Is Mayor Doug McCallum losing his grip on Surrey city council?, asks Mike Smyth.
Jason Payne / PNG
Columnist Mike Smyth writes about the turmoil at Surrey City Hall.Doug McCallum is losing city councillors at an alarming rate, but the Surrey mayor doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem. Two city councillors have now bailed out of McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, attacking the mayor’s leadership on their way out.But, in McCallum’s world, the coloured fountains are still bubbling brightly, while the gondolas float merrily along the city’s meandering canal.“We’re moving ahead with our agenda,” McCallum said after councillors Brenda Locke and Steven Pettigrew bolted from his ruling political party at city hall.Locke and Pettigrew say McCallum is proving to be an unstable leader, pointing to strange ideas like digging a canal and installing multicoloured fountains to spruce up Surrey.“The mayor has been doing and saying things that are somewhat erratic,” said Locke, now an independent councillor at city hall.Pettigrew, also an independent now, said the weird canal idea is just one minor example of a bigger problem at city hall.“The mayor is dictating the direction of the city with very little involvement of council,” Pettigrew told me. “This is not democracy. This is not the way things should be run.”And there could be more trouble brewing for the mayor.
Surrey councillors Steven Pettigrew (from left), Brenda Locke and now Jack Hundial find themselves at odds with Doug McCallum. Pettigrew and Locke already left the Safe Surrey Coalition, while Hundial is mulling whether he can keep working with the mayor.
Jack Hundial, another Safe Surrey city councillor who has publicly clashed with the mayor, has fresh complaints about McCallum.“Any time you see changes on council like this so quickly after an election, people should be concerned,” said Hundial, who drew the mayor’s wrath for publicly criticizing the city’s move away from the RCMP to a new municipal police force. After Hundial questioned whether Surrey citizens had been adequately consulted on the police transition, McCallum accused him of “breaking trust” with voters.“That causes me concern,” Hundial said. “And I’m raising more concerns after seeing what came out of the mayor’s office on Monday.”He’s referring to a public-opinion survey released by the city claiming 93 per cent of Surrey residents “strongly agree” with getting rid of the RCMP.“That’s not statistically possible,” said Hundial, a former Mountie. “I’ve attended consultations and engaged with many people and there’s a lot of concern out there.”I asked Hundial if he’s thinking of quitting the Safe Surrey Coalition like Locke and Pettigrew did. There was a long pause before he answered.“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Brenda Locke yet,” he said. “I also want to hear what the mayor himself has to say.”Not exactly a gushing endorsement. I think McCallum should be worried about the trend lines here.Let’s do the math. Surrey city council has nine members: Eight councillors and the mayor.There is currently one opposition councillor (Linda Annis of the Surrey First party) and two independents (Locke and Pettigrew).If Hundial ditches the Safe Surrey Coalition, they would only need one more rebel councillor to bail out on McCallum and the mayor would lose his majority control of city hall. That could potentially threaten his ability to deliver on major campaign promises like a SkyTrain line to Langley and the new municipal police force.The ambitious plan to replace the RCMP is outlined in a 189-page report prepared by the city and submitted to the B.C. government for approval. Pettigrew said the plan is being rushed, the report is full of holes and the city hasn’t properly consulted Surrey citizens on the change.“I don’t support any further movement in this transition process until the public is fully engaged and supportive, and we have real accountability to them,” said Pettigrew, who called on the provincial government to intervene. “We did not do due diligence. We did not do a cost-benefit analysis. We let the public down. I’m very concerned and I’m trusting the province to do what we failed to do.”McCallum rejects all of this, of course. He said the policing transition plan is rock solid and public consultations have been extensive.“We’re moving ahead with all the things we promised,” he said.But if McCallum loses majority control of council, it could jeopardize provincial approval of the new police department.As for that canal through the middle of Surrey? Well, that doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon either.“I don’t know if it would be possible or even legal,” said Hundial, who chairs the city’s agriculture committee, which has heard from farmers worried about a canal’s impact on crucial farm irrigation systems.Something tells me there are more twists and turns to come in this Surrey email@example.com/MikeSmythNewsCLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.