British Columbia

Amid cheers, jeers and a councillor walk-out, Surrey council approves divisive budget

Surrey's budget was formally approved Monday night following a 5-4 vote — but the backdrop was a loud, chaotic meeting featuring competing protesters who packed into council chambers.

Mayor refuses to allow councillors to speak on budget due to 'safety issues,' drawing sharp criticism

The crowds first gathered outside of Surrey City Hall, then filled chambers, heckling and cheering throughout the meeting and making it difficult to hear what was being discussed. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Surrey's budget was formally approved Monday night following a 5-4 vote — but the backdrop was a loud, chaotic meeting featuring competing protesters who packed into council chambers.

The crowds first gathered outside of Surrey City Hall, then filled the chambers, heckling and cheering throughout the meeting and making it difficult to hear what was being discussed.

At one point, members from the Safe Surrey Coalition left the room, leaving other councillors in their seats, and were met with boos from the crowd when they re-entered.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum also said councillors were not allowed to speak on budget items because of "safety issues" and said anyone who interrupted the meeting would be escorted out by security.

 

The lack of discussion over the budget drew sharp criticism from some councillors.

"Not a very good sign of democracy in the City of Surrey today," said Coun. Brenda Locke.

Coun. Jack Hundial wants the province to investigate whether McCallum acted appropriately.

"You have a divisive issue such as this, you need to hear every side, regardless of whether you agree with it or not," he said.

'This is a zoo, this is a circus'

Surrey's 2020 draft budget passed in early December.

It includes an average 2.9 per cent property tax increase — approximately $59 for the average single-family home, according to a staff estimate — along with one-time capital costs to help pay for the transition to an independent police force while the RCMP is still in operation. The budget does not provide funding to hire more firefighters to prioritize funding the police force.

During the protest and the meeting, competing cheers of "Surrey police" and "RCMP" rang out.

Former councillor Mike Starchuk organized the rally opposing the budget. He says the mayor's decision to silence the council meeting shows he's lost control.

"The chamber is supposed to be respectful, its supposed to be civil," said Starchuk. "This is a zoo, this is a circus."

With files from Jesse Johnston

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