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Rob Shaw: Explosive court affidavit details clash over Surrey police transition

Unveiled court documents reveal secret discussions and political drama in Surrey’s police transition dispute with the BC NDP government
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke and Premier David Eby are photographed in a private meeting on the Surrey policing issue at the Northview Golf and Country Club on March 3, 2023.

Secretly snapped photos, hand-scribbled notes and gossipy observations — the court case between the City of Surrey and the BC NDP government over policing is going to have it all when it starts Monday, if the initial court documents are any indication.

One of the first affidavits filed in the court case is already raising eyebrows for the way it describes two previously unknown meetings between Premier David Eby and Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, as well as three private phone calls in which they talk about the growing rift over policing and the province’s push for the city to complete its transition to the new municipal Surrey Police Service.

The sworn statements come from Kristy Wawryk, Locke’s political advisor, who has acted as a note-taker for almost all of the meetings between the mayor and provincial officials.

Her affidavit includes both her handwritten notes from the meetings, as well as a photo of Locke and Eby huddled in talks at the Northview Golf and Country Club before a Surrey Board of Trade event on March 3, 2023.

The court document includes a detailed accounting of a call between the mayor and the premier on April 28, 2023, just hours after Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced the province recommended Surrey continue transitioning to SPS.

At that point, the NDP government had told Surrey it could still choose to go back to the RCMP if it could meet strict staffing requirements (though on July 19, 2023, Farnworth would take that option off the table and order the SPS transition, which is the decision the city is challenging in court).

“As I recall, and my notes record, the Premier explained in the call he did not care which police force Surrey was going to have, but he was ‘getting beat up on public safety’ and needed the matter resolved,” wrote Wawryk.

“I recall he told the Mayor: ‘I don’t care what the decision is, I just need to get out of it.’”

The call occurred amidst the backdrop of several high profile public safety incidents, including a man stabbed to death in broad daylight outside a Vancouver Starbucks and a stabbing on a SkyTrain station in New Westminster.

Wawryk observed in her notes she thought the premier took a “shot @ Farny” in reference to Farnworth, and suggested a private meeting that would cut out the solicitor general.

“Eby said maybe it should be just you and me because it’s obvious you don’t trust him,” wrote Wawryk.

Locke and Farnworth have had a non-functional relationship for most of the policing dispute, reduced to yelling at each other in the media.

Eby talked to Locke on the phone again May 5, alongside the premier’s chief of staff Matt Smith.

“As I recall, and my notes record, Premier Eby told Mayor Locke he had ‘the greatest desire in the world to get this over with,’” according to Wawryk’s statement.

“He proposed a plan for moving forward that would involve another decision by Surrey City Council on the policing transition. He said it did not matter what the outcome was; what mattered was the decision would be ‘on them, not on us.’”

Wawryk wrote in her notes that Locke said: “I know people thought I would roll over and play dead on this but the money isn’t enough and isn’t everything.”

Locke felt that some Surrey MLAs like Labour Minister Harry Bains were “orchestrating bullying.”

“It won’t hurt me,” Locke told the premier, according to Wawryk’s notes. “It will hurt some of your MLAs.”

Locke also pushed back against suggestions that as a BC Liberal MLA from 2001 to 2005 she was taking her position based on partisanship against the NDP government.

“I don’t give a shit about the Liberals this is not about partisan politics for me,” Locke said, according to Wawryk’s notes.

Eby wanted to know a “way out” of the dispute and Locke appeared to be “missing what he is looking for,” Wawryk wrote as an observation.

“There is a low trust environment on both sides,” she wrote, adding in a written observation that Eby “has lied to her so many times already.”

The affidavit also outlines what would likely have been a tense face-to-face between Locke and Farnworth on July 25, 2023, in which both sides dispute whether either had a plan.

Some of the affidavit pages are redacted — though, it’s not known why. The notes from a Sept. 18, 2023, meeting between Locke and Eby (accompanied by Smith and head of the civil service Shannon Salter) are blacked out pages.

Eby’s office says the recollection is completely inaccurate and the province will be filing its own affidavits outlining its version of events. How much of that will be redacted as cabinet privilege or legal advice is also unknown.

It’s not clear how much the two sides will diverge in their recollections, since affidavits are sworn oaths of truth by the people who sign them and lying to the court would be extremely ill-advised by anyone involved.

Still, it’s clear much tea is going to be spilled about the otherwise secret discussions between the mayor, the premier, the solicitor general and top staff.

It will be fun to watch from the outside, but it will only make worse a truly dysfunctional relationship that continues to this day.

The court hearing is scheduled to take five days.

Farnworth has said even if his decision is overturned by a judge, the issue of who polices Surrey will simply revert back to the law, which the NDP changed last fall to make SPS the police force of record for the city.

Rob Shaw has spent more than 16 years covering B.C. politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for Glacier Media. He is the co-author of the national bestselling book A Matter of Confidence, host of the weekly podcast Political Capital, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.

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