“Mayor McCallum’s style of leadership on his team, it’s not a leadership style that I’m used to. I’m used to something that’s a lot more inclusive, something where we actually have communication and we don’t just communicate by sending out press messages or using media to deliver your messages.”
1. What are your views on the new Surrey Police Department (SPD)?
I think any police force, whether it’s the RCMP or any kind of new police force, the underpinning issue is always that Surrey deserves the best police force. Certainly, what we saw in the report that was released, we’re actually getting less police officers for more money. So it’s actually a step back for me in public safety. I’m against making Surrey less safe. How I look at it is, when there’s a building that’s on fire, you really don’t care what colour the fire truck is. You have to invest in those public safety programs and you have to invest in the overall public safety.
2. Why did you leave the Safe Surrey Coalition Party?
The first big divide was at the first budget that happened, when it was very clear there that we are not going to be investing any more into public safety. There will be no additional hires for the RCMP, no additional hires for fire [department] and we’re not going to be investing into the infrastructure for the city. So I think that’s when it first sort of started. And then, trying to spend the year working with the Mayor and his team and trying to move some of those issues forward. But, there’s very little dialogue on that. Then, as we went into the second budget, those same issues came back and they weren’t being addressed and committed to. So that was largely because there’s just lack of a voice at City Hall.
3. Do you think the new police force would be ready by mid-2020 as promised?
I think the timeline is ambitious and I think even Wally Oppal [Chair of the Surrey Police Transition Task Force] has said the same thing as well. The report will be forwarded to the minister probably in a few weeks time I believe. So really it will be up to that point for the Ministry to decide on those key questions like what’s the timing going to be. Policing is not just Surrey, it’s very complex; it’s the entire region in fact. So you can’t just hive off the pieces that you like, you have to take it all. You have to work towards the goal of it being all encompassing and it can be done. But I think people should be prepared that you’re looking at a 10-15 timeframe to get it to a level where you’re going to start seeing that impact. And during that time, you have to invest money into it. So, really that’s something that people need to understand now going into it.
4. According to you, what is the biggest challenge with forming a new police force?
If you look at the various polling, even in the Mayor’s own consultation process, and I believe it was one of the news organizations that said there’s 72 per cent that want to still keep the RCMP. And if you look at the overall polling that’s been done, the independent polling, it’s consistent with that. So the biggest challenge now is going to be really trying to convince the community that this is a step in the right direction and the reason why. So I think that’s going to be probably the largest challenge because in Canada we police by consent, at the will of the people for the people.
5. Will the SPD ensure safety in Surrey?
The way that transition report was designed, with less officers than we have today, I don’t think so. It’s a very simple equation to look at, to say it’s not going to be what we have today. Now we do have the ability to rapidly bring Surrey to a place where we do meet more of the community needs. And there is the opportunity within the RCMP to create that police board which would allow for the community to have a voice. Because councils and politicians are going to come and go but the police committee, even with the RCMP, that can be established under the Attorney General, just like every other police board.
6. How would you deal with the safety concerns in Surrey?
I think one thing we can do right away today is invest more into the RCMP and bring us to a level where we’re certainly at par with our neighbouring communities, because we know that once we adequately resource it, it does have an impact. So I would target certainly on the street level drugs, we can target those if we give them the additional resources right now to expand the programs. The other thing that would be very important is to start with the asset forfeiture, we do that currently where upon a conviction, we do seize people’s property. So I think once in Surrey, or any community, you go and you start seizing people’s homes and possessions of vehicles, the message is very clear that we as a community are standing up for safety.
7. What are your suggestions for the SPD?
First thing I would’ve done, I would’ve done a feasibility study, which is what Richmond did with their review. Red Deer in Alberta just completed their feasibility study and they decided not to go with it because of the financial implications. So the first thing I would do is the feasibility study.
8. What issues do you have with Mayor Doug McCallum’s leadership?
Well, you have to be mindful, he is the Mayor, and he does hold that seat. But certainly his style of leadership on his team, it’s not a leadership style that I’m used to. I’m used to something that’s a lot more inclusive, something where we actually have communication and we don’t just communicate by sending out press messages or using media to deliver your messages. If you’re going to be a leader in the community, you need to be inclusive of everyone, not just the people that didn’t vote for you, but even those people that didn’t vote.
9. There is report of lack of transparency in the Surrey government. What are your thoughts?
I would have to say I completely agree. There is just a complete lack of transparency, transparency in the programs and certainly as we move forward in the budget. Why are we focusing on some issues or some programs within the budget and not others? A good example would be: we committed to building an ice arena, a recreation facility, which our youth need because we know overall in Surrey we’re actually short compared to other communities when it comes to recreational facilities. We know that’s a proven way to keep our children safer, healthier and to keep families and communities together. So when we don’t explain why we cancelled that ice arena, people have the right to ask questions because those were their tax dollars that we were making those decisions with.
10. What is the purpose of Surrey Connect? Why did you and Councillor Brenda Locke create it?
Prior to the Mayor asking me to join his team, I announced as an independent. Then the Mayor asked me to come join his team, and also Counsellor Locke. When we joined with Mayor McCallum, it was with a promise that we’d have input, there’d be transparency and we’d look after the overall safety for the City of Surrey. So after a year trying to work in that, realizing that’s not the direction that we committed to, with not just our supporters but with our integrity, we made time to make a decision on how can we create hope for the city? And that’s what really this new party is about.
It’s about going out consulting and connecting with the community. It’s about going out and giving them hope, that as we move into the future, Surrey is a great place to be. We can make it safer. It’s a great community to come to, whether you’re here to learn, to live, or to work. So, our goal is to create that vision for the city. And the first step in that is going out and meeting with the residents and consulting with the residents. And that’s a step we’ve undertook. So this spring, you’ll be seeing us out in the community a lot more, holding those town halls and hearing from the residents themselves. Surrey is a big city and the needs are different from different parts of the city.