Premier David Eby said there will be no more money for the City of Surrey beyond $150 million that was promised by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth this past summer to help the city shoulder the cost of transitioning to the Surrey Police Service from the Surrey RCMP.
“There is no more money,” Eby told reporters in Victoria on Monday. “There is no more money. There is $150 million on the table Surrey hasn’t taken us up on. They have a surplus in their policing budget, they have a surplus overall, there is no more money.
“Having that shadow-boxing discussion about money on line items that we don’t have awareness of, don’t know what the mayor’s talking about when she says there is more costs, it’s just impossible.”
But Mayor Brenda Locke maintains those “line items” can be found in the city’s Oct. 13 petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking a judicial review of Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth’s July 19 order for the city to continue with the transition to the SPS, contrary to the wishes of council’s majority.
“He needs to look at the petition, it’s outlined in the petition,” Locke told the Now-Leader on Tuesday. “Maybe he hasn’t had a chance to look at it yet.”
“I find it pretty disrespectful on behalf of both the premier and his solicitor general that they don’t lift a phone and call, they would rather do this through the media,” Locke said, “and I don’t comply to that.”
“I think they don’t know what to do and they are trying to pressure me into withdrawing the petition,” Locke said. “They want to have a simple solution to a very, very complicated situation and they’re having a hard time proving their case. I have asked them many times to tell me why they’re doing this.
“We’ve got 72 years of RCMP doing a great job for the City of Surrey, we’ve got a crime severity index that has declined for over a decade and all of a sudden now we’re saying they’re no longer keeping Surrey safe? I beg to differ.”
The court petition claims the promised $150 million – which the city has not yet received – would leave Surrey with a shortfall of $85.4 million from fiscal years 2023 to 2027 “exclusive of anticipated capital costs.”
Locke maintains the $150 million being offered toward the cost of the transition is not nearly enough to avoid massive tax increases for Surrey residents and would leave a funding shortfall of more than $314 million. The city estimates that, excluding costs of the transition, the SPS will annually cost $31.9 million more than keeping the RCMP and that dissolving the SPS to retain the Surrey RCMP would save Surrey about $235.4 million over the next five years.
“Let me be very clear again – I will not sit on the sidelines and accept a provincial plan that will cost Surrey taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, lead to significant tax increases, and that will deliver no public safety benefit,” she said during council’s regular meeting on Oct. 16.
The following day, Eby told reporters that the provincial government “has committed to Surrey that we will support them, we understand their additional costs here, we will be working with that and I’m happy to have those discussions with Surrey.”
Meantime, Locke sent a letter out to fellow mayors on Oct. 20 stating Surrey’s case, charging the provincial government with “creating an environment for policing instability in the region” and that it’s “trying to take power over policing away from local governments.”
She added in her letter she will be seeking “hundreds of millions more from the Province to protect Surrey taxpayers” if it has the ability through “unprecedented legislation” to force the transition ahead.
If Surrey doesn’t maintain the RCMP as its police of jurisdiction, she told the mayors, Surrey’s share of division adminstrative costs – $32 million per year – will “need to be absorbed by all other municipalities across B.C. that continue to have RCMP provide policing services.”
Locke told the Now-Leader she sent the letter “letting them know that this is not just something that’s going to impact Surrey, that if you’re an RCMP jurisdiction you’re going to get hit with significant costs.”