Continuing transition to Surrey Police Service would cost estimated $235M: report

Click to play video: 'Keeping the RCMP in Surrey will save taxpayers $235M'
Keeping the RCMP in Surrey will save taxpayers $235M
WATCH: Surrey taxpayers finally know how much keeping the RCMP as their municipal police force will save -- $235.4 million over the next four years. But that's less than half what mayor Brenda Locke predicted on the campaign trail just two months ago. Catherine Urquhart reports – Dec 9, 2022

It will cost an estimated $235.4 million over five years to continue the hotly contested transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force in Surrey, according to the city’s staff.

A draft report projects that, from 2023 to 2027, it would cost just under $1.2 billion to keep the fledgling Surrey Police Service, compared to the $924.8 million it would cost to reverse course and stick with the Mounties over that same timeframe.

The 88-page document will go before Surrey’s mayor and council on Monday, with a recommendation it be endorsed and presented to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth by Dec. 15.

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New Surrey mayor accused of RCMP bias while chairing her first police board meeting

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Mayor Brenda Locke campaigned on a promise to halt her predecessor’s plan to replace the RCMP with a municipal force as the sole police of jurisdiction in the city. The costs of reversing the process, however, had not been previously tabulated by municipal staff for release to the public.

Locke declined to comment on the matter until after it is dealt with at council on Monday.

Last week, city councillors moved to advance Locke’s commitment, striking a joint project team to oversee the development of a final plan to keep the RCMP.

The draft report is a key ingredient, comparing the annual policing costs of both the SPS and the RCMP, the cost of retaining the RCMP and dissolving the SPS, and the cost of continuing the SPS transition.

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RCMP, Surrey Police Union trade accusations on transparency in transition debate

Factoring in the 10-per-cent federal government subsidy granted to municipalities that contract the RCMP, city staff estimated the SPS would cost $31.9 million — or 21.1 per cent — more than the RCMP over a 12-month period. The estimate assumes both forces have a contingent of 734 officers.

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Retaining the RCMP would come with annual cost savings of $36 million in 2026 and $37.2 million in 2027. The report notes, however, that its financial analyses are “complex,” based on a variety of assumptions and costs at a certain point in time, that could change with hiring, firing, salary increases, and more.

The City of Surrey’s current five-year financial plan, it adds, does not provide adequate funding in 2023 either for keeping the RCMP and phasing out the SPS, or keeping the SPS alone. If the municipality opts for the former, the funding shortfall is approximately $95.7 million next year.

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The provincial government must approve Surrey’s plan to keep the RCMP, if a change in direction is to take place, because the Surrey Police Board reports the province. It also means Locke and councillors cannot direct the SPS to stop hiring or spending money.

According to the SPS and Surrey Police Board, the “unrecoverable sunk costs” related to the transition are expected to reach $107 million by the end of the month. Terminating the transition by January will result in a projected investment loss of another $81.5 million, reads a financial backgrounder authored by both.

Click to play video: 'City of Surrey police report leaves many questions unanswered'
City of Surrey police report leaves many questions unanswered

During the election campaign, Locke claimed the SPS would cost taxpayers $520 million over the next four years. Surrey Police Union spokesperson Const. Ryan Buhrig said Friday the mayor must now explain the difference.

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“We’re actually finding out from the city that that’s actually $235 million in savings,” he told Global News. “That’s a big discrepancy and residents deserve the facts and they deserve to have openness and transparency as part of this conversation.”

He called for a more detailed accounting, noting the draft report has “missing costs.” One of them is the “tremendous cost” of dissolve the three unions representing SPS officers and issuing a group termination notice under the B.C. Employment Standards Act.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include additional details about when the mayor will offer public comment on the report.

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