SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has found himself tied up in another controversy, this time facing a complaint of intimidation.
The Surrey Police Vote campaign, which is opposed to the transition away from the RCMP to a municipal force, has filed an official notice with Elections BC, accusing the mayor of intimidation and interference in relation to an incident that happened outside of a supermarket along 152nd Street on Saturday.
According to the group, Darlene Bennett — who is a proponent of the Surrey Police Vote initiative — claims McCallum was threatening to have volunteers evicted by bylaw officers as they were out gathering signatures for a proposed referendum.
The group says it was given permission by Save-On-Foods to be on the premises, and claims McCallum spoke to the store’s manager to try to have the signature collection stopped.
“Surrey Police Vote is asking Elections BC to investigate these very serious allegations of Mayor McCallum violating provisions of the Recall and Initiative Act designed to protect volunteers from intimidation and interference,” Bennett said. “It would be unfair if any individual was intimidating or interfering with volunteers democratically petitioning government but if the Mayor of Surrey was found to be involved, that’s a whole different level of concern.”
Bill Tielman is another spokesperson for the Surrey Police Vote campaign, adds City bylaw officials monitoring the group and Tielman claims this was “a form of intimidation.”
“We’re not blaming the staff, but someone ordered them to do that. And it’s happened on several locations and several times. So there’s something going on there. And I think the reality is that a lot of the voters of Surrey wanna have a referendum, the Surrey policing issue is extremely important. It’s a divisive issue and the best solution is to let the people decide, not a handful of politicians.”
Bennett, who lost her husband in a shooting that was deemed a case of mistaken identity, has been a long supporter of keeping the RCMP in Surrey. She says many Surrey Police Vote volunteers have seen bylaw officers “monitoring their signature collection at other sites” and have asked officers if they were told to be there by the city.
“We are asking Elections BC to investigate these allegations quickly, to get to the bottom of this and have it stopped if there is intimidation and interference by anyone, let alone municipal officials,” Bennett said.
Bennett adds the group has been getting “a fantastic response” from voters.
“It’s a little bit disturbing that the mayor of a major city would be taking it upon himself to inject himself into a democratic process where he has no right and no responsibility to be there. This is up to the citizens of Surrey. They can sign or not sign. The mayor should not be involved,” Tielman says.
In a statement to NEWS 1130, Elections BC confirms the complaint was made, and will be reviewing it.
“We receive and take any potential violation of the Recall and Initiative Act seriously. The Recall and Initiative Act prohibits individuals and organizations from impeding, preventing, or otherwise interfering with an individual’s right to sign a petition. Whether or not this occurred in this case will be part of our review,” Andrew Watson with Elections BC said.
McCallum’s foot was allegedly run over by a vehicle outside of the store Saturday. The Surrey RCMP is investigating the claims, and has asked for any witnesses of an altercation involving the mayor and a grey Ford Mustang to come forward.
Organizers with the “Keep the RCMP in Surrey” group refute McCallum’s claims that he was “verbally assaulted and then run over by a vehicle while out grocery shopping,” saying instead that the mayor was the one who was being antagonistic.
NEWS 1130 has reached out to the mayor for comment.