Rally planned ahead of vote on controversial Surrey budget
SURREY, B.C. -- A group of Surrey residents will be making a last-ditch effort to stop a contentious budget from being adopted Monday night.
The city's five-year financial plan has been criticized because it has not earmarked money for new hires for both RCMP and firefighters while nearly $130 million has been set aside for hte city's transition to a municipal police force.
City council voted 5-4 in support of the five-year draft budget earlier this month and demonstrators at the rally are hoping at least one councillor will have a change of heart before the final vote.
"There are so many things with this budget that’s going to put the city in a backwards position that I’m hoping someone will have a sober second thought and put the brakes on this," said rally organizer Mike Starchuk.
Starchuk is a retired firefighter and a former Surrey councillor from 2014 to 2018.
He said he’s frustrated by city council's lack of transparency.
"No one's told me why going in this direction is safer and better for the City of Surrey. They said, 'Here, eat your oatmeal, it’s good for you.'"
Some residents have raised public safety concerns about the hiring freeze while millions will be spent towards creating a new municipal police force.
This will be the second year in a row that Surrey RCMP have been denied hiring new officers.
Earlier this month, Surrey RCMP Assistant Comm. Dwayne McDonald said the hiring freeze would have a "detrimental effect" for the city.
McDonald said this year, there’s been a three per cent increase in calls for service, which is translates to roughly 463 additional calls a month.
He said there was also a 3.6 per cent increase in files, which is about 585 additional files per month.
Darlene Bennett, the widow whose husband was shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity, is expected to speak at the rally.
In response to the five-year financial plan, Bennett told CTV News it was a "poorly thought-out political dream."
She believes city council should provide more resources right now.
"Isn't that what this budget supports? That the citizens of Surrey are expendable? That the creation of a municipal police force comes at the expense of human life? It’s not accept now and it never will be," she said at the time.
City council is expected to vote on the budget at 7 p.m.