Coun. Tom Gill wants referendum on whether Surrey should dump RCMP and create municipal police force

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      It looks like policing is going to be a huge issue in the upcoming Surrey municipal election.

      Mayoral candidate and current councillor Tom Gill has unveiled a notice of motion seeking a referendum on whether Surrey should create a city police force.

      It will go before council next year.

      The city has a contract with the Mounties, which has a detachment of 835 officers in Surrey. This makes it the largest municipal RCMP police force in Canada.

      “It’s time to ask our residents what they think of having a Surrey police department, one with deep roots in the community, and one that reports completely to the people of Surrey, instead of RCMP headquarters in Ottawa,” Gill said in a news release. “Frankly, I think we need to ask ourselves if we’ve outgrown the RCMP?”

      It comes in the wake of a large number of shootings in Surrey in recent years.

      Gill has been on council for 13 years and is a member of Surrey First. It won every seat on council and school board in the 2014 election.

      A new party called Proudly Surrey has already promised to end the RCMP contract in Surrey. It's proposed to phase in a South Fraser Police Department and increase spending on law enforcement.

      One of Proudly Surrey's council candidates is former B.C. Green leader Stuart Parker.

      Another party, the Surrey Community Alliance, is running five candidates for council, including Newton community activist Doug Elford. He has publicly questioned whether Surrey should continue being policed by the Mounties.

      Gill's motion calls for the referendum to take place in 2019, which is after the municipal election occur.

      When the B.C. Liberal government renewed B.C.'s RCMP contract in 2012 for a 20-year period, it looked like the Mounties were going to be a fixture in Surrey for a very long time.

      That's because the RCMP also moved its E Division headquarters to the Green Timbers area, giving the national police force a huge footprint in B.C.'s second-largest city.

      Former premier Gordon Campbell even attended a celebration in Surrey in 2009 for the request for proposals to build the massive facility.

      It ended up costing $966 million in public-private partnership with Green Timbers Accommodation Partners to design, build, operate, and maintain the building for 25 years.

      But now, it appears as though the relationship between some Surrey residents and the Mounties is on the rocks.