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Surrey rejects B.C.’s $250M ‘final offer’ for transition to city police

B.C. Solicitor General says Surrey policing transition will still continue, despite city opposition
B.C.’s Public Safety and Solicitor General Minister Mike Farnworth speaking to the media in Victoria on April 9, 2024. Farnworth says the City of Surrey has turned down the province’s final offer that was on the table to help aid the city’s police transition. (Photo: Wolf Depner)

B.C.’s Public Safety and Solicitor General Minister Mike Farnworth says the City of Surrey has turned down the province’s final offer that was on the table to help aid the city’s police transition.

“We put solutions on the table to prevent transition-related tax increases and still, the city rejected it. Since the city has rejected financial support for the people of Surrey, the province will use the $150 million to support the transition directly until it is completed. Any additional costs that end up getting passed on to the people of Surrey are the result of the failure of the mayor and council,” Farnworth said in a statement Tuesday (April 9).

Farnworth said Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke wrote to him last week advising him that the council agreed in principle to the financial commitment, according to Farnworth.

“It is clear that the mayor and council ultimately chose divisiveness and uncertainty,” he continued.

“The city rejected an agreement that included a 10-year financial commitment: $150 million over five years, plus added assurance that if SPS officers were more expensive than RCMP officers in 2029, the province would cover the difference every year for another five years to 2034 – up to $20 million per year. This agreement would have given people certainty that there would be no reason for police-related tax increases for at least a decade.”

The minister said that Surrey council has “failed” city residents by not agreeing to the province’s offer.

The City of Surrey issued a statement Tuesday evening (April 9) attributed to Locke that said she did not agree with Farnworth’s statement.

“It is the city’s position that the Province provided no firm financial commitment that would provide redress to Surrey taxpayers for the full cost of transitioning to a police force they did not vote for,” reads the statement.

Locke stated that the province did not agree to “a number of reasonable commitments” that the city put forward. A few examples include the province’s failure to develop a plan for the new police force, a transition plan or a completion date, and failure to commit to a completion date for the transition.

“Due to the Province’s failure to address these crucial commitments, accepting the offer would be to the detriment of our residents and overall public safety in Surrey,” Locke stated. “As I’ve said all along, I will stand up for the best interests of our taxpayers. It’s important that the public have all the details, and hear the truth, and I’m glad all will be revealed as court proceedings begin on April 29.”

Surrey petitioned the B.C. Supreme Court for a judicial review of Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth’s decree on July 19, 2023, that the Surrey Police Service will police the city. Justice Kevin Loo will preside.

Several city councillors voiced their opposition to Locke’s decision.

Coun. Linda Annis said the decision was a “serious slap in the face” to Surrey residents.

“The police transition is holding city hall hostage, and until the transition is on track and moving forward, almost every other issue and priority in Surrey is on hold,” Annis said.

Coun. Mandeep Nagra and Coun. Doug Elford emphasized the urgency of transitioning to the Surrey Police Service.

Nagra said, “It’s clear that Mayor Locke’s refusal to accept reality and embrace the Surrey Police Service is driven by political motives to serve her RCMP backers rather than the best interests of our community.”

At a press conference in Victoria Tuesday afternoon, Farnworth said he was disappointed with the city’s decision.

“I think the people of Surrey will be disappointed because the people of Surrey want an end to this,” he added.

The transition to SPS will continue, Farnworth said, adding that the date for the completion of it will be announced soon.

“Once again, they have demonstrated they want to continue this conflict rather than working together to complete the transition and keep people safe,” Farnworth said.

“In January of this year, the City of Surrey asked the Province to negotiate an agreement to help them to complete the transition to the Surrey Police Service (SPS), resolve the conflict, provide certainty and support the people of Surrey.”

Farnworth said he was surprised when the city approached the province.

“In the interest of moving forward, we negotiated in good faith to provide the city with the reassurance they told us they needed. Unfortunately, it’s clear that Mayor Locke and Surrey city council would rather drag this out for years to come, instead of working together to do what’s best for people and businesses in Surrey.”

READ MORE: ‘Discussions’ between Surrey, province on SPS transition ‘final offer’

Locke re-iterated at Monday’s meeting that council “has resolved to stay with the RCMP. If we are mandated to continue with the police transition we are facing an increased cost of a half a billion dollars over the next decade compared to the cost of the Surrey RCMP.”

She said the 2024 budget does not include “a variety of anticipated but unknown costs” if the city continues with the transition to the Surrey Police Service.

– with files from Tom Zytaruk

Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I cover health care, non-profits and social issues-related topics for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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