Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt doesn't have the council votes for the unpaid leave Premier Christy Clark wants him to take.

Liberal MLA-Elect Hunt may cause byelection for Surrey

Premier Christy Clark wants Marvin Hunt to take an unpaid leave, but MLA-elect doesn't have the support of city council.

It looks like Surrey may be heading for a byelection to fill the seat of Coun. Marvin Hunt, who just became the Liberal MLA-elect for Surrey Panorama.

Hunt had planned to serve as MLA while remaining on Surrey council until Jan. 1, 2014 to avoid a pricey byelection, which could cost between $600,000 and $800,000, according to city staff.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is urging him to take an unpaid leave of absence.

However, Hunt doesn’t have support of his colleagues to make that move.

After 23 years on city council, Hunt was elected May 14 as the Liberal MLA for Surrey-Panorama.

He told The Leader before the election he planned to do both jobs, while donating his council pay to a charity.

At a Liberal caucus meeting Friday, the premier urged any councillors elected as MLAs to take an unpaid leave of absence from their civic jobs in order to avoid byelections.

Hunt told The Leader Friday he had dismissed the notion of doing both jobs and was pursuing the leave, which requires the ascent of council.

However, as of Friday, he didn’t have the votes for it to pass.

A straw poll conducted by The Leader indicates that the majority of council is against him taking a leave of absence.

Couns. Barinder Rasode, Tom Gill, Linda Hepner, Judy Villeneuve and Barbara Steele said Friday they don’t favour his taking an unpaid leave.

“I think if he’s not going to be attending meetings, he should reconsider his position,” Villeneuve said Friday.

Steele said Hunt will be sorely missed on council, but prefers a byelection to leaving his seat vacant for a protracted period.

Hepner said it’s important to fill Hunt’s seat as soon as possible.

“I would rather see the public choose their representative,” Hepner said. “I understand that is expensive to a city, but I can tell you right now we have products of byelections sitting on our council,” referring to Steele, who took a seat in 1998, when Pam Lewin resigned.

Rasode said the cost of the byelection is “a statutory amount that is set out in our budget… so it won’t be undue hardship on our budget.”

Many of them say the civic democratic system calls for a byelection for a vacant seat and others say there would be an increase in the number of proposals brought to council dying on a tie vote.

All those councillors, except for Gill and Villeneuve, also oppose him trying to do both jobs.

Couns. Mary Martin and Bruce Hayne, along with Mayor Dianne Watts, approve of him taking unpaid leave.

Watts said the cost of a byelection could be far better used for some public amenities.

The election would be held 80 days after an Chief Elections Officer is appointed, which will happen as soon as the clerk is notified the seat needs to be filled.

Hunt said Friday he’d be bringing a motion before council for a vote on Monday night.

If the vote doesn’t pass, he would have to go back to Clark and ask if she would make an exception, allowing him to do both jobs.

For full results of the vote, follow www.surreyleader.com

@diakiw

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