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New West councillors: Other cities would welcome Surrey's police funds

Show us the money: New West Progressives say New West and other cities would gladly accept more police funding
We’ll take it: Two New Westminster city councillors think the province should give money to other police departments if Surrey doesn’t take it to transition to a municipal police force. photo The Record

New Westminster’s two New West Progressive councillors are pretty sure other municipal police forces would welcome extra provincial funding if Surrey doesn’t want it.

On Friday, the province recommended the City of Surrey continue its transition from a contracted service with the RCMP to the new Surrey Police Service. When making that April 28 announcement, the province said it would provide financial support to the City of Surrey in the transition to the municipal police force.

Following the province’s announcement, Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, who campaigned in the 2022 municipal election on retaining the Surrey RCMP, told media that Surrey would keep the RCMP, but she would have city staff review the province’s report.

If Surrey turns down the city’s offer, New West councillors Daniel Fontaine and Paul Minhas suggest the money should be given to other municipal police forces.

“I think all of us in local governments across the region were surprised by the province’s surprise offer of at least $150 million to Surrey in its ongoing debate over who should police the city,” Fontaine said in a NWP press release. “It was a surprise because the entire transition issue belongs in the lap of Surrey council, and somehow the province is stepping up to pay part of the bill, something it was not prepared to do until now. The fact is every police department could use some financial help, so if Surrey says no to the province’s offer to keep the Surrey Police Service than that money should be divided up among other cities that already have a municipal force, including ours.”

In addition to New Westminster, there are municipal police forces in Abbotsford, Central Saanich, Delta, Nelson, Oak Bay, Port Moody, Saanich, Vancouver, Victoria/Esquimalt and West Vancouver.

In late 2018, the City of Surrey, under then-mayor Doug McCallum, decided to transition away from the RCMP police model and to establish its own municipal police department. The province approved the City of Surrey’s transition plan in February 2020, but in November 2022, following the October civic election, Surrey’s newly elected mayor and council voted 5-4 in favour of keeping the RCMP and reversing the transition to the new municipal police force.

When announcing the provincial government’s support for continuing with the municipal police force, Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said he believes a municipal police force is the best way to achieve public safety in B.C., especially given the ongoing RCMP vacancy challenges.

Minhas said the New West Progressives believe the City of Surrey should cover the costs of transitioning to a municipal police department.

“To be honest, we see the transition to be a made-in-Surrey issue, and while we respect our neighbour, the costs associated with the decisions they’ve made should really be theirs,” he said in the NWP news release. “But, if $150 million from the province doesn’t mean anything to Surrey, I know it would mean a lot to other communities like ours. So, Minister Farnworth, if you’re listening, if Surrey says no, remember there are plenty of cities waiting in the wings that are prepared to put those dollars to good use.”

Theresa McManus

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