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Surrey mayor taking the province to court over policing – again

Surrey's mayor has announced another court challenge of B.C.'s moves to push forward the transition to a municipal police force.

Brenda Locke, who was elected on a promise to keep the RCMP as the police of jurisdiction in the city, said a petition was filed in B.C. Supreme Court Monday challenging the constitutionality of recent amendments to the province's Police Act.

"The question before the court is whether the province has the constitutional right to do what it is attempting to do to Surrey and to Surrey taxpayers with this legislation," Locke said.

"Surrey voters deserve to have their voices heard," she also said, describing the moves the provincial government has taken to advance the transition to the Surrey Police Service as an "attempted police takeover."

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth introduced legislation last month to "clarify" the process for municipalities wishing to change police forces.

“These amendments mean that the confusion caused by the City of Surrey won’t be repeated elsewhere in B.C." Farnworth said in a statement at the time.

"When passed, these amendments will ensure policing transitions proceed in a way that provides certainty for people and maintains public safety.”

The new legislation makes it a legal requirement for a city to follow through on a transition once it has been approved by the province. It also gave the province specific powers in relation to Surrey, including the authority to appoint an administrator to replace the police board – something Farnworth did on Nov. 17.

"This government does not have the right to run roughshod on every local government that doesn't bend to their will," the mayor said.

Locke said her campaign pledge to keep the Mounties was made with the understanding that cities have the ultimate authority over policing. However, Farnworth's ministry did not approve the city's plan to keep the RCMP and ordered the transition to the SPS to continue in July.

That order prompted the city's first legal challenge.

Locke, asked Monday if she was digging in her heels, said she remains committed to keeping the RCMP because it is what citizens voted for and because the ongoing transition will be too costly to taxpayers.

"If they try to force Surrey to pay for an unaffordable police transition, we will use every measure at our disposal to stop them," she said.

The administrator appointed to replace the Surrey Police Board has not yet brought a budget forward to council but Locke said the cost will result in "double-digit" tax hikes.

"I am concerned for young families, seniors, everybody, ordinary citizens that are going to be dramatically impacted by this NDP tax on Surrey," Locke said.

An independent financial analysis commissioned by the B.C. government determined that fully staffing the SPS with the 700-plus officers required would cost $30 million more annually than the Surrey RCMP – but that disbanding the SPS would cost Surrey $72 million in severance pay.

Earlier this year, the B.C. government offered $150 million to help offset the additional costs of running the SPS. The Ministry of Public Safety said the province remains committed to providing that funding. Top Stories


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