Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s next court date on his public mischief charge is set for Thursday April 14, to fix a date for his trial.
A plea has still not been entered. A virtual pre-trial conference was held Monday but was closed to the public.
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 expected to run five days. Surrey taxpayers are footing the bill for McCallum’s defence team, as part of section seven of Bylaw 15912.
Last week, the province introduced legislative amendments that would force elected officials to take paid leave when charged with a criminal offence.
But the Ministry of Municipal Affairs confirmed with the Now-Leader that the proposed amendments would not be applied retroactively, meaning they wouldn’t affect Surrey’s mayor. The legislation will only apply to criminal charges laid after the legislation receives Royal Assent and comes into effect, the ministry told the Now-Leader.
Nathan Cullen, minister of municipal affairs, introduced the bill on April 7.
‘“These changes are what municipal leaders have been calling for. These changes are what the public expects and these are changes we seek to implement,” he said.
It received first reading that morning. Cullen then made a motion for second reading at the next sitting, which passed.
Prior to introducing the bill, Cullen said, “Hopefully it will pass quite soon, so that we’re able to restore that public confidence that municipal leaders want and we all need.”
Surrey Coun. Linda Annis said this legislation is “absolutely needed” and “way overdue.”
“I think when somebody is charged with a criminal offence — they’re not guilty but they’ve been charged — and I think they should step aside, and certainly be paid, but should be on leave. I would also say, if they have appointments, things like a police board that should also be handled in the same manner.”
Coun. Brenda Locke agrees that the legislation is needed.
“I think the public has a right to and they deserve to believe in the institution of the city. Politicians … should be held at a higher regard and at a higher bar. When there is something that implicates them or causes their integrity to be in question, they need to step aside because it is a reflection of the office,” explained Locke, who is running for mayor with the Surrey Connect slate this October.
However, Locke said she thinks the provincial government is correct in choosing to not make the legislation apply retroactively.
“As much as I would like to say it would be retroactive in our situation in Surrey, realistically, I think it’s inappropriate for government to make that kind of legislation retroactive,” she noted.
The Now-Leader has reached out to the City of Surrey for comment and has yet to hear back.
Surrey’s next civic election is on Oct. 15, in which McCallum is expected to run for a second consecutive term in office. After a 13-year break from the mayor’s chair, which he occupied from 1996 to 2005, McCallum was sworn in by a judge on Nov. 5, 2018 for his fourth term as Surrey’s mayor.
The Crown is proceeding summarily in the public mischief case. Criminal cases are prosecuted either by indictment, summarily or a hybrid of the two with summary offences being the least serious of the three.
A person charged with an indictable offence is required to appear in court whereas someone accused of a summary offence is not, unless a judge says otherwise. A summary offence in B.C. is considered to be in the realm of petty crime and under the Criminal Code of Canada is the least serious type of offence.