Steven Pettigrew walks through Hawthorne Park near his home in Surrey. Pettigrew is concerned about city plans to build a road through the park. Arlen Redekop / PNG
Pettigrew, who ran for office in 2018 after leading a campaign to fight the removal of trees at Hawthorn Park, announced on Friday his decision to leave the party and sit as an independent, mainly due to the city’s decision to remove trees.
“I have honoured my commitment to the Safe Surrey Coalition and to the people who voted for me regarding the three pillars of our campagin,” Pettigrew said in an emailed statement.
“In light of recent decisions made by the Safe Surrey Coalition resulting in the loss and projected loss of our tree canopy, I can no longer support that party.”
The party campaigned on a promise to transition to a municipal police force, bring a SkyTrain extension instead of light-rail transit to the city, and achieve “smart development.”
“I look forward to serving the people of Surrey and I ask for your good wishes and prayers,” he said.
Pettigrew has also recently been at odds with McCallum over what he perceives as a lack of public consultation by the city regarding its proposed switch to a municipal police force.
In April, Pettigrew brought a motion to council calling for city-wide consultation on the change, which McCallum denied. When Pettigrew brought the motion instead to the public safety committee in May, he was again shot down.
“What I find disappointing is his treatment of the voters who cast a ballot for him as a member of the Safe Surrey Coalition,” McCallum said.
“We were very open, transparent and specific of what we stood for and intended to do if elected. Steven was fully aware of Safe Surrey’s platform and was more than happy to run an entire campaign with us. Since he’s been elected to Council, he has conveniently forgotten the platform and the promises we made to the people of Surrey.”
He said several issues brought him to this point, including the loss of thousands of trees to make way for development and the lack of public consultation on the transition to a municipal police force.
“The primary driver is the trees,” Pettigrew said, noting that “council has endorsed the removal of almost 50,000 trees over the last seven months.”
“I am not surprised but what I find disappointing is his treatment of the voters who cast a ballot for him as a member of the Safe Surrey Coalition,” wrote McCallum.
“Since Pettigrew was elected to council, he’s conveniently forgotten the platform and the promises we made to the people of Surrey.”
Last month, Pettigrew tried to bring forth a notice of motion at a Surrey council meeting, calling for public consultation to be held before moving to a municipal police force and away from the RCMP.
McCallum was having none of it, and said it was the wrong venue to bring forth the notice of motion.
Pettigrew said he’s been thinking about the move for several months, saying “he can’t take it any more.”