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NDP MLAs doubt Surrey cop transition will be an election issue

Meanwhile Mayor Brenda Locke says a city budget review related to the cost will be done in September. The election is set for Oct. 19
Casting a vote. (Black Press file photo)

Surrey NDP MLA incumbents seeking re-election on Oct. 19 indicate they don’t expect the city’s policing transition controversy to play a big role during the campaign.

So far, five of seven have revealed their intention to run in the next provincial election.

However, many Surrey residents who will vote in the election are already shouldering a seven per cent tax increase this year that Surrey’s general manager of finance Kam Grewal said would not have happened had the Surrey Police Service not existed, and the city was “still in the RCMP-only world.” The city’s budget for 2024 includes a six per cent property tax hike, a one per cent increase in the roads and tax levy, and a secondary suite fee increase on top of costlier utility rate fees.

Locke said in April that if the City is mandated to continue with the policing transition Surrey taxpayers are “facing an increased cost of a half a billion dollars over the next decade compared to the cost of the Surrey RCMP” and she has also indicated that a budgetary review would take place in the fall.

One day after it was revealed on May 23 that the City lost the judicial review related to the transition, Locke told the Now-Leader that review will likely take place in September.

“The timing of this for Surrey residents, the provincial election is not my concern, my concern is to make sure the residents have a budget update and that is what we’re going to be doing,” she said. “We absolutely will be doing a budget update so that the City and the residents and more importantly the taxpayers know what the costs are going to be (for the 2025 budget).”

“We know the cost implications are worse than we thought so we want to make sure our residents know and are prepared and they know who is imposing this – that’s important because it is certainly not any of the Surrey MLAs that stood up for the taxpayer in Surrey.”

“At a time of affordability like we’re in right now, this is going to be devastating to our taxpayers,” she said. “Seven per cent is this year and at we said at budget time we would have had a zero tax increase this year had it not been for the Surrey Police Service, so if we had adopted – which we did not – adopted the budget that the Surrey Police Service actually gave us for this year, we would have had to have an additional seven per cent, but we held back on that. So moving forward, it’s going to be extraordinary. For the 2025 budget year, we will have to have a significant tax increase.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told the Now-Leader on May 23 that his decision to have the Surrey RCMP replaced with the SPS “was not based on electoral prospects regarding the election that we will have in October. The public will judge us on our overall record. My responsibility, my statutory obligation was to make a decision around safe, effective policing around the transition, and that’s what I have done.”

Premier David Eby told reporters on Monday the NPD government believes its $150 million offer to help the City with the transition represents “the true cost” backed up by independent accounting work and budgetary work “that was done for the provincial government.”

“That money is still there,” he said. “We have had to deploy that money directly ourselves because of the ongoing challenge with the City of Surrey and the conflict, frankly, that the residents are completely tired of and just want us all to move on from.

“The commitment I can make to the people of Surrey,” Eby said, “is we will ensure that the taxpayers are protected. We will make sure that on the transition costs, that the people of the city of Surrey are looked after.”

READ ALSO: BREAKING NEWS: Surrey loses policing transition court case

READ ALSO: Surrey would’ve had a zero tax hike in 2024 with no SPS, council hears

“But how we do do that given the ongoing challenges, frankly, that we have with the mayor of Surrey and her continued desire to lengthen the conflict and stretch it out and make it worse instead of finding a path for us all to move forward, is hard to say at this point. The Province has assumed control – we have an administrator running Surrey Police Service, we are administrating the funds to make sure that the transition continues, got special legislation to assume that control and we have now received a court judgment now that of course we are allowed to do these things as we told the City of Surrey we were allowed to do these things.”

Former Surrey Mountie Garry Begg is going for a third term in Surrey-Guildford. His acclamation meeting was May 23 at Johnston Heights Church. He said he feels he has more to accomplish in public office and “I think I should run again.”

“I think the issues are pretty clear across the province. I think there is a great consternation on most people’s part about the two free-enterprise – so-called free-enterprise – parties getting together. The premier has said, and I agree with him, that decisions of the province should not be made in the boardroom as it would be with those groups, but around the kitchen table.”

As for the policing transition, Begg said, “I don’t know that it will be an issue in Surrey. I really think that this is now the law, it is something that has been legislated and my hope and my expectation is that the people of Surrey will commit together to making the best of it.”

Bruce Ralston, NDP MLA for Surrey-Whalley since 2005, is also seeking re-election and says he thinks Surrey’s issues will be the same as provincial issues: cost of living, health care, housing, public education and transportation. The policing transition, he anticipates, won’t be forefront.

“I think that’s underway and my sense of what I hear from people is that most people want us to get on with it and so that’s what we’re doing I think under minister Farnworth, the legislation is passed and we’re moving forward with it.”

He said his acclamation meeting will be in the middle of June. “We’re just deciding on the final date.”

“I have something to contribute to the government and the group in terms of the economic agenda of our government. I’ve always been interested in the natural resource sector, and I’ve also had experience now being minister of the technology sector, life sciences, I’m interested in trade so I think I have a very well-rounded and strong understanding of the economic drivers of the province and how that creates jobs and prosperity for communities here in British Columbia.”

As for stumping, he added, “run scared or run last, that’s the old adage. Never take it for granted, that’s for sure. I never do.”

READ ALSO: Jinny Sims acclaimed NDP MLA candidate for Surrey-Panorama

READ ALSO: Surrey MLA Rachna Singh announces candidacy for re-election

Jagrup Brar, NDP incumbent for Surrey-Fleetwood, has not yet revealed his intention. “I’m going to announce my future plan in the near future,” he said May 22. “I will let you know soon.”

Labour Minister and Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains did not reply.

Mike Starchuk’s nomination meeting will be June 8 at the firefighters union hall, Station 1271 on Harvie Road and 88th Avenue. He’s seeking a second term.

“I can tell you personally from my inbox that’s here it’s not an issue for the constituents that I have,” he said of the policing transition. “There may be one or two emails a month that are concerned about the cost and other things like that. I think everybody that’s around is just waiting for this thing to be over. There’s so many of the people that are driving those RCMP-marked vehicles that are SPS members and people just don’t know about it, but the fact of the matter is there’s a big chunk of policing that’s out there general duty-wise that are already that way,” Starchuck said, “so I’m not overly concerned that the people, at least in my riding, are out there saying that they want to keep the RCMP.”

Rachna Singh, education minister and NDP incumbent for Surrey-Green Timbers, will run for a third term after her acclamation on May 21.

A party press release quotes her as saying she promises to “take action to improve housing, affordability, education, and health care in Surrey North.”

From India originally, Singh came to Canada in 2001 and raised her family in B.C.

A petition to recall her was filed with Elections BC late last year due to the implementation of SOGI 123 — the divisive educational resource used in the province’s schools. The petition failed as it did not receive the necessary number of signatures to move forward.

This was the first instance where a Surrey MLA was targeted by an attempted recall.

Veteran NDP MLA Jinny Sims was acclaimed as her party’s candidate in Surrey-Panorama on April 4 at Sullivan Hall. Sims was elected as NDP MP for Newton-North Delta in 2011, and then NDP MLA for Surrey-Panorama – which she presently serves – in 2017 and again in 2020.

“For me, we’re in such a good trajectory and people looking from the outside say wow. So I would like to see that trajectory continue and I say to people, because of the very fast growth in Surrey, you know how challenging it is. Nobody, not even government, not even federal, provincial, could have predicted the kind of growth we’ve experienced and that creates extra-ordinary challenges.

She hopes the campaign will be one of “facts, data and science.”

“There is so much misinformation out there that I worry about the future of democracy,” Sims said. “For me, my goal is going to be keep it focused on the issues and what we can do, and keep it a very positive campaign.”

Those issues here will be housing, health care and education, she said. On the policing transition, she said, “I’m hoping that that will be resolved very, very soon. It’s time to move on.”

– with a file from Sobia Moman

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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