Turmoil erupted at a Surrey city council meeting Monday night after Mayor Doug McCallum ejected an advocate of the RCMP from the chamber for violating speaking rules.
Ivan Scott, coordinator of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group, which opposes the ongoing transition to the Surrey Police Department, had his microphone cut off by McCallum after failing to speak specifically to a rezoning bylaw on the agenda.
People may speak to council on bylaws but must stay on topic.
McCallum routinely reminds speakers before each public meeting: “Speakers you must keep your comments relative to the bylaw being considered at the public hearing. Not doing so will end your opportunity to provide comments to council.”
But Scott had other things on his mind.
“Prior to talking about the bylaw … I’d like to make the following observations,” he told the council chamber.
A back and forth between Scott and McCallum ensued.
“You don’t listen to me, I won’t listen to you,” Scott told McCallum.
“Please leave, sir. Sir, please leave. Sir, please leave. Will you please escort the [speaker] out,” McCallum said to the chamber ushers from Paladin Security.
The mayor then called a recess to re-establish order.
Coun. Steven Pettigrew called a point of order on McCallum, when Scott was asked to leave. Pettigrew said he was concerned Scott’s constitutional rights were being violated.
“I’m putting out a serious warning to staff to watch and make sure that they are properly educating the mayor and council so they don’t get the city into trouble, because this is a very slippery slope we are on now,” said Pettigrew before he and McCallum got into a verbal argument themselves.
McCallum asked Pettigrew what exact violation of council procedure he had violated but Pettigrew could not recall.
“We could be violating his constitutional rights,” asserted Pettigrew.
In fact, Scott could speak to council as a delegate on topics unrelated to bylaws on the agenda but his application would first need council approval, via the city clerk.
This is not the first time council chambers have fallen into disorder over the police transition, which has become a local issue in the provincial election.
The BC Liberal Party is promising to intervene on the municipal matter in calling for a (non-binding) referendum. Scott’s group has been critical of the NDP’s Solicitor General Mike Farnworth for overseeing the transition. The group confronted Premier John Horgan in Surrey on Monday afternoon with anti-NDP signs.
Scott reminded McCallum of a petition with over 50,000 signatures opposing the formation of the Surrey Police Department. The petition was sent to Premier John Horgan’s office earlier this year, although it is not vetted and not an official petition to the legislature. As well, it includes signatures by people who aren’t Surrey residents.
Every Canadian city with over 300,000 residents has its own police force, except Surrey. McCallum has contended he promised the transition in his 2018 election campaign and subsequently won, thus giving him the green light.
Regardless, the transition is a divisive issue, and critics such as Scott’s group and four dissenting councillors charge that work on costs and planning has been done in a secretive manner.
The city maintains it can transition the force for upwards of $45 million. The plan is already well behind its original schedule, as a police chief has still not been hired. The original plan called for a chief to be hired by September 2019, to establish the force by April 2021.