Surrey rejects $250M offer from province to aid police transition, insists RCMP will stay

B.C.’s solicitor general says he is “disappointed” Surrey City Council has rejected a $250 million offer to help the city transition from the RCMP to an independent police force, calling it a “failure of the mayor and council.”

However, Mike Farnworth says the transition to the Surrey Police Service (SPS), now in its sixth year, will continue regardless of the rejection or ongoing court challenge to the province’s decision to order the switch.

“It is clear the mayor and council have chosen divisiveness and uncertainty,” he told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

Farnworth says the 10-year deal had been agreed upon in principle last week, but his office was informed it had been rejected shortly before the 4 p.m. deadline on Tuesday.

“Mayor Brenda Locke and Surrey city council have failed to act in the best interest of the people of Surrey,” he said in a statement shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke disputed Farnworth’s characterization of their discussions in confidence and said accepting the offer “would be to the detriment of our residents and overall public safety in Surrey.”

“It is the city’s position that the province provided no firm financial commitment that would provide redress to Surrey taxpayers for the full cost of transitioning to a police force they did not vote for,” she said in a statement.

A police officer with the words 'Surrey Police' stands behind a procession of people.
A Surrey Police Service officer participates in the city’s Vaisakhi parade last April. Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke has opposed the transition away from the RCMP to the municipal force. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The deal would have provided $150 million for the transition over the next five years, and up to $20 million per year for five years after that to offset the difference between salaries for SPS officers compared to RCMP, Farnworth said.

Farnworth says the city approached the province in January about transition support, and the two parties negotiated in good faith until the deal was rejected Tuesday — less than three weeks before a court date for the challenge on April 29.

The province says the $150 million will now be provided directly to the administrator it appointed to replace the SPS board — previously chaired by Surrey’s mayor — but the $100 million over five years is no longer available.

“We put solutions on the table to prevent police-related tax increases and still the city rejected it,” said Farnworth. “That was the final offer.”

Rejection a ‘slap in the face’: Surrey councillor

The news comes the same day Surrey city council released its budget, which estimates the transition will cost the city at least $500 million more over the next decade, a figure Farnworth has disputed.

The city budget proposes a property tax increase of seven per cent, which would include the additional hiring of 26 police officers.

Locke says under the terms of the Surrey Police Service, having two officers in each vehicle is mandated and that would mean the city would have to hire at least 200 more officers. 

Locke was elected on the promise to reverse the transition to the independent police force and switch back to the RCMP and has rejected the provincial government’s directive that it continue with the transition, which was already well underway when the mayor was elected. 

WATCH | Province tables offer on Surrey police transition:

B.C. government makes final offer to complete Surrey police transition

27 days ago

Duration 1:41

The province has made what it describes as a “final offer” to the City of Surrey to support the transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force. As Meera Bains reports, it’s unclear how much money is on the table, or what the deadline for the transition is.

The city is challenging the provincial order in B.C. Supreme Court, saying in a petition that the change in the Police Act by the government is unconstitutional because it places limits on voters’ freedom of expression. 

Surrey Coun. Linda Annis says city council’s rejection of the money is a “slap in the face” to taxpayers in B.C.’s second-largest municipality and proves “the transition has become about political ego, rather than city policing.”

Running both police departments costs about $8 million each month, Annis said in a news release.

“The police transition is holding city hall hostage, and until the transition is on track and moving forward, almost every other issue and priority in Surrey is on hold.” 


Posted in CBC