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Farnworth 'glad' Surrey joins completion of transition from RCMP to municipal force

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks during a press conference in the press theatre at legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. Farnworth says he is pleased the City of Surrey will join in on the transition from the RCMP to a municipal police service following a council address by Mayor Brenda Locke accepting a court ruling. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA — British Columbia Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says he wants to speed up a police service transition in the Metro Vancouver city of Surrey following a lengthy jurisdictional battle between his government and the local mayor.

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke's acceptance of a recent court ruling upholding the province's authority to order the policing transition from the RCMP to a municipal force to continue means all sides can start working together, he said.

"The people of Surrey want this transition to be over," Farnworth said in a statement Wednesday. "There has always been a spot at the table for the City of Surrey and I am glad to have them join in completing this transition to the Surrey Police Service. I look forward to working with all the parties to ensure a successful, safe and quick transition."

The status of policing in Surrey has been a divisive issue for several years after former mayor Doug McCallum was elected in 2018 on a promise to replace the RCMP, while Locke, elected mayor in 2022, campaigned on a promise to keep the Mounties.

Locke raised a white flag this week at a council meeting, saying she is disappointed but accepts the outcome of last month's B.C. Supreme Court judicial review that said the province can order the transition to the Surrey Police Service to continue.

"While I'm disappointed by the outcome of the judicial review, I accept the decision and we are moving forward with what the city needs to do to ensure that our residents are prioritized with the provincially legislated police transition," Locke said Monday.

But she told council she believes "this NDP imposed transition" will not serve residents and Surrey taxpayers well.

Farnworth and Locke were not immediately available for interviews Wednesday.

Locke, who spoke for almost 10 minutes at the council meeting, said she has concerns about the cost of the transition to the Surrey Police Service, citing reports estimating the amount could be between almost $32 million and $75 million a year more than the cost of the RCMP.

"The cost differentials are significant and must be addressed," she said. "Surrey taxpayers and future infrastructure must be protected from the minister's imposition."

Surrey earlier rejected a proposed government agreement that included $150 million over five years, including assurance that if Surrey Police Service officers were more expensive than RCMP officers in 2029, the province would cover the difference until 2034 up to $20 million.

The B.C. government said in April that, despite Surrey's rejection of the agreement, the province would use the $150 million to support the police transition.

Locke said council will provide regular public updates about the progress of the transition starting in September.

Surrey residents must have the information that confirms the "proper costing for taxpayers."

"We are at the very infancy stages of this transition in terms of planning," she said.

Locke said the previous Surrey council "terribly, terribly dropped the ball for the residents of our city."

The date for the policing takeover is set for Nov. 29.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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