Opinion: The Mayor’s Troubling RCMP Fixation in Surrey -- Costly Connections
On April 28, British Columbia’s Solicitor-General and Minister of Public Safety, Mike Farnworth, finally announced his decision on the city’s transition away from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service (SPS). As has become usual in this affair, Farnworth equivocated, recommending that the transition continue, but adding that the decision was in the end up to the city. Some additional public money was offered if the transition continued that would not be available if the city returned to the RCMP.
Immediately, Surrey mayor Brenda Locke announced that despite all of this, and the money already wasted on the transition, she and her ruling party would continue their obsessive commitment to the RCMP, public resources and tax levels be damned. This is par for the course at this point. I have written extensively on the sordid policing fiasco in Surrey and the harm this has caused the city.
We must ask why the mayor and ruling party maintain this commitment against good sense. And asking this question means raising concerns about their toubling connections with the RCMP and the RCMP association, the National Police Federation. Is the RCMP tail wagging the government dog in Surrey? Note that this is not an endorsement for the SPS -- they must be defunded, disarmed, and dismantled as well.
The Mayor, Ruling Government, and the RCMP
Right when you think the level of community trust in politicians and police in Surrey could not get any lower, we are given yet another reason to ask, “What is really going on in City Hall?” This comes on the heels of what appears to be a deception by Surrey’s mayor regarding a Mayor’s Committee letter on the city’s policing transition boondoggle. Mayor Locke and the city’s ruling party support ending the transition to the Surrey Police Service and keeping the RCMP.
On April 6 it was reported that “all 23 mayors on the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Committee are backing Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke’s play to retain the RCMP as the city’s police of jurisdiction rather than continue with the transition to the Surrey Police Service.”
But the next day, it came out from Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth and two Surrey opposition councillors that Mayor Locke’s statement was a mischaracterization and that the mayors' committee only called for a decision to be made soon. Indeed, the statement only said: “That the MVRD Board provide the City of Surrey with a letter of support requesting a provincial decision forthwith on the City’s request to have the RCMP provide policing services for the City of Surrey.”
Obviously, this should have been checked and confirmed before stories running with Mayor Locke’s deceptive claim. But this shows an ongoing lack of deeper scrutiny of this mayor. It is past time for some straight answers on the mayor’s obsession with the RCMP and apparent willingness to bend reality to support their cause in Surrey.
Questions, still unanswered, emerged as early as last year’s election. It was reported that during the campaign Locke’s party worked closely with Keep the RCMP in Surrey (KTRIS), appearing at events together and sharing social media posts positively. The relationship was so cozy that Stephen Carter, the campaign manager for Surrey Forward accused Surrey Connect and KTRIS of breaking third-party election laws. Carter alleged illegal collusion with Locke’s party: “In a campaign where the current Mayor is facing significant criminal charges, a second candidate has been convicted of criminal activity in the past, it is amazing that a third candidate is willing to take these unlawful liberties with a third-party advertiser.”
Shortly into their term came news that Councillor Rob Stutt voted to end the transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service while his son is employed by the Surrey RCMP and his daughter is assigned to the RCMP from the city. This is exasperating, if no longer surprising at this point. That the councillor lacked the good sense to recuse himself raises doubts about his judgment.
Not only is Mr. Stutt a councillor, but he is also chair of the Public Safety Committee, which makes this even worse. This most recent revelation calls into question the decisions being made in that body as a whole. Councillor Stutt can no longer have any credibility regarding policing issues in the city. He should, at the very least, step down as Public Safety Committee chair. The stakes are too high, and the volatility over policing in the city too intense.
Earlier this year it was reported that Locke’s government has hired veteran federal and BC Liberal insider Mark Marissen of Burrard Strategy Inc. to lobby the provincial NDP government to keep the RCMP in Surrey. The government did not release details or cost of the contract publicly. The contract was only obtained by journalists through a freedom of information request—after the city refused to give them a copy. It showed that the city was paying a rate of $10,000 per month, from January 5 to March 5, 2023. Notably, Marissen’s hourly rate was censored in the copy released by Surrey city hall. Additionally, the freedom of information office demanded payment of the $10 FOI application fee despite the fact that Locke’s election platform included a promise to eliminate the fee, raising other questions of trust. The contract should have been made public.
This has led opposition councillors to call finally for Mayor Locke’s resignation. Given the documented instances where transparency appears to have been compromised, we have to say that this is a reasonable call. And one that is probably overdue.
Resign Mayor: The Time Has Come
Surrey politics is often overshadowed by goings on in Vancouver. Too often the political goings on in our city operate in darkness, where democracy infamously dies.
Any time a politician in power appears to be more committed to a particular organization than to the public, and acts in ways that confound, obstruct, or distort the public’s right to know, it is simply time to go. In Surrey, that time has come.