Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum recalled a vote to defeat a motion that challenged his legitimacy to continue his duties while his criminal public mischief charge remains unresolved. This time, he won.
McCallum is charged with one count of public mischief contrary to Section 140(2) of the Criminal Code, stemming from an encounter last September between himself and a group that was gathering petition signatures outside the South Point Save-On-Foods store in South Surrey for a referendum on the policing transition. The mayor claimed a car ran over his foot.
His trial is set to begin on Oct. 31, two weeks after the election. The next step is a pre-trial conference set for Aug. 31 in Surrey provincial court.
McCallum called a special regular council meeting May 12 with a single item on the agenda – to sustain his ruling May 9 that the related notice of motion Coun. Brenda Locke presented that same night was out of order.
Typically McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition has its way, with 5-4 votes, but May 9 marked a rare occasion with Locke’s motion squeaking by on a 4-3 vote because McCallum was required to abstain and Elford was absent.
Elford was present for the May 12 vote, however, but councillors Jack Hundial and Steven Pettigrew were not. Councillors Laurie Guerra, Allison Patton,, Mandeep Nagra and Elford voted in favour of McCallum’s motion that simply read “Shall the Chair be sustained.”
Locke and Coun. Linda Annis voted against it. After the vote, council then went into a session that was closed to the public.
City solicitor Philip Huynh told council that the vote to sustain the chair “passes in the affirmative if the votes are equal.”
After the meeting, Annis told the Now-Leader she was told May 11 that the special meeting was called for May 12 but she didn’t know what the subject matter was.
“It was pretty quick turnaround,” she said. “Which is unfortunate, because two of the council members weren’t able to make it in so Jack Hundial and Steven Pettigrew didn’t make it in, which is unfortunate. To be honest with you, I’m shocked. Normally what we do, a notice of motion, the motion is then debated at the next council meeting and I was quite shocked to find out that was what we were meeting about today, that we weren’t waiting until the next meeting.
“All along, I have felt that he should step aside, certainly not resign, but should step aside, with pay, until the court case has gone through the process,” Annis said of the mayor. “I just think that’s the right thing to do. And I have no idea why he would put such a sense of urgency on it, he doesn’t for other matters like this, but this one had to be dealt with right away in his mind and quite frankly I think it should have waited until the next council meeting.”
The Now-Leader has reached out to McCallum and Elford for comment. McCallum declined.
Just prior to the May 12 meeting, Locke seemed broadsided.
“We didn’t get any notice of it, like I said, I only picked this up like two hours ago.”
“It’s so inappropriate,” she said. “Simply this notice of motion was direction to staff to say we have a mayor with charges, there is going to be new legislation that speaks to the issue of people with charges, where do we sit? Where do we sit as council, where do you sit as staff, where does he sit as the mayor?”
Locke’s motion – which prior to the May 12 meeting was set to be debated and voted on at council’s meeting on May 30 – concerned provincial government Bill 20, the Municipal Statutes Amendment Act 2022, which received third and final reading on May 3 and awaits Royal Assent. Once that happens, politicians charged with a crime will be required to take a leave of absence from the date they’re charged until legal proceedings are done.
McCallum said May 9 he was advised this wouldn’t apply to him, though, and on that basis he ruled Locke’s motion out of order. Huynh also said it’s his understanding Bill 20 does not have avretroactive effect, and “in other words it does not affect charges that were already in place before this bill becomes law.”
Locke’s motion, presented to council May 9, reads that “be it resolved that council be advised in a clear and unequivocal term the impact of the mayor being required to take a leave of absence from council’s responsibilities in assuming the duties otherwise required of the mayor.”
Those duties, she continued, include but are not limited to McCallum’s duties on the Metro Vancouver Board and its committees, TransLink Mayors’ Council, his chairmanship of the Surrey Police Board Board, and his participation in provincial and national municipal associations, “as well as representing the city internationally and representing and speaking as the mayor on or behalf of council or the city on any matter.”