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Surrey mayor on the defensive as public hearing on budget turns testy

Last Updated Dec 1, 2020 at 6:59 am PDT

Surrey City Hall (NEWS 1130 File Photo)

Surrey's mayor sparred with members of the public Monday as they had a chance to weigh in on next year's budget

Many took the opportunity to denounce a proposed 2.9 per cent increase to property taxes

The budget passed the Finance Committee by a 5-4 vote, but still needs approval from council

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — It was certainly a tense night in Surrey, as city council held a virtual public hearing over next year’s proposed budget.

At issue is a proposed 2.9 per cent increase to 2021 property taxes and a controversial campaign promise by Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum to transition to a municipal police force from the RCMP.

Many of the comments from the public were highly critical of the mayor, who had no issues in cutting off several callers he deemed to be disrespectful.

“I have served and lived in some bad countries,” said one caller. “Afghanistan, Cambodia, the West Bank, Ghaza, and people I have met there, who are in government, when I was doing the work I was doing, remind me of the way this city administration is being run.”

McCallum then cut in, saying, “Okay sir, that’s enough. I asked you to be respectful and you chose not to,” as the caller then yelled out that it was McCallum who was being disrespectful.

The mayor repeatedly asked another caller to summarize her comments because she was out of time, leading the woman to exclaim, “I’m trying to, sir, if you would only let me, this would be finished instead of going on.”

The budget passed the Finance Committee by a 5-4 vote, but still needs approval from council.

Earlier, NEWS 1130 spoke to the head of the Surrey Board of Trade, Anita Huberman, who called on the city to pause the police transition, noting the money being spent should be going to things like economic recovery from the pandemic, or investments in infrastructure.

“There really is opportunity to pause the police transition and focus on what needs to be done to move the city forward, in terms of infrastructure investments that it needs, as we’re going to be the largest city in British Columbia,” says Huberman.

RELATED: Business group calls for Surrey to pause police transition, saying focus should be COVID recovery

Several councillors, who have long been at odds with the mayor and the Safe Surrey Coalition, have also voiced their displeasure with the budget and the public hearing in general.

“It was a little embarrassing participating in it,” says Jack Hundial. “This is a public hearing, you should be able to call in and voice your concerns and not get cut off, which I found really disturbing.”

Councillor Linda Annis tweeted her displeasure with the budget, writing, “The proposed 2021 Surrey budget is a public safety & financial minefield that will hurt the city & cost taxpayers. This budget includes a massive property tax increase, more than $130 million in borrowing, & a $45 million cut to the RCMP.”

-With files from Tim James and Martin MacMahon