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Police transition: Surrey city councillors react to leaked ministry letter

"It's time for her to step up or step aside."
The police transition in Surrey has spanned five years and two mayors.

Surrey city councillors are reacting to a leaked letter in which Mayor Brenda Locke, city council and city staff are accused of dragging their feet on the police transition.

The letter, which was obtained by Glacier Media on Oct. 5, attributes delays in the transition process to “a lack of leadership and engagement by City Council and City staff.”

The letter also accuses Locke of directing staff not to engage with partners, including inaccurate figures relating to cost in an email to Premier David Eby and failure to sign an agreement between the RCMP and Surrey Police Service (SPS) to make the sure RCMP remains supported during the transition.  

Addressed to Locke from Glen Lewis, assistant deputy minister and director of police services, the letter gives Surrey a deadline of Oct. 13, 2023, to submit a written report on how the city will rectify issues related to the transition.

“Councillors Doug Elford and Mandeep Nagra are not holding back as they launch a scathing attack on Mayor Brenda Locke for what they perceive as deliberate obstruction, rejection of $150 million cash funding, and misrepresentation in Surrey's police transition process,” said a press release from the Safe Surrey Coalition; the party includes former mayor Doug McCallum.

The transition is costing taxpayers “$8 million per month, equivalent to $266,000 per day,” said the press release.

The Surrey police transition has spanned five years, two mayors and a public war of words between the province and city. This culminated in an announcement by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General to move forward with the SPS as the police of jurisdiction on July 19.

Funding of $150 million was promised by the B.C. government alongside the direction to go with the SPS. The letter says the city has “yet to engage” with the ministry regarding this funding.

"Mayor Locke's leadership has been marred by inaction and a lack of clear direction. We can no longer accept excuses for the delays she has caused. It's time for her to step up or step aside,” said Coun. Elford.

In response to the letter, Locke said it is ironic that the province is asking for a plan when that is what the city has been requesting from the province for the past eight months.

“I find it interesting that, once again, I'm responding to a leaked document. I don't understand why the ministry doesn't just pick up the phone and give me a call,” said Locke in an interview on Oct. 5.

“I think the comments in here are highly inflated and very unfair.”

Elford and Nagra highlighted the claim that the ministry should “pick up the phone,” saying that “it shouldn't surprise the mayor that government officials prefer written communication, given her history of false representations in her interactions with government officials.”

Locke said that the Oct. 13 deadline is a “completely unreasonable request.”

“They took eight months to get a decision to us and then they want us to respond to their letter with all its inflammatory accusations inside of a week. I think it's unreasonable. We'll do what we can to get information but at the end of the day just because we don't agree with them, doesn't mean we're not working on this project, doesn't mean we aren't moving the agenda forward and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re not meeting with people,” she said.

More to come.