Frank Bucholtz

COLUMN: Council meeting ban may come back to haunt Safe Surrey Coalition

Charter of Rights and municipal procedure issues at play

A 5-4 vote to ban seven individuals from almost all contact with the City of Surrey may come back to haunt Mayor Doug McCallum and his four Safe Surrey Coalition allies on council. They have sown the wind, and may reap the whirlwind.

There is a strong possibility it will be overturned in court. Such bans have occurred on very rare occasions in B.C. municipalities, but they usually come as the result of court orders. This one didn’t, and seems unlikely to withstand a legal challenge.

There are Charter of Rights issues, and there are municipal procedure issues.

Any one of them could see a judge overturn such a sweeping, out of left field ban.

The court case may turn out to be one of the least of the SSC’s worries.

This ban was passed at a committee meeting, the day after council returned from its lengthy break. All four non-SSC councillors opposed it. The immediate reaction in Surrey and far beyond was one of incredulity.

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The ban did follow a move by council a few months earlier to institute procedures regarding ethical behaviour, and how to deal with supposed breaches. These were aimed at councillors – not citizens.

However, while that sparked some controversy and appeared as overkill to some people, it did not appear mean-spirited and vindictive.

It may have been a foreshadowing of last week’s ban.

The vote to ban the seven, all of them members of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group, also followed a strange incident at a South Surrey mall on Sept. 4. Petitioners for a campaign trying to get a referendum on the policing transition had an encounter with McCallum.

Words were exchanged and the mayor claimed that one member of the group had run over his foot. He even showed bruising to television reporters.

McCallum has been deeply involved in politics for more than 30 years, and he has supporters who treat politics as a blood sport. The most serious damage that this ban could inflict will come on two fronts – the future of the Surrey Police, and the 2022 municipal election.

It is hard to believe that the senior management of the new police service are not dismayed by silly actions on the part of the council members pushing for the new service. While they have all left good jobs to come to the new police force, will they want to stay if such things continue?

All it would take is for one of them to leave, and the whole transition could come crashing down.

As for the 2022 election, it remains McCallum’s to lose.

As noted here before, if there are two strong mayoral candidates opposing him, he will likely win. He will probably bring enough supporting councillors into office on his coat tails to control council for four more years.

However, depending how this ban plays out over the coming months and into 2022, it could lead to a very different outcome.

Frank Bucholtz writes twice a month for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca – email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

City CouncilColumnPoliticsSurrey