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Surrey mayor under scrutiny for making vaccine clinics a partisan affair

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s social media sites are, again, coming under scrutiny — this time for politicizing the coronavirus vaccination process.

McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition (SSC) Facebook page replicated a City of Surrey post advertising a partnership between Fraser Health, the Government of B.C. and city hall. 

The original city post stated, “We’re partnering with the Government of British Columbia and Fraser Health to bring COVID-19 neighbourhood vaccine clinics to Bear Creek Park …on May 22 & 23.”

The SSC attached a partisan photo of the clinic details with all the SSC council members, making it appear as though the political slate was part of the partnership.

Glacier Media reached out to SSC on Facebook and McCallum’s office to clarify what partnership the slate had with the provincial government. No one responded. Fraser Health stated SSC had no partnership with SSC and Surrey’s spokesperson Oliver Lum stated the city had partnered with the health authority. 

The SSC Facebook post has since been edited to replace the “we” with the “City of Surrey,” although the vaccine clinic info remains associated with the partisan images.

Coun. Jack Hundial, a former SSC member, called the partisan vaccination ad “abnormal” and “inappropriate.”

“The priority is public health. You need to set politics aside. If you want to put out a statement there’s a venue to do that, through normal city channels.

“If you put out imagery which leads the reader to believe it was only five individuals on council, the majority, collaborating with Fraser Health to get vaccinated, that’s really inappropriate,” he said.

Hundial also took issue with the SSC using city-created communications videos of their own councillors and the mayor on its social media channels.

“If you’re going to promote material on political websites you shouldn’t do it on the taxpayers’ expenses,” he said.

“The priority is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” added Hundial.

This is not the first time the SSC has stirred controversy online.

After the SSC called RCMP “untrained murderers” on Twitter, the city’s ethics commissioner had to inform council, “All Council Members should review their personal and organizational social medial presence to be sure that the accounts with which they are associated are responsibly administered.”

The commissioner provided the advice after receiving a complaint about the tweet. The commissioner determined McCallum did not breach the social media provisions of the Code of Conduct because “at the time the Tweet was posted, Mayor McCallum did not control the Safe Surrey Coalition Twitter Account. He neither wrote nor reviewed any posts that appeared on the Account, which was run by volunteers.”

The commissioner noted, “As soon as Mayor McCallum became aware of the Tweet, he took steps to have it removed and issued apologies for its content.”

Hundial has also taken exception with past posts, including one that depicted his face with half white and half brown skin, as if to exemplify his changed position on the police force transition. On Thursday, the SSC re-posted more inflammatory messaging on Facebook; that of an anonymous Twitter account that calls Hundial “the most loathed former Mounties turned slimy politician.”

Hundial bailed on the SSC citing transparency concerns in 2019.

The transition from the Surrey RCMP to the Surrey Police Service is the thorniest political subject in Surrey on account of the untold and unknown costs associated with it.

The city has already raised residential property taxes on the average detached home by 10.7% this year but McCallum claims it is not a result of the transition. The city also borrowed a record $150 million to pay for three new recreation facilities.

With regards to the budget, the SSC and McCallum have recently claimed:

“Thanks to Mayor Doug McCallum and the Safe Surrey Coalition Councillors, we are the only major city in Canada to actually have a budget surplus. We will continue handling your tax dollars with serious care.”

However, Surrey isn't the only municipality within the Lower Mainland to have actually done so: Vancouver also posted a $229 million surplus. 

gwood@glaciermedia.ca