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Some Surrey councillors calling on McCallum to step down during criminal trial

New provincial legislation will impose requirements for local elected officials to be suspended with pay while facing criminal allegations and to be expelled if convicted.
The B.C. government has introduced legislative amendments that will give local governments new tools to act when elected officials are charged with or convicted of a criminal offence. Pictured: Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, who has a pre-trial court appearance set for April 11 as he faces one count of public mischief. Photo by Graeme Wood/Glacier Media

The provincial government has introduced legislation that will require an elected local government official to be suspended with pay when facing a criminal charge and expelled from council if convicted.

B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs Nathan Cullen introduced the legislation Thursday.

“These changes are what municipal leaders have been calling for. These changes are what the public expects. These are changes that we seek to implement as government,” said Cullen.

The proposed legislation has since prompted some members of Surrey city council to call on Mayor Doug McCallum to step down from his position, at least temporarily.

Coun. Jack Hundial said the proposed legislation should add more impetus for McCallum to step down as mayor even before it’s officially passed as law.

“Certainly, I’ll be pushing for Mayor McCallum to do the right thing and step down until the matter is sorted out before the court.

“The spirit and intent behind the legislation is there. Here’s a great example to apply this to. At the end of the day, it has to do with public confidence in the leadership,” said Hundial.

McCallum has a pre-trial court appearance set for April 11 as he faces one count of public mischief for allegedly lying to police following an apparent confrontation he had with Surrey citizens canvassing outside a South Surrey grocery store against the mayor’s police transition project last September.

McCallum then claimed to media and police his foot was run over by a citizen allegedly connected to the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group that was collecting signatures for a referendum on the transition with the aim of keeping the Surrey RCMP.

Soon after a special Crown prosecutor was assigned to the case to address a potential conflict of interest with the Surrey RCMP. Prosecutor Richard Fowler announced the charge last December. Since then McCallum has hired attorney Richard Peck.

McCallum has declined to comment on the case and he has not responded to media about this week’s calls to step down, including from Coun. Linda Annis.

“If there are any charges of criminal activity, they do need to step aside on a leave until their case is heard and, if convicted, they should resign,” said Annis.

Annis and Hundial point out that paid suspensions and expulsions in the case of a conviction will also impact a council member’s ancillary roles. In the case of McCallum, he would lose his seat as chair of the Surrey Police Board and his directorship at Metro Vancouver and the Mayor’s Council — the latter two relating to regional planning.

The legislation is supported by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).

“Local governments have asked for changes to the legislation, and these amendments strike the right balance between fairness and good governance,” said UBCM president Laurey-Anne Roodenburg in a statement issued by the province.

Cullen said the Local Government Act, Community Charter, Islands Trust Act and Vancouver Charter will be amended to enact the requirements.

Along with the new requirements for local elected officials who are charged with or convicted of criminal offences, the amendments revise nine pieces of legislation under Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, 2022, and will:

  • repeal the Auditor General for Local Government Act, as the office closed in 2021 and it is redundant legislation;
  • clarify local governments’ authority on electronic meetings and subdivision of land that is not agricultural land;
  • update the Vancouver Charter to provide gender-neutral language; and
  • provide the City of Vancouver the same authority all other local governments have to do energy benchmarking.

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