Despite B.C. Ombudsperson pushback, Surrey City Council rubber stamps ethics motion

Surrey City Council voted to adopt and finalize a controversial motion to delay new ethics investigations until after the municipal election.

Councillors rubber stamped the order to the local ethics commissioner not to take on any new complaints in the run-up to the election this October. The motion was originally passed April 11, and on Monday night it was finalized.

It comes despite criticism from high-profile opposition including the B.C. Ombudsperson who said while council is within their right to make changes to the bylaw, the changes were too broad and did not give the commissioner discretion to choose which complaints to investigate. He called it “inappropriate” and “restrictive” in a letter to council which was shared with CityNews.

“The principles of transparency and accountability; by this decision, council has plainly decided not to maximize public awareness of SECO’s investigation reports.”, B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke wrote.

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The vote was passed along party lines with Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition in favour.

Councillor Linda Annis was outvoted, and says it’s wrong not to allow the investigations to go ahead.

“This deeply hurts transparency,” Annis said, adding “clearly that’s wrong.”

She points out that municipalities will ask the ethics commissioner to stop taking files when an election is within weeks, not months.

On Tuesday morning, an email from the mayor’s office made no mention of the vote, instead writing that the mayor was pleased that council voted to accept the 2021 Consolidated Financial Statements.

“Surrey’s fiscal position remains sound despite additional unbudgeted increases in costs associated with the RCMP’s retroactive salary increases, which total in excess of $32 million,” the email reads in part. To read the full financial statements, click here.

McCallum is currently charged with public mischief following an altercation with members of the “Keep the RCMP in Surrey” group last year.

McCallum’s trial to face a charge of public mischief is set to begin in October, two weeks after the municipal election in which McCallum is seeking re-election.

With files from Sonia Aslam and Dean Reckseidler

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