Surrey budget slammed for focus on new city police force
Draft proposal allocates $45M for transition from RCMP
The City of Surrey unveiled its draft financial capital plan on Friday and critics are scrutinizing the funding the municipality is allocating to the proposed Surrey police department.
The plan outlines how the city will be spending money on infrastructure and services, including approximately $45 million to be spent on the transition from the RCMP to the municipal force.
"The budget does not serve the residents of Surrey well," said Coun. Linda Annis. "It's all about the proposed Surrey police department, which we don't even know at this point in time that we're going to be changing over to."
She says the current draft will take funding away from infrastructure and other services.
"We need more rec centres, we need more community centres, we need to be adding more police members, firefighters, infrastructure," she said. "Clearly with this budget we're going to be falling behind because we're getting none of that."
She pointed to the need for more firefighters as one particularly pertinent example.
Surrey has one firefighter for every 1,500 residents, compared to one for every 800 residents in Vancouver, according to Annis.
Despite the rapid growth of Surrey over the past decade, the city has only added eight new firefighters in the past seven years, she added.
"We need to keep up," she said.
During his election campaign, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum made a municipal police force one of his main promises.
In a statement on Monday, a spokesperson for the mayor's office said McCallum won't be commenting on the budget until it has received public input.
However, the proposed plan has already angered hockey parents in Cloverdale by shelving plans to build a new $44-million ice complex.
"We're finding there's still not a lot of ice available," said Surrey father James Kim. "We thought when the budget came out initially to build this new arena... We thought it was a great idea."
Plans for the Cloverdale ice complex were initially approved back in 2017, but the project was postponed by the new council to stay out of debt as it switched over to a new police force.
The new finance report reveals the city will instead invest about $10 million into the old arena.with the goal of adding a second rink.
"I really don't know what $10 million will cover because a sheet of ice is actually $15 million," said Mike Bola, president of the Cloverdale Community Association.
Coun. Annis also worries that the already large sum allocated to transitioning to a new city police force could grow after the B.C. government approves the transition report.
"I wouldn't be at all surprised to see that transition double or triple of what's proposed in the budget, then we're going to have to go back and find more money again."
The public will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the budget at the finance committee meeting on Dec. 2.
With files from Meera Bains and Jon Hernandez