Surrey’s costly police transition saga was caused in part by the flawed voting systems imposed by the Province on municipalities.
Doug McCallum won the Surrey mayor’s seat in 2018 with a lower share of the vote than when he lost to Dianne Watts in 2005. With that weak mandate his party was able to capture both the mayor’s chair and 7 of 8 council seats and bring in the Surrey Police Force without the support of any outside the 41% that voted for him and his party, even when many in his own party were becoming sceptical of the transition’s merits.
Now Brenda Locke and her majority on council, with just 28% of the votes for Mayor and a combined 25% of the votes for Council, are reversing McCallum’s decision at a cost of hundreds of millions to taxpayers. When the low turnout in the civic election is factored in, that’s a mandate from just 8% of eligible voters.
“In most democracies, a majority on council requires the support of a majority of voters,” said Ryan Campbell, spokesperson for Fair Vote Canada British Columbia. “This ensures that major changes have great popular support and are more durable once they’ve begun, preventing wasteful spending on false starts and half measures. Unfortunately, the Province of British Columbia bans municipalities from using tools like run-offs for mayor, and proportional ranked ballots for council.”
Had a more proportional voting system been in place in 2018, Doug McCallum would have had to build broader support from other parties to begin the transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police.
By the same token, a more proportional voting system would have prevented Brenda Locke’s slate from unilaterally reversing the decisions of the previous council.
Surrey Forward and United Surrey, with more nuanced positions on police reform, received more than 22% of the vote but no representation between them. As a result, council is dominated by a viewpoint rejected by three quarters of Surrey voters.
Because of provincial laws blocking reform, Surrey taxpayers are on the hook for the costs of both McCallum’s decision and Locke’s choice to reverse it. A voting system that more accurately represents voters’ intentions would have avoided this expensive municipal boondoggle.