Skip to content

Surrey lawyer argues Farnworth’s SPS order akin to reversing 2022 civic election result

‘This is no small matter for municipal democracy,’ lawyer Craig Dennis says
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke and former mayor Doug McCallum. (File photos)

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth’s order to press on with the Surrey Police Service is akin to replacing the “winner with the runner-up” by overriding Surrey council’s desire under Mayor Brenda Locke to keep the RCMP and enforcing the previous council’s desire, under former mayor Doug McCallum, to install the SPS as the city’s police of jurisdiction.

That’s what Justice Kevin Loo heard Wednesday from lawyer Craig Dennis, representing the City of Surrey in its petition for a judicial review aimed at quashing Farnworth’s July 19, 2023 order to replace the RCMP with the SPS.

The provincial government, Dennis argued, “has nullified the mandate to keep the RCMP delivered to council by voters.”

The five-day hearing began April 29 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

“In purpose and effect, it controls the electorate’s attempt to convey meaning by significantly interfering with the vote, specifically by nullifying the electoral mandate that city council keep the RCMP in Surrey, and in the process it undermined the confidence Surrey residents can reasonably repose in their future elections. Where Canadians perceive elections to be unfair, voter apathy follows shortly thereafter,” Dennis argued.

“The Province characterized council’s resolutions as moves to revert to the RCMP. This ignores a fundamental point – the SPS has never become Surrey’s police of jurisdiction. Surrey has only ever sought to keep the RCMP as its police of jurisdiction.

“The status quo then is the RCMP. Surrey’s not meaning to revert to anything,” Dennis noted. “Surrey voters delivered a mandate in the 2022 municipal election for keeping the RCMP as Surrey’s police of jurisdiction. Access to the voting platform has already occurred. Far from seeking access to a platform, Surrey seeks to implement that mandate free from provincial interference.”

READ ALSO: Judge hears Farnworth ‘reneged’ on deal struck between premier and Surrey mayor

READ ALSO: Judge orders information sealed in Surrey’s police transition case

READ ALSO: Surrey opposes B.C.’s bid for judge to seal info in cop transition case

READ ALSO: Surrey Police Service to replace RCMP by November: Farnworth

Surrey never displaced the RCMP as police of jurisdiction, he pointed out. “As public opinion soured to the transition the 2021 citizens’ initiative first proposed a referendum being held. The 2022 election was then fought not on whether Surrey should revert to to the RCMP but whether it should keep the RCMP as its police of jurisdiction.”

This, he said, was the “raison d’être” of Locke’s Surrey Connect slate and was the central issue in the city’s 2022 civic election, in which she defeated McCallum. “This only confirmed what should have been clear to all observers, that the election was centrally about the fate of Surrey policing and Surrey voters had spoken in favour of keeping the RCMP.”

“Surrey voters delivered a mandate to keep the RCMP which is inextricable from the vote itself and the integrity of that electoral result, not the policy outcome, is what Surrey seeks to protect from provincial interference,” Dennis told Loo.

“This is no small matter for municipal democracy,” he said, noting that election results that fail to deliver results are bound to damage public confidence.

“Why vote if policies are not implemented? Why run for office, why participate?”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
Read more