A public clash, questionable survey and allegations of muzzling at Surrey City Hall
Several councillors are speaking out about the conduct of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum.
Several Surrey councillors have come forward voicing concerns and displeasure with the mayor's handling of city affairs on the heels of questionable survey results and a public blow-up between Doug McCallum and another councillor.
The clash between McCallum and Steven Pettigrew came Monday night at a scheduled council meeting as Pettigrew questioned the mayor, who chairs council meetings, about the rules of order.
Three councillors, two of whom ran on the same slate as McCallum in the fall's civic election, were unhappy to see McCallum threaten to throw Pettigrew out of council chambers during the tiff, and say it's an indication of a much larger issue.
"There's definitely a tension at city hall and it is palpable, you feel it," revealed councillor Brenda Locke.
Fellow councillor Linda Annis agreed.
"I think council is very frustrated right now. They're not being heard, they're not given the opportunity to put forward motions and things are being rushed through -- That's not the way any council should be run," she told CTV News Vancouver.
Councillor Jack Hundial went even further, suggesting the mayor was trying to centralize power in his chair, rather than allowing councillors to raise issues as motions, which are followed by a vote between the councillors; the mayor only votes in the event of a tie.
"In the city of Surrey, nine people were elected and trying to stifle the voting in a certain manner by manipulating procedures or not having a transparent agenda makes it really difficult," he said.
Aside from feeling stifled by the mayor, the three councillors voiced similar concerns with the results of an online survey and public consultations released by the mayor's office earlier on Monday.
Titled "Overwhelming Citizen Support for Surrey Police Department," the preliminary results of the survey were touted by McCallum as supporting his campaign promise to replace the RCMP with a civic police force.
"It is clear to me that the people of Surrey are ready for the switch to a city police department and it is my desire to deliver on their wishes," he's quoted as saying in the press release.
But none of the questions directly asked respondents whether they wanted to change their policing model, and the results were submitted before a transition report anticipated fewer officers at a higher cost than the current RCMP model.
"They're very generic questions and they didn't have any meaning or any correlation with the change in the badge form a Surrey RCMP to a Surrey Police Department," pointed out Locke, who says the overwhelming majority of people she's spoken to both in and out of the community consultations told her they want to stay with the RCMP.
"Anyone who's taken a basic stats course will tell you it is statistically impossible to get those results," added Hundial, referring to support in the 98 and 99 per cent range for questions like whether people wanted to see more uniformed patrols in their neighbourhoods.
"We know for a fact there's people from outside of Surrey voting on it, because there's online voting and with online voting there's no authentication process."
When CTV News asked the mayor's office for a breakdown how many of the 11,103 survey responses were online versus from the in-person consultation sessions, we were told those details were unavailable.
A request for an interview with the mayor to address the vague survey questions, the clash at council and concerns of councillors was also turned down.
Councillors are now in a position where they're trying to find a way to get work done in the region's fastest-growing city despite feeling hamstrung by a mayor they see as trying to centralize power in his office.
"We all came to council with good ideas, they all should be voiced to make Surrey a better place to live," said Annis. "Surrey is soon going to be bigger than Vancouver and we need to bump it up a bit and get things moving along and working together as a team"
Locke wouldn't call the current dynamic dysfunctional, but voiced concern.
"I would say the amount of angst that's involved at city hall right now is a problem.