British Columbia·Q&A

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says he's still the man for the job despite criminal charge and council unrest

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says he has no plans to give in to calls for him to resign as mayor despite a pending criminal court case and other political controversy.

'I feel very strongly that I can stay on and that the majority wants me to,' McCallum tells The Early Edition

Doug McCallum talks at a podium marked 'State of the City 202'. He is wearing a suit with a red tie.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum delivers his state of the city address on Wednesday. (Justine Boulin/CBC News)

It's been a turbulent week in civic politics in Surrey, B.C., with Mayor Doug McCallum amid it all.

McCallum delivered his state of the city address Wednesday, just two days after a packed council meeting was cut short amid calls for him to resign.

The mayor didn't heed the calls, but did announce Wednesday that he will step aside as chair of the Surrey Police Board until after the municipal elections in October.

McCallum is due to go on trial for alleged public mischief a little more than two weeks after voters go to the polls. He is charged with one count of public mischief after filing a police report claiming he was struck by a car in a parking lot by Debi Johnstone — one of seven opponents of his plans for a municipal police force who McCallum has banned from council meetings.

The charge relates to allegations of false statements being made with the intention of misleading police officers.

The allegations have not been proven in court but have prompted calls for him to resign as mayor from both voters and some city councillors.

WATCH | Doug McCallum's state of the city address:

McCallum says he has no plans to leave city hall. Removing himself from the upcoming police board meetings has nothing to do with his pending court case everything to do with a recent recommendation from the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act that mayors should not chair municipal police boards, he said.

The mayor spoke with CBC's The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn on Thursday morning about the controversy surrounding him and the latest happenings at Surrey City Hall.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Why have you decided to step aside as the chair of the police board? 

I haven't stepped aside as chair, I'm not allowed under the Police Act, I just won't be chairing the next two board meetings. About six months ago, I pulled off of all the committees I was on on the police board because the board is very effective and can handle itself without me.

What is the difference between stepping aside and being absent from the meetings? 

I still am the police chairperson and continue to have all the authority that that brings to that job, I just will be absent. 

You say this has nothing to do with your criminal mischief charge, so why will you be absent?

Two reasons. One, that I have been pulling back on police board meetings. The second is a provincial legislation body suggests that being mayor and chairman of the board are in conflict and I have been saying that from Day 1.

You put yourself in a very big conflict because the city funds the police board, which takes that money and provides services. I actually put a lot of input into that recommendation [that mayors should not chair municipal police boards] and believe strongly that mayors and chairs of police boards are in conflict. 

Were you at any point asked to step down or to step aside by other members of the police board?

I'm not going to go into any of the confidential information we have in our meetings. 

Global News reported that the police board itself asked you to step down as chair. Is that accurate? 

I'm still not going to make any comments of in-camera discussions.

So, you're saying that you've stepped aside because you recognize there's a conflict? 

Yes.

After the election, will you go back to chairing the police board?  

I probably won't because I believe strongly against it. But, unfortunately, because of the Police Act now, I have to be chair and I have to carry that authority. That's the law and I have to abide by it.

Surrey city Coun. Linda Annis, pictured in February, says McCallum should step down as mayor because his mischief charge is shifting focus from running a city. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC News)

Several councillors have called for you to step aside as mayor until the charge of public mischief that you're facing has been concluded in court. You have so far refused. Why?

I'm not going to make any comments on the charge, but I am also going to stay on as mayor. There is no legislation that says I cannot and I have had tremendous support in the community asking me to carry on and run the city, and I intend to. We have over 42 major infrastructure projects happening and our city is the fastest growing in Canada. 

Do you understand, mayor, though, why voters might be concerned about an elected official staying in a position with pending criminal charges against them? 

I understand the feelings of the people but, in Surrey, it's only a very small group called Keep the RCMP.  When I'm out in the street, I get tremendous support to carry on. I don't want to get into any comments about the court case, but I feel very strongly that I can stay on and that the majority wants me to. 

People protesting against Mayor Doug McCallum outside the provincial courthouse in Surrey, B.C., on Jan. 25. (Ben Nelms/CBC News)

You recently cut off speakers at a public hearing and, in September, Surrey council banned seven pro-RCMP individuals from attending council meetings. Is that an acceptable way of engaging with the public? 

Those seven are part of the Keep the RCMP group and they have harassed constantly the last three years. They have over a dozen ongoing police investigations against them for harassment. They need to sit back and also listen to other people in the city. They want it only one way, but the majority in any democratic city is how a city runs and we got elected really to change our police. 

But do you not have an obligation to also engage with people who don't agree with you?

If they are polite and follow the rules and don't swear and don't interrupt. These people don't listen and they shout. If people follow procedures, I listen. We developed infrastructure and transit by listening to the people and saying if you elect us we will get it done.

Do you believe you still have the majority of support from Surrey voters?

Yes.

What do you think voters think about your court date being after the election?

I would love to have it now but the courts are full. We tried to get in earlier and if I had my wish it would be tomorrow.

CBC News asked Mike Farnworth, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, to verify if McCallum's interpretation of the Police Act is accurate. The act says that the mayor of a council is the chair of a municipal police board and, if absent or unable to act, that the board must elect another chair among themselves.

According to Farnworth, under the current law, the mayor isn't required to step down from the police board and it is a decision McCallum "obviously made himself."

We hear from Doug McCallum in the wake of calls for him to stand down as mayor of the City of Surrey and his decision to temporarily remove himself from municipal police board meetings.

With files from The Early Edition

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now