Rob Shaw: Once united, David Eby and Peter German sit opposite on Surrey policing

Decision coming this week on RCMP or local police force

Former RCMP deputy commisssion Peter German was a special investigator for B.C. Attorney General David Eby on money laundering. | Chuck Chiang, BIV file photo

When rookie attorney general David Eby needed someone he could trust to investigate the explosive allegations of money-laundering in British Columbia several years ago, there was only one person in his mind who was up for the job: Peter German.

A lawyer, author, former Mountie and expert on law enforcement, German became Eby’s right-hand man in 2017 on one the biggest files in recent political history. And when German made recommendations to improve policing in the wake of his two reports, Eby not only listened but acted.

Today though, there is a very different dynamic at play.

On the one side, Eby, now premier, is working with his Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to try to push the City of Surrey to stay with its transition to a municipal police force.

On the other, German, now a consultant to Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, is working with the City of Surrey to counter the Eby administration by producing reports that backstop Locke’s promised return to the RCMP.

The back-and-forth of contradictory policing information from the two sides has made for a confusing past few months, with the province and city critiquing each other’s safety statistics, cost estimates and human resource plans for both the RCMP and Surrey Police Service.

Another twist in the saga will play out this week, as Farnworth is expected to announce yet another “decision” from the province in the matter — which to date have amounted to a series of strong suggestions, financial inducements and a whole lot of bluster, though, with no actual binding final orders from the province.

German’s involvement has been low-key. He hasn’t spoken publicly about his role. The only time it was mentioned was buried within a November 2022 city staff report. He declined to comment for this column.

His contract, which I obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows he was hired to provide “strategic advice on the project to maintain the RCMP as the police of jurisdiction in Surrey.

“The scope of work included assisting in completing, reviewing and finalizing all documentation related to the project, and public comments on elements of the projects, as requested.”

What started as a $25,000 contract between November 2022 and March 31, 2023, grew to at least $36,683.33 for extra time helping draft Surrey’s policing arguments in favour of the RCMP. His help has not ended there, either.

“Peter German continues to consult with the mayor on an as-needed basis under the terms of the contract,” the city said in a statement.

German’s involvement with the city has given its RCMP argument more heft in the corridors of power in Victoria. He is no mere consultant, he is the man who became the premier’s money laundering czar, and whose fingerprints remain on the premier’s vision for policing.

It has also complicated what the province had earlier predicted would be an easy job to steamroll the city back to a municipal force. Instead, it has had to contend with German, quietly working away in the background (as part of a city project team) to neutralize provincial arguments and produce strong pro-RCMP counterpoints.

Even Eby signed a non-disclosure agreement recently, at the request of the city, to read some of the pro-RCMP work German helped author.

German is also a loyal Mountie. He worked his way up in the force to deputy commissioner, before retiring from the RCMP in 2012.

Ultimately, the province does not believe German’s conclusion that the RCMP can restaff its Surrey division without pulling officers from other B.C. detachments. The worry from government is that the RCMP would jeopardize staffing in smaller communities, as well as in specialized cross-municipal investigative teams, in order to fill all positions required for Surrey.

There is no small irony in the provincial fears — they were once highlighted by German himself during his money-laundering work, in which he pointed out the RCMP’s understaffing of specialized money laundering teams. The government predicts those same types of teams would be cannabalized to meet the RCMP’s demands in Surrey.

Meanwhile, the public is left in the dark about most of the arguments.

The reports produced by both sides are either heavily redacted, or not available at all for the public to read. From the outside, it is an indecipherable mess.

Behind the scenes though, the two sides will clash again this week, when Farnworth delivers his latest decision in the matter. Whatever happens, however, it seems unlikely it will put the premier and his money-laundering czar back on the same page again when it comes to policing.

Rob Shaw has spent more than 15 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.