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City-commissioned survey finds 46% of Surrey residents want to keep RCMP

Surrey councillor questions use of taxpayers’ dollars to fund poll

A police transition survey commissioned by the City of Surrey shows that nearly half of those polled would prefer to keep the RCMP, while only 29 per cent of respondents want to continue with the Surrey police transition.

Conducted by polling firm Leger, the survey further found that support for Surrey RCMP increased to 64 per cent when respondents were provided with “additional information” regarding the city’s concerns about the transition. Support for transitioning to the SPS then dropped to 22 per cent.

But one Surrey councillor questions the use of taxpayer dollars to fund the poll, as well as the results themselves.

“The questions are very pointed towards keeping the RCMP, so I really question the results. I think when (Surrey mayor) Brenda (Locke) asked for this poll to be done, the results were definitely going to be pointing in this direction, because these questions are very pointed,” Coun. Linda Annis said Sunday (Jan. 7).

“The tone of the advertising, the way it points towards keeping the RCMP – there’s no question what the results of the survey would be.”

The Leger poll, which surveyed 505 Surrey residents between Nov. 30, 2023 and Dec. 13, 2023, also found that 73 per cent of respondents agree that the provincial government should provide the full difference in funding since it was the province’s unilateral decision to continue the transition.

“This comprehensive survey makes it clear that the majority of citizens in Surrey do not want to bear the burden of the police transition and prefer to continue with the RCMP,” Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke said in a city news release of the survey results.

“That is why we have been doing everything we can to ensure residents are made aware of the significant cost and implications of this unnecessary transition that is being imposed on Surrey taxpayers by the NDP government. Our number one concern is the cost of this expensive police transition on Surrey taxpayers that will run into the hundreds of millions.”

Annis, who is against stopping the transition to the Surrey Police Service, is critical of the amount of taxpayer dollars the city has spent on opposing the change, however.

The new Leger poll is the latest in a $500,000 advertising campaign by the city that opposes the B.C. NDP government’s order that they must transition to SPS.

“I quite frankly think it’s (a) really bad use of taxpayers’ money… that we shouldn’t be doing this kind of political advertising at the cost of Surrey taxpayers,” Annis said.

In the release, Locke notes most residents don’t want a massive tax increase.

“Given the economic pressures that is being felt across-the-board today, a double-digit tax increase is the last thing Surrey residents need. This latest research shows us there is strong support for keeping the RCMP, and that the vast majority of residents disapprove of how the Province has handled the policing transition,” she said.

The city estimates that, excluding costs of the transition, the SPS will annually cost $31.9 million more than keeping the RCMP and that dissolving the SPS to retain the Surrey RCMP would save Surrey about $235.4 million over the next five years.

Other poll findings include:

• 72 per cent of residents feel NDP MLAs from Surrey should be advocating for the provincial government to take full financial responsibility for its decision to impose the Surrey Police Service over the objections of Surrey’s elected mayor and council.

• 67 per cent of residents feel that the SPS has not hired an adequate number of frontline officers, that keeping Surrey RCMP will help protect city funding/keep taxes affordable

• 60 per cent of residents agree the city is justified in launching a legal challenge and communications.

• 61 per cent feel the transition will mean less funds for other local priorities and that the $150 million the province offered is not enough. They feel a massive tax hike will be required to pay for it.

• Prior to learning the information in the survey, 46 per cent would prefer to continue with the RCMP, versus 29 per cent in favour of continuing the transition.

• After being presented additional information regarding the transition, support for retaining the RCMP increased by 18 points to 64 per cent. Support for the RCMP appears to be drawn from those who were originally unsure (down 11 points) along with changing the minds of those who originally said they would prefer transitioning to a new Surrey Police Service, where support for the transition went down seven points to 22 per cent.

The survey also asked participants to what extent they agreed with certain statements, including:

• “The provincial government should provide detailed cost projections and make it clear how much local property taxpayers will pay for policing for the next 10-20 years.” (75 per cent agreed or strongly agreed)

• “Soon to be British Columbia’s largest city, Surrey should be treated with more respect by the provincial government.” (75 per cent agreed or strongly agreed)

• “Since the provincial government has decided to unilaterally impose the Surrey Police Service on the City, it should provide the full difference in funding, over the long-term, between replacing the RCMP and establishing and operating the new Surrey Police Service.” (72 per cent agreed or strongly agreed)

Annis said city representatives would have “absolutely” helped shape some of the questions on the survey.

“I don’t think the city should be involved in politics and I really question the whole notion around having this poll, the billboards, the direct mail pieces… that’s a lot of money to be attacking the provincial government, and that’s not the place of the city.”

Locke said no one from city council would have been involved in shaping any questions.

“Certainly nobody on council had anything to do with the questions… Leger is a very well-known pollster, so they would do it within the question parameters that they had,” she told Peace Arch News on Tuesday (Jan. 9). “The residents have asked for information and that’s what we’re providing.”

The survey is really about providing the city’s residents with information they should have had four years ago, she said.

“We want to let the public know the cost of this transition is going to be very expensive and we need to let them know this is going to have a significant impact on the budget – on the budgets coming up – and it’s forever… this is a generational decision,” Locke said, adding that the cost of a one-time survey “pales in comparison” with the cost implications associated with transitioning to the Surrey Police Service (SPS).

“What is important is the residents have not changed their mind. They do not want the Surrey Police Service to be the police in Surrey, they want to maintain the RCMP as police of jurisdiction. That’s clearly what (the survey) shows.”

– with files from Tom Zytaruk

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Tricia Weel

About the Author: Tricia Weel

I’ve worked as a journalist in community newspapers from White Rock to Parksville and Qualicum Beach, to Abbotsford and Surrey.
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