A looming decision from the provincial government on Surrey’s police force transition project has been delayed, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced Thursday.
“The director of police services has determined that additional information is required to inform further consideration of the matter and has made a request to the parties for that information,” said Farnworth in a statement to media.
To date, the City of Surrey has been in the process of transitioning from Surrey RCMP to the Surrey Police Service (SPS). However, a change in council following last October’s election ushered in new political direction, from Mayor Brenda Locke.
Last month, city hall submitted a report to Farnworth’s ministry asking for approval to stop the transition and maintain the Surrey RCMP.
The SPS and Surrey RCMP (which remains the official force, to date) submitted respective reports to the director, outlining how they are capable of policing the city during the transition or de-transition.
The ministry’s key mandate is to ensure municipalities are adequately policed and the reports make their case for doing so.
“Ministry staff have completed a comprehensive review of the submissions we received in December from the City of Surrey, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Surrey Police Service regarding the Surrey police transition,” said Farnworth.
The transition is said to have an impact on other B.C. police forces as SPS is tasked to staff, from scratch, the second largest police force in the province.
“The stability of policing is fundamental to ensuring our provincial responsibilities are met. Public safety in the City of Surrey and throughout British Columbia continues to be our core driving principle," stated Farnworth.
Locke expressed disappointment at the delay.
“The city is now considering its options as I do not believe the province’s reason to delay its decision is justified. The inability to make a timely decision is unfair to SPS and RCMP officers and their families. It also impacts the city’s ability to complete our budget for 2023,” the mayor said in a statement.
Farnworth did not state when a final decision may come.
A key concern of the transition has been costs, which were made more clear following the election.
The city claims if the transition is reversed it will save $235 million over five years. If the SPS transition continues, Locke has stated each household will need to pay an extra 55 per cent of its annual property taxes, which amounts to $1,200 for the average-valued residential property and $7,700 for a commercial property.
Even if the transition is halted the city will end up paying an estimated $155 million on the transition and that money will also need to be covered with additional property taxes, said Locke — although no such estimate has been provided by the city.
The Surrey Board of Trade stated the delay was unacceptable: “We are extremely disappointed that the B.C. government has compromised the public safety of our businesses and residents,” said president and CEO Anita Huberman.
“Our position is to retain the RCMP as Surrey’s public safety infrastructure. This continued delay in decision making by the B.C. government holds Surrey as an economic hostage because economic investment decisions are being delayed without knowing what the future holds,” added Huberman.