Surrey city council has voted to get rid of the RCMP in place of a regional police force but has not officially triggered a two-year window to replace the Mounties. B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says Surrey must have a transitional plan approved by the province before they can make the official change.
“What happens now is the development of a transitional plan. It is quite complex, it’s going to have to address a lot of issues,” Farnworth said. “In terms of how long it takes that is up to them.”
“Surrey has indicated is that they feel they have the information in many issues and I have said you have to bring this forward. it is my responsibility to ensure there is effective policing in Surrey.”
New Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says they are working on the plan now and think they can get it done quickly.
“We got elected to start working today,” said McCallum. “We are going to move very fast in the city of Surrey.”
McCallum says he has been told by city staff that Surrey currently pays $20 million a year in administrative costs to have the RCMP operating in the community. This will help the city balance the additional $13 million a regional police force costs compared to the RCMP every year.
One of the other challenges Surrey faces is that regional police officers get paid more than RCMP officers. McCallum says Mounties’ efforts to unionize will mean in two years the wages will be similar.
“From the point of view of salaries it is a trade-off especially in the fact it will take us two years to get our own police officers,” said McCallum.
“All the people I have talked to in the region have indicated that we can be up and running with our new officers within a two-year period.”
McCallum is also moving very quickly on moving from LRT to SkyTrain. The next step is getting the support of the region’s Mayors’ Council.
“We have instructed TransLink staff to stop working on the light rail,” said McCallum. “The next step as far of the City of Surrey is to go to Mayors’ Council. At that meeting we will be supporting the region’s 10-year plan. We have a golden opportunity with all these new mayors to move the region forward.”
The provincial government does not have any money in its capital plan to spend on Surrey transit.
TransLink has pegged the cost for LRT through the city at $1.65 billion. That money has already been secured, with $483.8 million from the federal government, $1.12 billion in regional funds and a little extra from a previous commitment.
Switching to SkyTrain would be much more expensive, with TransLink estimating it would cost $2.9 billion.
But Surrey could complete a shorter SkyTrain track, but it likely would not reach Langley under the current budget.
“Our government made a commitment to work with the Mayors’ Council around their plan and vision and we are still committed to that,” said Selina Robinson, the minister responsible for TransLink.
“What is important is the mayors make the case and put together a business plan if they make any changes.”
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