A survey commissioned by Surrey takes the pulse of the police issue

Of those surveyed, 46 per cent said they want to retain the Surrey RCMP, while 29 per cent said they want the transition to the Surrey Police Service to be completed.

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A new survey commissioned by the City of Surrey shows nearly half of respondents want to stay with the Surrey RCMP, while less than a third want to continue the transition to a municipal police service.

However, after respondents were asked questions formulated by Surrey city staff (and which some said were biased in favor of retaining the RCMP), support for the Mounties increased to 64 percent.

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Surrey Councilor Linda Annis called the survey “politically motivated” and the only way to really know how Surrey residents feel about the future of policing is through a referendum, something she has long called for. time.

“I think the questions are rigged in such a way that you come to the conclusion that the RCMP is the choice,” said Annis, who opposes Mayor Brenda Locke’s attempts to halt the transition to the Surrey Police Service.

The survey is part of a $500,000 taxpayer-funded advertising campaign led by Locke to convince city taxpayers that the BC NDP government’s forced transition to the Surrey Police Service is to blame for the rise in police costs and property tax increases.

Locke defended the survey and advertising campaign, saying it is the only way Surrey residents can get a full idea of ​​what the transition to a municipal force and the resulting property tax increases will cost.

The information war between the City of Surrey and the provincial government continues in the context of a provincial election year and on a key political battleground. The BC NDP controls seven of Surrey’s nine provincial ridings, many of which are swing ridings that will be closely contested with the addition of the BC Conservatives as an official party.

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The new Leger survey surveyed 505 people between November 30 and December 13. Its sampling accuracy is plus or minus 4.4 percent, 19 out of 20 times, and the survey data was weighted to ensure it reflects the age, gender, ethnicity, native language, and geographic population of residents. of Surrey.

Of those surveyed, 46 per cent said they want to retain the Surrey RCMP, while 29 per cent said they want the transition to the Surrey Police Service to be completed. A quarter of respondents said they were unsure.

A section of the survey, which asked respondents to agree or disagree with certain statements, echoes comments made by Locke in recent months. Those questions include:

• “The provincial government should provide detailed cost projections and make clear how much local taxpayers will pay for policing over the next 10 to 20 years.”

• “Surrey, soon to be British Columbia’s largest city, should be treated with more respect by the provincial government.”

• “Given that the provincial government has decided to unilaterally impose the Surrey Police Service on the city, it should provide the full difference in funding, in the long term, between replacing the RCMP and establishing and operating the new Surrey Police Service.”

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Three-quarters of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with these statements.

Andrew Enns, executive vice president of Leger who conducted the survey, said Surrey officials did have input on some of the survey questions.

“They paid for the survey, so they had some involvement in writing the questions,” Enns said, adding that he had no direct involvement with Locke or any elected officials.

The survey found that 60 per cent of respondents agreed that the City of Surrey is justified in launching a legal challenge against the province’s attempts to force the transition. And 69 percent of respondents oppose raising property taxes to pay for the transition.

The survey found that after respondents were presented with additional information about the city’s concerns about the transition, those who preferred to keep the RCMP increased to more than 64 per cent. Support for continuing the transition dropped to 22 percent and only 14 percent said they were unsure.

Annis has criticized the advertising campaign that includes large billboards criticizing the transition plan and mailed leaflets saying the “NDP police transition” will cost $446 million more over 10 years.

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The NDP government has disputed that figure. An analysis by the province found the Surrey Police Service would cost $30 million more than the RCMP annually, less than the figure cited in the city’s advertising.

Annis doesn’t think the city should spend money on “political rhetoric” and is concerned that the flyer mailed to homes doesn’t say it comes from the city.

“It just doesn’t seem like something we should be participating in with taxpayer dollars,” Annis said. “We should be partnering with the provincial government, not launching these types of attacks.”

Locke disagreed and said the city is doing its due diligence to make sure Surrey residents have all the information about the police transition and potential costs.

“From my point of view, all this should have been done from the beginning. “We are trying to catch up with a process that was never done correctly from the beginning,” she said. “The true cost of the transition was never revealed to residents.”

The British Columbia government has offered $150 million to help with the transition, but Surrey has rejected it and Locke has said it is not enough.

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Hamish Telford, a political science professor at the University of the Fraser Valley, said the advertising spend would not violate rules on campaign finance and third-party advertising because it falls outside the election period.

However, Telford said it is unusual for a municipality to be so publicly critical of a provincial government, given the power the province has over municipalities.

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