Frank Bucholtz

COLUMN: Even if McCallum is convicted, his resignation is not a foregone conclusion

Surrey mayor scheduled to make first court appearance on mischief charges in January

Mayor Doug McCallum has been charged with public mischief, in connection with a Sept. 4 incident at a South Surrey mall. He had claimed a supporter of Keeping the RCMP in Surrey had run over his foot.

The matter was investigated by Surrey RCMP and evidence put in the hands of special prosecutor Richard Fowler, who recommended charges be laid. McCallum will appear in court in January.

It is one of a long string of strange events involving Surrey council over the past three years. Most have centred around McCallum, who is no stranger to controversy. Given that he was the only member of Surrey council elected in 2018 with council experience, and that he occupies the very strategic mayor’s office, the twists and turns are not surprising.

It was surprising to many that McCallum was even elected, after being out of office for 13 years. However, the ruling Surrey First slate made his victory possible when it engaged in a very public controversy over which of its eight council members would be the candidate for mayor.

The slate split in two and McCallum came up the middle, beating out Bruce Hayne (who ran with Integrity Now) and Surrey First candidate Tom Gill. Both were incumbent councillors. Had Surrey First managed to stay united, McCallum would likely have lost by more than 10,000 votes.

Once he was elected, along with eight rookie councillors (seven from his slate), he managed to get council to unanimously agree to setting up a Surrey Police Force and replacing LRT with SkyTrain. It was the last time council was so united.

Within several months, Couns. Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial and Steven Pettigrew had left McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition. Couns. Doug Elford, Mandeep Nagra, Laurie Guerra and Allison Patton have stuck with him, giving the slate a 5-4 majority – which seems to be the usual vote count after almost every important council decision.

Along the way, seven members of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group have been banned from almost any contact with the city. A controversial decision to extend 84 Avenue between King George Boulevard and 140 Street has been delayed by a court ruling. The municipal parcel tax was tripled from $100 to $300, and SSC had the audacity to claim that taxes only went up by 2.9 per cent.

Despite many efforts to stall it, the police transition continues to move forward, although it may prove difficult for it to hire enough officers, given limits on how many Surrey Police can recruit from other city police forces. The cost of the transition remains unclear.

Work is continuing on SkyTrain. Fraser Highway has already been widened through the Green Timbers and enough funding has been secured to extend it from King George Station to Langley City. However, it probably will not be operational until 2028.

If McCallum is convicted in court, he may or may not have to resign. Given the precedent set by former Port Coquitlam mayor Scott Young, who did not resign after pleading guilty to more serious charges in 2008, he won’t.

The outcome of the court case will likely mobilize and energize voters. Turnout in October’s election will be good. If McCallum is able to run, and he has two strong opponents, he is quite likely to win again.

If that happens, four more interesting and controversial years are in store for the city.

Frank Bucholtz writes twice a month for the Peace Arch News and at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca. Email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

City of SurreyColumnmunicipal politics

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