In the midst of a heated debate over Surrey’s policing transition, Mayor Brenda Locke has intensified her opposition, alleging constitutional breaches and political influence in the police service
The ongoing tussle over the transition of Surrey’s police force from the RCMP to a municipal police service reached new heights this week. Mayor Brenda Locke, in a recent press conference, accused the provincial government of overstepping its bounds and declared the City of Surrey’s intention to file an amended court challenge, adding to an existing legal battle initiated weeks prior.
Locke’s recent statements have thrown a spotlight on the contentious issue, sparking reactions from various provincial authorities. “The government does not have the right to run roughshod over every local government that doesn’t bend to their will,” Locke stated emphatically, expressing concerns over the province’s recent legislation facilitating the police transition. She went further to label the proposed Surrey Police Service as an “NDP police service,” alleging it would report directly to the Solicitor General.
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth responded to Locke’s accusations, calling them a “disgrace,” especially in light of recent tragedies involving police officers. “We’ve had tragedies this year involving police officers, funerals, so for the mayor to say ‘Oh it’s an NDP police’ I think quite frankly, it’s a disgrace,” Farnworth said on Monday.
The debate over the police transition has seen polarized opinions. Last Thursday marked a significant turn when the province suspended the police board, including Mayor Locke, replacing its members temporarily with Mike Serr, a former Abbotsford Police Chief. This move was met with varied reactions, with former solicitor general Kash Heed calling it a case of provincial overreach. “That’s not how parliamentary procedure, that’s not how policy is developed here in Canada, and that’s certainly not how we develop policing,” Heed, a former West Vancouver police chief, remarked.
In contrast, former attorney general Wally Oppal supported the province’s decision, highlighting the potential conflict of interest for Mayor Locke, given her position as chair of the police board. “The province has decided that the mayor sitting as the chair of the police board cannot adequately discharge her duties when she has an obvious conflict,” Oppal stated on Monday.
The financial implications of the police transition have been a significant point of contention. Mayor Locke has claimed that the transition to a municipal force could cost Surrey taxpayers an additional half a billion dollars over the next decade compared to continuing with the RCMP. She termed this additional expense as an “NDP tax on Surrey.” In response, the province has offered $150 million to assist with transition costs, with Farnworth disputing Locke’s figures and affirming the decision to proceed with the Surrey Police Service.
The upcoming presentation of a police budget by Mike Serr on Nov. 30 is anticipated to further fuel the debate. Locke has warned of a possible 20 percent tax hike for Surrey residents if the transition continues. She asserted, “If the NDP police board puts forward a budget that Surrey residents can’t afford, the city will not approve it.” The province, however, has indicated that there are mechanisms under the Police Act to address a rejected budget.