British Columbia

3rd councillor quits Surrey mayor's alliance over police transition

A third city councillor in Surrey, B.C., has quit the mayor's coalition, saying Doug McCallum shrugged off his extensive expertise in public safety when it came to conversations around building an independent police force.

Jack Hundial, who spent 25 years with RCMP, says Mayor Doug McCallum had 'little interest' in his expertise

Surrey Coun. Jack Hundial said he spent less than an hour talking public safety and policing one-on-one with Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum since they were elected to council last fall, despite Hundial's 25 years' experience working as an RCMP officer in B.C. (Jack Hundial/Facebook)

A third city councillor in Surrey, B.C., has quit the mayor's coalition, saying Doug McCallum shrugged off his extensive expertise in public safety when it came to conversations around building an independent police force.

Coun. Jack Hundial worked as an RCMP officer for 25 years before he was elected as part of McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition last fall.

Hundial announced he was leaving the alliance in a statement Thursday morning.

He said he has spent less than an hour talking policing one-on-one with the mayor in the nine months since election night.

"Since the time I was elected, I've only had one 30-minute meeting with the mayor on public safety, which was him telling me not to be involved in public safety anymore, when, realistically, the people that voted for me and expected ... to have my 25 years as a police officer, my experience, making some of these key decisions for the City of Surrey," Hundial said in a phone interview Thursday.

"I've offered to help and assist in many ways as possible but the mayor is not being receptive to that."

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has lost a third councillor from his Safe Surrey Coalition. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The City of Surrey is working to establish a municipal police force to replace the RCMP by April 1, 2021. The city released its long-anticipated transition plan on June 3, detailing what the new policing model for the municipality would look like.

Hundial said the public consultation aspect of the planning process was flawed.

"There's a lot of pieces that are missing here. This is almost a once-in-a-generation transition for the residents of Surrey and they need to have a voice in it ... and that consultation piece stops after election. It's not right," he said.

Hundial also blasted the city plan to have fewer police officers in its new independent force than it currently has in the existing Surrey RCMP.

"This will make Surrey less safe. This is the opposite of what people want," he wrote in the statement.

3 councillors gone in 3 months

Nearly half of the councillors elected with McCallum's alliance have jumped ship since election night, with all three resigning from the Safe Surrey team in the past three months. 

Coun. Brenda Locke announced she was quitting McCallum's coalition on June 27. She said the alliance had fallen into dysfunction under McCallum's leadership, and also mentioned problems with the city's transition toward a municipal police force.

"[McCallum] hasn't been transparent and he hasn't been inclusive," Locke said shortly after announcing her decision last month.

Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke, left, announced she was leaving Mayor Doug McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition on June 27 over the 'flawed' police transition. (CBC)

Coun. Steven Pettigrew quit the mayor's team four days before the policing transition plan was announced. He had also been outspoken over what he described as a marred process and lack of transparency, though a statement said the final straw was the coalition's stance on protecting the city's tree canopy.

'I'm always willing to listen': Mayor

McCallum released a statement after Hundial's announcement on Thursday, doubling down in defence of his alliance.

"The majority we have on council is solid and strongly united. I can assure you the Safe Surrey Coalition is now even more focused and energized to deliver on what we promised to the voters of Surrey," the mayor wrote.

In a statement released after Locke's departure, McCallum insisted the majority of council agreed with his approach to fulfilling campaign promises. 

"I think I can say that I'm always willing to listen, and if they feel it's too hard, sure, I'd be happy to change it," the mayor said.

A smiling white man in a dark-blue suit stands beside an SUV emblazoned with the words "Surrey police."
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum stands near a mock-up of a Surrey city police vehicle during his state of the city address on May 7. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

On Thursday, one of four remaining Safe Surrey councillors said she was confused by her colleagues' decisions but "not surprised."

"I don't understand it but it's very disappointing that three of them have stepped down. I still can't imagine why because the rationale they're giving, that they've all given, I don't get it at all," said Coun. Laurie Guerra, who said she was in "all the same" meetings as Hundial, Locke and Pettigrew.

"Unless this was preconceived right from the get-go."

Creating an independent police force and terminating the policing contract with the RCMP was one of McCallum's main campaign promises in last October's election. 

Hundial, Locke and Pettigrew will all continue to sit as independent councillors. Surrey's council will now have three independents, a Surrey First councillor, and four remaining Safe Surrey councillors alongside McCallum.

With files from Yvette Brend, Jesse Johnston and Justin McElroy