The widow of a Surrey murder victim has filed an application with Elections BC seeking a binding referendum vote on whether the Surrey Police Service should replace the Surrey RCMP.
Darlene Bennett is a registered nurse. Her late husband Paul Bennett was shot dead in front of their Cloverdale home in 2018 in what police believe was a case of mistaken identity. The case has not been solved.
She’s spearheading the Surrey Police Vote campaign based on guidelines prescribed under the B.C. Referendum Act, which permits cabinet to order one, and the B.C. Recall and Initiative Act.
“Surrey residents are seeing the costs of this proposed Surrey Police Service go up and up,” Bennett said. “Later this month, homeowners will receive inflated property tax bills to pay for this expensive and unnecessary transition. There has been no feasibility study, no clear plan, and no obvious public safety benefit. Surrey voters have been asking for a definitive say on this with no response, and now we’re asking government to hold a referendum.”
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has repeatedly insisted, however, that replacing the Surrey RCMP with the Surrey Police Service is “a done deal.”
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s solicitor general, said Friday that Bennett can “follow the rules” by which the initiative and recall act operates, “but at then end of the day this was a decision made by Surrey council and Surrey council, if they want to overturn it, you know that they need to take it up with Surrey council.
“I know the initiative, the last time it was done was with the HST and it’s province-wide, is my understanding,” he told the Now-Leader.
Bennett said her campaign will begin by recruiting canvassers and supporters remotely through social media, email and a website on account of COVID-19 and will later host in-person signing events if provincial health orders permit.
“We have been waiting for months to safely launch this campaign, and – with more and more vaccines in sight and increasing controversy around the policing transition costs and implementation – I believe the time is now. I trust the RCMP and do not want Paul’s case compromised, or any reduction in public safety. I am absolutely committed to giving Surrey taxpayers a voice,” Bennett said Wednesday.
“Whether you support retaining the RCMP, as I do, or want the proposed Surrey Police Service, I believe everyone should have a vote on the final decision.”
Bill Tielman, who was a consultant and strategist for former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s successful 2010 Fight HST campaign, is helping Bennett and the National Police Federation, which represents RCMP officers across Canada, is funding the campaign.
Meantime, a Surrey city councillor now opposed to the transition after voting for it at council’s inaugural meeting in 2018, has already seen two of her motions seeking a referendum defeated by the Safe Surrey Coalition majority on council, on a five-to-four vote.
“I think there will be many people ready and happy to sign her petition,” Councillor Brenda Locke told the Now-Leader on Wednesday. “And so I think her success is imminent. I think she will be very successful – I’m excited.”