Veteran Surrey councillor to run for B.C. Liberals in Panorama
Marvin Hunt is prepared to sit as MLA and serve as city councillor at the same time should he be elected to the legislature in May.
By law, he is allowed to do both jobs, but said it would be up to council.
The 23-year veteran city councillor said Thursday he will represent the B.C. Liberal Party in Surrey-Panorama in this May's general provincial election.
The riding will be without an incumbent as Stephanie Cadieux is moving over to Surrey-Cloverdale, which is being vacated by retiring Kevin Falcon.
Last week, Hunt was approached by his longtime friend Sukh Dhaliwal to run in the Surrey-Panorama riding.
Dhaliwal was expected to run for the Liberals there, but stepped down when it was discovered he was facing charges under the Canada Tax Act for failing to file taxes for one of his companies.
Dhaliwal's request to Hunt was followed by an assurance from Christy Clark that the councillor could have the Liberal candidacy for the riding.
Hunt said it was a difficult decision because he felt he is having great success on Surrey council.
He has served on several civic, regional and national committees while on council (he sits on the board of directors at Metro Vancouver), and has travelled internationally as a board member representing the Americas on the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and the United Cities and Local Government.
If successful, it would leave a gaping hole on council, civic representatives say.
"He's such a great asset to the City of Surrey," said Mayor Dianne Watts. "He's done such incredible work within the city, regionally, nationally and internationally, that it will be a huge loss."
Coun. Linda Hepner echoed that sentiment.
"He has a long history and he's been a strong partner at the council table," Hepner said. "He brings logic, rationale, reasoned approach and a strong history around issues of policy that many of us do not have."
Hunt be squaring off against NDP's Amrik Mahill, who is president of Black Top and Checker Cabs and Sara Sharma, an entrepreneur and realtor running with the Green party.
While Hunt is considered a star candidate, bringing with him substantial name recognition, history shows the riding of Surrey-Panorama is by no means a sure bet for the Liberals.
The riding was won by the Grits in 2009 by Stephanie Cadieux, who garnered 54 per cent of the vote, compared to NDP's Debbie Lawrence, who got 40 per cent.
Surrey-Panorama was created in 2001, and was initially won by Dr. Gulzar Cheema for the Liberals. It was subsequently held by NDP's Jagrup Brar, who left for Fleetwood when the boundaries were redrawn in 2008. Panorama boundaries then expanded south to include both Newton and South Surrey. Newton has traditionally been a safe NDP riding, while South Surrey has been a long-time Liberal stronghold.
If he is successful in winning the riding of Panorama, Hunt could hold both seats on Surrey council and in the B.C. legislature. If he chooses not to stay on city council, it would force a byelection to fill his seat in Surrey.
Hunt said Friday that decision would be up to council. If it was Surrey council's will, he would keep his civic duties until Jan. 1, 2014 so as not to force a $600,000 byelection. The municipal election is in November of that year, so his seat could remain vacant after Jan. 1 of that year.
Hepner said at first blush she would find it hard to support having him do both jobs, noting the task on council is huge. She also pointed out there could be conflicts for Hunt representing both levels of government.
Watts said Hunt would just have to watch for those and step aside for those votes.
"I know that he is very vigilant not to cause a byelection," Watts said. "I fully understand the argument that it is a lot of work. It's a matter of weighing things out to the cost of a byelection, and I don't think the taxpayers want to foot the bill for a byelection."
As to critics who say he'd be triple dipping – with remuneration coming from three levels of government – Hunt said he would would step down from his Metro Vancouver duties and donate his civic salary to local charities.
But can he be both an effective MLA and city councillor?
"That's a question I believe council will have to decide," Hunt said.
He says he has not been offered any cabinet positions if he and the Liberals win.
"No, I've been offered hard work," Hunt said.