Surrey councillor and Liberal candidate Marvin Hunt says council will decide if he steps down, council members say no, the decision is his.

There appears to be several differences of opinion between Councillor Marvin Hunt and the rest of his council, when it comes to who really is making the decision if he should stay on council, or resign, if he wins a seat in the upcoming provincial election.

As reported by both the Surrey Now and the Surrey Leader, Councillor Hunt stated clearly that the decision would be made by his colleagues on council,  and neither Mayor Watts or councillor Linda Hepner refuted or disagreed with his statements when they were interviewed in the very same article linked to above.

This created a lot of buzz in the city -particularly since nothing further was reported to indicate a decision had been made -and I began receiving emails from Surrey voters asking if I knew which way council decided. Shortly after however, I was told by a resident in the riding, that Hunt said that council didn’t want him to step down and trigger a by-election, and so he would be staying on until January 1st.

Surprised to hear this, I asked Councillor Hunt directly and he did confirm this for me, citing an approximate cost of $600,000 for a by-election :











(When Mayor Watts reported a day later much larger numbers for a by-election than Hunt claimed, I contacted the City Clerk at Surrey city hall, who is responsible for those issues and figures.  Her rough estimate was between $500,000 and $750,000, contingent on variables like the number of polling stations ,staff, etc. )

With Marvin Hunt having publicly put the onus on his colleagues at city council to decide, the questions then began to arrive asking who on council was in support of him staying on, and who was against it.

I asked everyone on Surrey council, including Mayor Watts, the following question:

Recently, Councillor Hunt confirmed to me that the indication he was getting from council was that you wanted him to stay on to avoid triggering a by-election.
Voters in Surrey would like to know from each council member, if you support Marvin Hunt doing both jobs should he win the seat of Surrey Panorama, or oppose the idea, and why.

I received three replies back.

Councillor Tom Gill:

With all due respect, as  you are well aware, the decision solely rests with Councillor Hunt.  
I understand that current legislation would in fact permit him to continue with both elected positions. 
I understand that should Councillor Hunt be successful in his efforts to become an MLA for the Surrey Panorama riding; that Councillor Hunt would continue in both positions for a total of 232 days until January 2, 2014 to avoid a civic by election and resign his civic position at that time. 
As you are well aware, the costs associated to a by-election would be upwards of $  900,000 and as Chair of Finance, I don’t believe this would be the best use of Tax payers funds given the relatively short time remaining as it pertains to the next municipal election. 
I further understand that Councillor Hunt indicated that he would donate his Councillors indemnity to a local charity should he be elected as an MLA given the circumstances.  
In a effort not to bias the current provincial election process, I would be prepared to make additional comments post provincial election. 

Councillor Barinder Rasode:

I applaud  Marvin for stepping up and putting his name forward to serve as MLA in this Provincial election.  His years on Council and work at the regional level will serve our community well if he is successful.

The decision to remain on Council if he is elected is one only Marvin has the authority to make. 

I can only speak to what I would do considering my own standards and capacities.  I would choose not to hold two elected positions. The responsibility I feel as an elected Council representative is a significant one.  It brings with it a substantial time commitment and advocacy  role on behalf of residents with the regional, provincial and federal governments.

I recognize that a By-election comes with a cost attached.  However, funding comes from the statutory authority which is always available in our budgets.  I do believe that a conversation about electoral reform could look at what happens in these situations.  Should we discuss alternatives, for example, that the next candidate with the most votes at the election get this opportunity or other options? 

Councillor Bruce Hayne:

Good morning Laila, 
Thank you for your email regarding Marvin Hunt’s running in the provincial election. I notice that you have received two differing opinions from my colleagues regarding this matter. The bottom line is that, as both Tom and Barinder point out, the decision rest with Marvin, not with Council. 
I believe the solution that he presented; staying on until January of 2014 and donating his salary to charity, provides the residents of Surrey with a cost effective and reasonable way of dealing with the situation. 
Thank you. 
Bruce Hayne

Mayor Watts, Linda Hepner, Mary Martin, Barbara Steele and Judy Villaneuve did not respond.

Both Hepner and Watts are on the record in the Leader regarding Hunts role on council should he win the riding:

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.”

Veteran Surrey blogger Paul Hillsdon expressed why he felt Marvin Hunt should step down – and many Surrey residents are telling me they feel the same way.

“Despite his commitment to give his Council salary to charity, there’s a much bigger concern: conflict of interest.

There are huge opportunities for conflict of interest on both sides of the table. The only way to reduce these conflicts would be to sit out on a large amount of decision making and discussions in both Surrey and Victoria. By choosing to stay in both jobs, he will end up comprising his duty to serve either properly.

Leaving his seat empty in January 2014, as per his suggestion, causes additional problems. It would leave Council’s decision making process crippled. With Hunt, there are nine votes on Council. Without him, Council could face any number of tie votes, forcing an automatic failure on a motion. Leaving his seat empty does a disservice to Surrey citizens who elected him.

Holding a by-election this summer is a sound decision. His Council term is only half way complete. The next municipal election is not until November 2014, over 20 months away. It has been stated that a by-election would be costly, but that’s the price of democracy.

It would certainly be cheaper and more convenient if we had a dictator or king make the decisions, but we live in a society where we choose our future and our leaders. That process takes time and costs money but it represents the principle of self-government.

We should not abdicate that principle to save a few dollars.

Marvin Hunt needs to commit to leaving Council if elected to the Legislature and support a municipal by-election to choose his replacement.

I agree : the cost of a by-election is the cost of democracy, and it’s the right thing to do in this situation. Frankly, by placing the onus on his colleagues on council to make the decision, Hunt has tried to avoid criticism in triggering a by-election, and has created an awkward situation for everyone on council.

That being said, until these responses came from Gill, Hayne and Rasode, no one from the city or council has refuted or denied anything Hunt said multiple times to several different media outlets. So what gives?

It leaves me with only one more question for everyone on Surrey city council : Has anyone considered what the voters in this city want?

17 thoughts on “Surrey councillor and Liberal candidate Marvin Hunt says council will decide if he steps down, council members say no, the decision is his.

  1. This is a stupid situation and it’s all Marvin Hunt’s doing. He wants it all his way. He simply should not have run for council if he wanted to run for a provincial seat. Conversely, he should have not put his name forward for MLA while he is a sitting councillor.

    Donating his council pay to charity isn’t the big issue, it’s what commitment you make to doing your job properly. If he can do both jobs it’s obvious the work load for both isn’t as onerous as they want us to believe and the pay for both is too high.

    He’s looking like Judy Higginbotham, who would run for any office while sitting on council.


    1. To be fair, Sukh was their first choice here – remember he stepped down following those tax issues?

      I don’t have a problem with municipal politicians running for provincial seats.

      I do have a problem with municipal politicians who:

      1) don’t take leave without pay once the write is dropped. Potential for conflict is so high and it’s just the right thing to do. Time for that discussion to be had
      2) hold two positions at the same, regardless of the law allowing that to occur. Make a choice, and stick to it. That is another discussion that needs to be had.

      Councillor Rasode made a good comment. She said above: ” I do believe that a conversation about electoral reform could look at what happens in these situations. Should we discuss alternatives, for example, that the next candidate with the most votes at the election get this opportunity or other options? ”

      Excellent suggest. Why not, while pushing for electoral reform provincially, extend the conversation municipally?

      I think the idea of a spot opened on a council because of a run/win in provincial politics, being offered to the next candidate that ran with the most votes is a very credible idea and would handle the situation well.

      Regardless, it was ridiculous for Marvin to say he was leaving the decision to his council in the first place.


  2. What DO municipal councilors really DOin the grand scheme of things?
    If Vancouver City clowncilors are any indication, not much other than bluster and bullshite.
    This Surrey councilor wants his “cake”( current position) AND a shot at “eating” the MLA’s salary too! Not a bad situation to be in. ” Hmmmmmm, I dont like my current job. i think I’ll apply for that other job”
    Sooooo, If I currently have a job and apply for another job…. and my employer finds out that I have applied for another job…..I would
    a) Be offered incentives to stay…. or….. if that wasnt possible….
    b) I would be immediately terminated, would I not?


    1. He states he is going to give his salary to charity- I am in favour of a by-election. The entire city is run by one political slate and it was mentioned in the press immediately following the last election in an editorial here in Surrey,that it would be incredibly important to hold this council accountable because it is the first time that a city was governed by one political slate without opposition.

      Imagine if the province were run like that. No opposition. Only one political organization running the entire show.


      1. Welll if Christy Clark keeps talking when there is tv cameras and microphones around……you may get your wish….. 🙂


  3. Marvin is not the first city councillor in BC to have made a decision to run for higher office, and he won’t be the last. After 25 exemplary years on council, his opportunity to run in a provincial election, regardless if it comes half way through his 9th term, should be something he has earned.

    You make far too much of a deal about leaving his decision to stay on council (should he win on May 14) to the choice of the other councillors. It appears that the councillors have made their choice: that it is Marvin’s choice. He has already proposed what he would do if given that choice by council: he will stay on until January 1 and give his salary to charity. Then, for a few months, the city will simply be governed by one less councillor from a political organization (Surrey First) that swept all the seats in an at-large system.

    Honestly, Laila, the situation is far less complicated and controversial than you make it out to be.

    – He has clearly stated his intention when he accepted the nomination to run.
    – He has perhaps the best experience of any candidate running anywhere in Surrey to represent Surrey’s interests in Victoria.
    – And this is, on balance, both the least disruptive and least costly transition that anyone could have proposed.


  4. Hi Al…

    First I agree nothing unusual about a city politician making the leap to provincial politics- that seems to be the preferred route and with good reason – it is great experience. But I disagree that it’s not a controversial story.

    Actually Al, I wouldn’t have done this story if people weren’t asking me for answers and you are being a bit disrespectful to the many voters in Surrey who’ve been wondering what was going on.

    It’s pretty clear, Marvin said publicly several times that he was leaving the decision up to council, and nothing was reported following that, so of course people were wondering.

    It’s also not clear that everyone on council is completely in favour of him staying on.

    Paul Hillsdon makes a very important point in his post about conflict of interest and clearly Hepner was concerned about that as well. The people of Surrey deserve to be fully and clearly represented in either position and it would be nearly a year and a half until the next election.

    Barinder made a good point in her response as well. This is happening all over the province. How many councillors or mayors have stepped down without pay to campaign? I even asked Hunt once if he was speaking as councillor or as a Liberal candidate when he responded to a voters questions about skytrain on King George highway. This doesn’t just apply to Marvin, look at Peter Fassbender! There is a conflict simply by not stepping down while actively campaigning, and the discussion needs to be had as to whether or not politicians should be legally allowed to hold two positions at the same time as well.

    Thanks for making time to stop by. I know you’ve got to be one busy guy right now.


  5. How about this for a novel idea? When municipal elections are held, the person who comes closest to being elected without making the grade becomes the “Councillor in Waiting.” Should a member of Council pass on, quit their position, or get elected to higher office during the term, the Councillor in Waiting would get their job, eliminating the need for a by-election and saving cities and taxpayers a small fortune. Considering the small voter turnout for municipal by-elections as was recently seen in White Rock with a lowly 14% casting ballots, this concept should be explored. If Marvin Hunt was to get elected to Victoria, the Councillor in Waiting would be none other than former Surrey Mayor and long time Councillor Bob Bose. I know that White Rock Sun newspaper editor Dave Chesney, who has come agonizingly close to being elected several times in White Rock over the years, would welcome the opportunity to serve those who voted for him without wasting $40,000 of tax-payer money. I’m sure Bob would feel the same, especially with the $600,000 by-election cost for the big city of Surrey.


    1. Brilliant idea Don. Yes, Bob Bose for council in waiting if Hunt wins the provincial election. That would be the logical thing to do and allows us to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. ….ross buchanan


        1. I agree it would be nice to see an Icelandic style event… but as far as not voting in reality here in BC,not voting could give you the worst representation of all candidates. You know for a fact that people are going to vote. And its usually fairly easy to predict who is going to win in a particular riding. So not voting doesn’t have any impact unless everyone is on the page.


        2. How to get everyone on the same page, seems being mugged by someone with a gun or by someone with a knife does not change the fact you’re being mugged.


  6. Isn’t it Marvin Hunt that is also on a radio show? He sure wears a lot of hats.
    Second! Don Pitcairn excellent suggestion about “Councillor in Waiting.” This is how STV works and it’s a better system than our ridiculous ‘first past the post’.
    And totally agree with nonconfidencevote with his question of what they do to deserve the salaries, perks and bonuses they vote for themselves.
    Thank Laila. As usual another excellent post.


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