Surrey councillor calls for mayor’s resignation over ‘misleading’ RCMP comments

A Surrey, B.C., city councillor is calling on Mayor Brenda Locke to resign over a recent statement claiming the region’s mayors back the city’s plan to scrap a transition to a municipal police force.

The dispute surrounds a motion passed unanimously on April 5 at a Metro Vancouver Regional District Board mayors’ committee meeting to send a letter to the province, calling for it to speed up its final decision on Surrey’s police transition.

Read more: ‘Apology is owed’: Surrey mayor urged to correct record on Metro Vancouver Surrey RCMP motion

The motion did not expressly support either the retention of the Mounties or the continuation of the transition to the Surrey Police Service.

However, in a subsequent media release, Locke characterized the motion as an expression of support for her position “that Surrey should not only retain the RCMP, but a decision on this matter must be made promptly.”

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Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Delta Mayor George Harvie, who authored the motion, have since disputed that characterization.

Click to play video: 'Surrey mayor addresses ‘misleading’ statement at Monday’s council meeting'

Surrey mayor addresses ‘misleading’ statement at Monday’s council meeting

At Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Doug Elford with the Safe Surrey Coalition submitted a motion calling for Locke to resign over the comments, and for the city to remove Locke’s media release from its website.

“She refused to remove the statement or apologize and admit she made a mistake. I’m considering that a form of misleading the public,” Elford said.

“This requires investigation whether or not she’s violated her oath of office.”

Read more: B.C. government needs ‘additional information’ before decision on Surrey Police Service

Elford argued the dispute has weakened confidence in Surrey’s civic government, and that he is surprised the mayor’s statement remains online.

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“People are very, very concerned. There’s a lack of trust out there among the leadership of this city at a critical time when we are dealing with many, many issues. Our violence and our crime issues,” he said.

“Do the other mayors trust us now when we’re going about our business? When you’re the second largest city in British Columbia, you need leadership that has integrity, honour and transparency. All of these things she campaigned on.”

Click to play video: 'Apology sought for Surrey mayor’s ‘inaccurate’ statement on police support'

Apology sought for Surrey mayor’s ‘inaccurate’ statement on police support

Locke did not immediately address Elford’s motion when it was submitted, but later in the meeting made a statement of her own, saying her interpretation of the matter was based on conversations with other mayors who were in the room at the time.

“It was certainly not my intent to make misleading statement — I made that in very good faith,” Locke said.

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“It is evident that there are different interpretations and confusion of that motion. Mayors in the room heard it in their own perspective. As there was no discussion on the motion, it is possible that even though the vote was unanimous, that there was not consensus in the room.”

Read more: Surrey Police Service deploys more officers as fate of department hangs in limbo

In an interview with Global News Tuesday, Locke held firm to that position, adding it was “disappointing” Elford “wants to play politics.”

“There were a number of people at that meeting. There were a number, obviously, of different opinions that happened at that meeting. I think councillor Elford wasn’t there, he doesn’t know what was said before and after the meeting,” she said.

“That is my interpretation of the motion. The motion voted unanimously, I asked if anyone had anything they wanted to add to it. If you read the motion, it specifies the RCMP in the motion, so it seems like there’s a myriad of different opinions.”

Click to play video: 'Surrey policing uncertainty impacting tax hike proposal'

Surrey policing uncertainty impacting tax hike proposal

Locke added that the furor over the motion has overshadowed the fact that the province has yet to make a final decision on policing in the city.

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She said Surrey is spending an additional $8 million every month supporting both police forces, and that the delay was hurting police morale and public safety.

Kash Heed, a current Richmond city councillor and former public safety minister, said the ongoing delay in sorting out Surrey’s policing situation had created a “chaotic” situation.

Read more: Continuing transition to Surrey Police Service would cost estimated $235M: report

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“It’s ridiculous what’s going on. It’s a problem of a local government that is trying to do what they want to do, you’ve got the province that has a decision to be made here, they’re balking at making a decision in a timely matter,” he said.

He added that the dispute has taken away from important conversations about how to address the reality of crime on the ground in Surrey.

“This whole debate has to centre around what we need to do to create safety on the streets, in the public places, for lowering the fear of crime in Surrey,” Heed said.

“We need to do what creates the most effective, efficient and accountable police service for Surrey.”

Farnworth has said his ministry aims to have a final decision about whether to keep or scrap the Surrey Police Service by the end of April.

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