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Surrey mayor questions ‘titanic level’ police transition cost

Mike Farnworth says Brenda Locke is being ‘disingenuous’ in quoting a $750M price difference
A provincial report on the costs related to the Surrey Police Service transition has been released by the city of Surrey, with mayor Brenda Locke calling for accountability from the B.C. government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke is calling for accountability from the B.C. government after releasing a provincial report on the costs related to the Surrey Police Service transition — but Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth is firing back.

“This report confirms that the province has been hiding titanic level costs from Surrey taxpayers,” Locke said in a press release issued Wednesday morning (April 24).

The report, obtained by Black Press Media, was commissioned by the provincial government and developed by the Deloitte firm. Outlined in the report is a cost analysis for three separate scenarios: retaining the RCMP at 734 officers, transitioning to the SPS with the same number of officers, or transitioning to SPS with 900 officers.

Locke said the Deloitte report outlines the cost of the transition at $750 million more than sticking with the Mounties over a 10-year period.

The report does not directly reference a $750-million cost difference, but the city drew the number from the fact that the report shows a cost increase of $75 million per year.

The report states that the transition would cost $52 million more in 2025 if the transition is completed with a 900-officer SPS, versus keeping the RCMP at 734 officers. In 2026, that cost would increase to a $75-million price difference, rising to $80 million in 2027 compared to the cost of keeping the Mounties as police of jurisdiction.

(The report does not list costs past 2027.)

If SPS were to become police of jurisdiction with the same 734 officers that RCMP has, the cost difference in 2025 would be $30 million more for SPS, $33 million more in 2026 and $34 million more in 2027.

Costs for the subsequent years are not included in the report.

Farnworth said Locke is being “disingenous” with her interpretation of the numbers in comparing a 734-member SPS to a 900-member RCMP to arrive at the $750-million number.

“It’s absolutely disingenuous and it’s completely false,” he told reporters in a scrum at the legislature. “What we have seen today is, I think, disingenuity on a massive scale.”

The transition to the SPS will be more costly to Surrey’s residents than sticking with the RCMP, the Deloitte report concludes, due to higher salaries and the subsidy to be paid to the RCMP.

In a previous estimate, the City of Surrey said the cost would likely be $464 million over a 10-year period, not including costs related to all items like capital.

“The Premier and Solicitor General said they had no idea where the City of Surrey was getting our cost estimates from, when they were sitting on a report that showed the true cost to be hundreds of millions more than we had even imagined,” Locke charged.

“The province is making it up as they go, forcing the city into an unnecessary and expensive transition, and they don’t care that Surrey taxpayers will be left with a three-quarters of a billion dollar bill over the next 10 years.”

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

Soon after becoming the police of jurisdiction, SPS plans on attaining a total of 958 officers and to have two individuals per vehicle, according to Locke.

“This alone would result in an estimated $45 million annual incremental cost over the RCMP and does not include other transition costs previously estimated by the city,” her release states.

The mayor went on to call the “hiding” of the report a “complete betrayal of trust” from the province.

Farnworth, however, said he referenced the report in question in April last year, when it was the basis of a technical briefing to the media.

At a media availability Wednesday afternoon, Locke said that Surrey residents tell her daily they want to see the city stick with the RCMP.

She said that the province and Farnworth are “imposing their will on the City of Surrey.”

“I will leave all judgment of what will happen to the courts,” Locke added.

Farnworth said Locke’s actions were yet another example of Surrey council being “obstructionist every step of the way.”

“It’s just another effort by the city to try and muddy the waters and a refusal on their part to accept the fact that the transition is going ahead.”

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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