCallum issued in April estimated a $37-million to $42-million budgetary shortfall, based on COVID-19 restrictions easing by early summer.
“One of the big findings in this poll was that 90 per cent of residents of Surrey think that the mayor and council should take a step back, and perhaps reassess whether or not they should proceed with this transition at this time,” Sauve says.
Sixteen per cent of Surrey residents say the transition should remain a priority.
“The poll here is designed to capture the perspective of residents of Surrey at a given point in time and I think what this shows us is that residents of Surrey are concerned about job losses, they’re concerned about small businesses, they’re concerned about property tax increases or property tax deferrals, and basic affordability in their community.”
The transition is projected to cost about $192-million.
“Why don’t we take that money and reinvest it elsewhere, where it’s more needed?” Sauve asks.
“Perhaps we push pause on the transition plan or reassess at a better date post-COVID.”
The poll found overall support for the police transition plan has dropped since January from 48 per cent in January to 31 per cent in April.
Opposition increased to 60 per cent from 46 per cent.
The poll randomly surveyed 803 residents over a 10 day period in April. It was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights.
Sauve says the impending transition to a city police force, and the COVID-19 pandemic have meant the force’s members are showing up to do the job amid significant unease and uncertainty.
“Our membership in Surrey are committed to the community. They live there, they raise families there, they’re invested in different community activities. They don’t want to leave, they like working in Surrey. They like representing Surrey and protecting the citizens of Surrey,” he says.
“COVID-19 has shown how important it is to have dedicated and experienced emergency responders who know their communities,” added Sauvé. “Now is not the time for a disruptive change in policing. We encourage City Council to re-think this plan and focus on the health and safety of people and their communities.”