At least two city councillors are decrying the state of public safety in Surrey as the city delivers a draft budget hiring no police officers or firefighters in the coming year.
Coun. Jack Hundial, a veteran RCMP officer, says he’s deeply concerned about what he sees in this budget.
“You have people that are in control of how the city is governed, that have no idea or concept about public safety in its totality,” Hundial told Pulse FM in an interview Tuesday. “The end result is that people’s public safety is going to be compromised, and by compromised, I mean there’s going to be increased wait times for everyone.”
Coun. Linda Annis says Mayor Doug McCallum’s “preoccupation with the Surrey Police Department” is damaging public safety in this city.
“Whether it’s much-needed police officers or firefighters, we’re not keeping up as our city continues to grow, and this budget proves it,” Annis said in a release. “Every spare dollar is now going to the mayor’s proposed SPD.”
While the draft 2020-2024 budget calls for increases in taxes and levies next year to more than $360 on the average home worth $1.15 million, there is a freeze on hiring, including police and fire.
Well-placed sources say Surrey’s fire chief asked for eight more firefighters, but was given none.
Surrey is already well behind its neighbours in firefighters. Vancouver has one firefighter per 800 people, while Surrey is almost half that at one firefighter per 1,500 population.
At any one time, Vancouver has 138 firefighters on shift, a number that’s going to 140 next year. By comparison, Surrey has 73 firefighters on shift and will add none next year.
Making matters worse, Surrey a much larger land mass to cover.
The Surrey Firefighters’ contract is up this year and the budget calls for a zero per cent increase for firefighters.
In addition to the shortfall in firefighting, Surrey is also continuing a freeze on hiring more police officers.
Vancouver is spending $105 million more than Surrey for its police services.
The national average for policing is 185 officers per 100,000 residents. Surrey is at 140 officers per 100,000, well below the average for Canada.
Mayor Doug McCallum’s office said the mayor would not be commenting on the budget until after the public hearing on it.
The public can have its say on the proposed budget at an open meeting at city hall at 1 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2.