Watching brief: Initiative to conduct a Surrey policing binding referendum

Vancouver Sun, May 13th 2021, by Susan Lazaruk
Surrey police officers could hit the streets this fall: chief

“I have a personal goal of getting boots on the ground for fall of this year, ” Chief Const. Norm Lipinski said in an online address tothe Surrey Board of Trade on Wednesday, the same day a citizen’s group launched an effort using B.C. law to force a referendum on switching from the RCMP to the city force.

Lipinski said the full tran si tion to re place the Surrey RCMP de tachment would con tinue into 2022 and 2023. Lipinski said he wanted to ensure there are “no gaps” in the delivery of police service during the transition to safeguard public safety. Lipinski said recruiting for rank-and-file officers will begin soon.

The union representing Canada’s 20,000 RCMP officers, of which 6,500 work in B.C., this week called for a hold on recruiting officers for the new Surrey force during the current gang war because of further pressure it would put on “scarce” police resources.

A group called Surrey Police Vote on Wednes day filed to launch an initiative petition campaign to call for a binding referendum on the formation of the new force.

Longtime Surrey resident and registered nurse Darlene Bennett, whose husband Paul Bennett was killed in 2018 in front of their home in a case of mistaken identity, mailed the petition request to Elections B.C. on Wednesday.

The group wants to force the province to use its power under the Referendum Act to order a regional vote on whether or not Surrey should replace the RCMP, said Bill Tiele man, who ran a successful anti-HST initiative in 2010 and is advising the Surrey group.

The wording of the draft bill includes the passage “be it resolved that the province of British Columbia hold a binding regional Surrey City referendum utilizing the Referendum Act to determine the wishes of Surrey voters on which policing service should be used in Surrey.”

The Initiative and Recall Act is designed for province-wide initiatives, requiring the collection of signatures from 10 per cent of voters in each of B.C.’s electoral ridings.

But Tieleman said the group would canvass for signatures from only the nine Surrey ridings. If the group collects enough signatures in Surrey, “the government should listen to the residents of Surrey,” he said.

Elections B.C. will decide if the application meets its criteria for an initiative petition, said spokesman An drew Watson.

If it does, after 60 days passes, the applicant has a 90-day period to collect the signatures.

If Elections B.C. verifies enough valid signatures, it would send the petition and the draft bill to a committee of the legislature. The committee decides whether to recommend introduction of a draft bill or to send it to the chief electoral officer for an initiative vote, said Tieleman.