A group campaigning to keep the RCMP in Surrey says its fight is far from over, despite the province giving the proposed municipal police force the green light.
“We will carry on because it’s not over until it’s over, and at this stage, it’s not over,” said Ivan Scott, organizer of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign.
Scott and his team have collected 25,000 signatures from Surrey residents so far, a number he hopes to double in the coming months.
B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth gave the municipal police force transition the go-ahead Thursday. Farnworth also announced a joint committee to oversee the process, lead by former attorney general Wally Oppal.
“It’s a little win for us,” Scott CTV News.
Scott says he’s pleased that the transition will now have provincial oversight. He hopes he will be given the opportunity to meet with Oppal, if his campaign reaches its goal.
“We would like to have some input in what he’s got to say and if that leads to a referendum, then so be it,” explained Scott.
Former Mayor Dianne Watts is also weighing in on the issue. Watts believes transitioning to a municipal force will cost taxpayers more than the current RCMP.
“We really have to pay attention to where is that money coming from, because I heard the mayor also say that he’s not going to raise taxes. Therefore, it's going to come from somewhere,” said Watts.
She believes that could result in cuts to municipal programs or the sale of city land or other assets. Watts said she’s disappointed in City Hall’s public consultation process so far.
“You can’t make a fundamental change like this without bringing the general public along. That’s why the public consultations were such a sham because there was no information to give to the general public,” said the Former Mayor.
Watts believes unrest within council may be contributing to the problem.
“When you have a divide like that, what happens is you tend to do more things behind closed doors so you won’t be criticized for whatever path you want to take," she said.
Councillors Steven Pettrigrew, Brenda Locke, and Jack Hundial have left the mayor’s Safe Surrey Coalition over various disagreements with Doug McCallum and chose to sit as independents. The mayor announced the members of the city’s Police Transition Advisory Committee in July, naming only the remaining members of his party.
McCallum has faced criticism for a lack of transparency since coming into office, though members of his party say that’s an unfair assessment.
“We put our campaign into five words. So SkyTrain, Police and Smart Developments, and if you saw us elected than you knew exactly what we were going to do,” said Allison Patton, a Safe Surrey City councillor.
Patton says the party is open to feedback from the public.
“We are creating a Police Service, it is going to happen. That’s my perspective, and I think we can now come together with great ideas to make it the best possible service that we can.”
The Surrey Police Force is expected to be up and running in April 2021.