B.C. proposed changes to the Police Act, that if approved, would mandate the City of Surrey to complete the transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service.
Mayor Brenda Locke says city won’t back down on decision to stick with RCMP
Emily Vance · CBC News
B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth introduced legislation Monday that, if approved, would force the City of Surrey to complete its transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service (SPS).
Under the proposed Police Act amendments, municipalities would have to follow through on policing transition plans approved by the minister of public safety and solicitor general. Failing that, the legislation would allow the minister to determine a path forward.
“[This legislation] makes it clear that the Surrey police transition will continue … that Surrey must go to a municipal police force,” Farnworth said.
In July, the province used its powers to order the city to continue the transition from the RCMP to the SPS. The order escalated existing tensions between the two levels of government by effectively forcing Surrey’s new council to reverse its decision to keep the RCMP.
In response, the city announced it was filing a petition in the B.C. Supreme Court challenging the provincial order.
The proposed amendments lay out a process that all municipalities must follow if they wish to change their police force. Farnworth said part of the legislation’s rationale is to provide “clarity” so no government has to go through a situation like Surrey, with changing plans, again.
WATCH | Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says legislation could help in the future:
B.C. public safety minister says legislation will help future police transitions
Featured VideoAs the province introduces legislation to compel the City of Surrey to transition away from the RCMP, Mike Farnworth says it could provide a blueprint for future police transitions.
“[The legislation] makes it clear that if you were to make a decision to change to another policing agency, you are not going back,” Farnworth said.
The update also gives the province the authority to cancel the RCMP contract it has with Surrey.
‘We’re not changing that position’
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke said the city is in the process of reviewing the legislation, but wants to be “clear” that her stance has not changed. The pledge to keep the RCMP was a major part of the campaign leading to her election last October.
“The City of Surrey has made a position, we’re not changing that position and so we’ll be reviewing the legislation and see what happens as we move forward,” she said.
The estimated cost of the transition is about $464 million Locke said, citing the high cost to taxpayers as the reason she’s determined to stop it.
WATCH | Surrey mayor determined to stay with RCMP:
Surrey mayor says city won’t back down as police legislation introduced
Featured VideoMayor Brenda Locke stands firm on keeping the Surrey RCMP as the B.C. government tries to force the issue by introducing legislation to force the transition to the Surrey Police Service.
“We are not going to let our taxpayers down,” Locke said.
Previously, the City of Surrey said the municipality would face a shortfall of $314 million over a 10-year period if it was forced to complete the SPS transition. The province has offered $150 million toward the transition.
Locke said she could not speculate on the city’s case as it’s before the courts.
Farnworth said any continued legal proceedings would be handled by the province’s legal services branch.
“The province always has the ability to govern and that’s what we’re doing. The court process, that’s up to the City of Surrey,” Farnworth said.
The City of Surrey has retained lawyer Peter German, a former RCMP deputy commissioner, for the court challenge.
German, speaking Tuesday on CBC’s The Early Edition, said the legislation introduced Monday was “heavy handed.”
“It does appear to be a last-ditch attempt on the part of the province to stop this transition, which is an absolutely costly, tremendously costly, undertaking,” said German.
He said the RCMP has 760 officers working in Surrey and, according to numbers provided by the SPS to the city in September, the municipal force has nowhere near that capacity yet.
“Somehow, SPS, if this were to continue, would have to find another 500 officers,” said German.
German would not comment on the potential impacts of the legislation, saying it is currently being reviewed by legal advisors for the city.
The SPS said in a statement they will wait until the legislation is approved before commenting on it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily Vance is an award-winning journalist based in Victoria, B.C. She is a graduate of BCIT’s Broadcast and Online Journalism program, and holds a B.A. in International Relations from UBC. You can email her at email@example.com.
With files from The Early Edition