Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with newly elected Metro Vancouver mayors Thursday, including Vancouver's Kennedy Stewart and Surrey's Doug McCallum to talk shop and the lower mainland's transit priorities. McCallum used the opportunity to get a green light on his two top priorities – getting Skytrain and municipal police force for Surrey, the two main planks that brought the man known as "Doug Paaji" back to the Mayor's chair in Surrey. Photos by Sukhwant Singh Dhillon
By DESIBUZZCanada Staff
With News Files
VANCOUVER – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with newly elected Metro Vancouver mayors Thursday, including Vancouver's Kennedy Stewart and Surrey's Doug McCallum to talk shop and the lower mainland's transit priorities.
McCallum used the opportunity to get a green light on his two top priorities – getting Skytrain and municipal police force for Surrey, the two main planks that brought the man known as "Doug Paaji" back to the Mayor's chair in Surrey.
Trudeau said Thursday he won’t interfere in the region’s plans for transit infrastructure if Surrey decides to switch from a light rail transit to a SkyTrain.
McCallum has been clear that he wants to scrap plans for the LRT, raising questions about how much more this project could cost as $50 million is already spent on getting the LRT off the ground.
Trudeau has committed to funding transit projects in the Lower Mainland, but hasn’t said whether switching to a SkyTrain extension along the Fraser Highway to Langley could impact the amount of federal funding – $483.8 million – already earmarked for the $1.65-billion LRT project.
“I can commit that the federal government will be there as a partner, as they determine their priorities,” Trudeau said in Vancouver Thursday.
McCallum took to twitter to announce that he feels he has ‘support from Trudeau’ for scrapping #LRT and replacing #RCMP with municipal force.
McCallum said he plans to meet with BC Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on Friday.
Trudeau said he would support whatever option was preferred, but didn’t say either way whether they would consider putting more money toward a transit project in Surrey.
“Over the past years, we have worked with the mayor’s council across the Lower Mainland, we have worked with individual mayors, we’ve worked with the provincial government, to identify the projects that matter to British Columbians, the projects that matter to you,” he says. “And we’ve said we will be full partners on these projects.”
TransLink has previously estimated a SkyTrain extension would cost $2.91 billion, but Mayor Doug McCallum has repeatedly promised to build a SkyTrain in Surrey for the same cost as LRT.
McCallum told News 1130 there was no mention of whether Ottawa is willing to chip in for the extra costs when the two met face-to-face on Thursday.
“We didn’t talk about that because the prime minister has indicated that he respects the mayors’ council and the decisions they make.”
As for Surrey reimbursing the region for the $50 million already spent on the original design? He says he won’t owe anything, because changes are common during large transit projects.
“Different cities during building of rapid transit lines have also started with light rail. Vancouver is a good example. It started with the idea of light rail along the Arbutus corridor and spent money on that, before the plans changed.”
And he said after recently consulting with an engineer, he doesn’t think the extra costs will be significant.
McCallum said the prime minister is committed to working with the municipality, if it goes through with replacing its Mounties with a municipal force.
The mayor-elect is stressing many policing-assets already belong to the city.
“Surrey already owns all the policing equipment, like the cars, the community police stations. And CUPE staff, 300 of them, are already doing administration.”
Much has been made about how costly switching to a municipal force would cost the city. But McCallum says if RCMP officers choose to unionize in the next few years, the cost of keeping the Mounties in Surrey would increase anyway, reported News 1130.
He says any extra costs associated with a new force should come as no surprise to voters.
“In the campaign, we were very clear that it would cost a little bit more to have our own police force. Bu their comments back to us was that they were willing to pay more to make our community safer.”
He is sticking by his assertion that a police force conversion could happen within two years.
“Once we get approval from the federal and provincial governments, not only am I confident but police chiefs around the region are confident, that we can have it up and running within two years,” McCallum told News 1130.