Premier David Eby’s best estimate on when Surrey will learn what his government’s decision is on the city’s policing transition is in “coming weeks.”
But Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke suspects it may come sooner.
“We are very cautiously optimistic this will be resolved in the next week or so,” Locke told the Now-Leader on Friday. “My hope is by next week I know where Surrey is on answering the questions for the ministry so I’m very hopeful we’re going to be able to have some kind of resolution by the end of next week, maybe the week after.”
Still, “coming weeks” was Eby’s response after the Now-Leader asked him during a presser in Surrey on Friday if he could provide at least a ballpark timeline on when Surrey will have a decision from his government.
“We’re expecting final information from the city of Surrey in the coming weeks and once that information has been confirmed by the ministry of the solicitor general and that they’re satisfied that public safety has been addressed in any plan that Surrey’s putting forward, the matter will be remitted to Surrey to proceed as is their ability to do, which is the best direction that they think the city of Surrey should move forward on,” Eby said.
He said he recognizes there is “huge urgency” on the part of Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, city council and Surrey residents that the issue gets resolved. “We’re working hard at the provincial level with City of Surrey staff to clarify the numbers and the plan to make sure that we’re discharging our duty and get this back as quickly as possible to Surrey’s hands.”
The RCMP has been Surrey’s police of jurisdiction since it took over from the Surrey Police on May 1, 1951, as the result of a plebiscite. Surrey’s is the largest RCMP detachment in all of Canada.
On Nov. 5th, 2018, the council of the day, led by mayor Doug McCallum, served notice to the provincial and federal governments that it would end its contract with the RCMP to set up its own force.
Four years and one civic election later, on Nov. 14, 2022, the current council led by Locke decided on a 5-4 vote to maintain the Surrey RCMP as this city’s police of jurisdiction instead of forging ahead with the Surrey Police Service.
Both camps in this acrimonious struggle roundly slammed Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth’s announcement on Thursday, Jan. 26 that more information was needed from either side to “inform further consideration” as to whether Surrey should maintain the RCMP as its police department of jurisdiction or continue with the transition to the Surrey Police Service from the RCMP.
“The longer two police agencies are operating with this uncertainty, the more taxpayer dollars are being unnecessarily spent. The instability needs to come to an end, and a timely response is critical,” Locke fumed at the time.
The Surrey Police Board, which is set to next meet on Feb. 22, also lamented that delay, stating in a press release it is “unfortunate that a matter of such critical importance to the community is being delayed.”
Asked Friday if he can’t narrow the timeline to something other that coming weeks, Eby replied that the “challenge” is that the solicitor general has a statutory responsibility to ensure public safety in the transition plan.
“We’re certainly aware of the urgency at the provincial level and the critical piece is that there is a credible transition plan that everybody can have confidence that that public safety piece is crossed off, and once we can do that then we’re ready to go.”