A group opposing the planned transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force in Surrey, B.C., says it has collected close to 43,000 signatures from residents calling for a referendum on policing in the city.
Darlene Bennett launched the campaign with the group Surrey Police Vote over concerns about rising costs associated with starting a new municipal police force, which was a key pledge in Mayor Doug McCallum’s election campaign in 2018.
City council voted in favour of the transition in 2018, the public safety minister approved the creation of the Surrey Police Board last year, and Surrey’s budget for 2021 showed the transition was $18.5 million more than the original $45-million cost estimate.
Amber Stowe, media relations lead with McCallum’s office, says the mayor would not comment on the petition before Elections BC delivers the final result.
A statement from the Surrey Police Union says the 42,942 signatures collected by the Surrey Police Vote initiative falls far below the legislative requirement of 10 per cent of voters from all 87 electoral districts in B.C. to trigger a referendum.
Bennett said upon launching the petition that the initiative would not campaign across the province, rather it would focus on the nine electoral districts in Surrey in hopes of demonstrating the need for a regional referendum to the provincial government.
B.C.’s Referendum Act gives provincial cabinet the power to order a referendum in a particular region, campaign strategist Bill Tieleman said in a statement on Monday.
The petition’s signatures represent about 13.5 per cent of about 318,000 registered voters in Surrey’s nine districts, according to a 2017 tally from Elections BC.