Premier Clark
Premier calls for leave of absence

The world of BC politics is always one of the most interesting parts of Canadian politics. In line with that Premier Clark on last general election failed to keep her own seat in Vancouver-Point Grey losing it to NDP MLA and her previous contender David Eby. As we know in following days or weeks province will organize by-election for Premier Clark in one of BC ridings so she can become MLA and form new government in days after that. That will cost BC taxpayers substantial amount of money which will be added to the bill which is already served for general elections. But Premier Clark has another big problem, this time with MLA’s who are in a same time elected officials in almost a dozen BC municipalities. Some of them are Councillors some are Mayor’s as Langley’s Peter Fassbender who’s one of the strongest candidates for Clark’s new Cabinet. Recently CBC Vancouver featured one of them Surrey Councillor and new MLA Marvin Hunt who’s trying to stay in both position until the end of this calendar year to avoid trigging by-elections and use of taxpayers money for this purpose. His new boss Christy Clark in recent media comments went to say that she wants all MLA’s, with double duty, to take unpaid leave of absence until new municipal election were called in November of 2014. According to her words that would save money to taxpayers. Many Surrey Councillors including Cllr. Barinder Rasode expressed disagreement with this idea, while Cllr. Bruce Hayne thinks that his colleague Marvin Hunt would be perfectly capable to hold both seats. In recent interview on CBC’s The Early Edition Cllr. Hayne said if Councillors are able to work on full-time job and be full-time Councillors he believes that being both MLA and Councillor is very possible and manageable.

This is an honourable call by Premier Clark, in line with her balanced budget agenda and not spending unnecessary money, also will go in line with Councillor/MLA Hunt many times repeated fiscal conservatism. But in the case of Surrey as municipality in which Mr. Hunt served for more than 20 years not calling elections whole city could be a victim and final bill in November of 2014 could be several times bigger than the money spent on by-elections now. Here’s a case for by-elections.

Surrey_Council_2_mini
City of Surrey Council (Photo: Surrey.ca)

Surrey City Council is formed out of nine councillors, actually eight plus Mayor Dianne Watts, at this point Council members are also members of the same political coalition Surrey First lead by Mrs. Watts. Despite being members of a same coalition Councillors often vote by their own guts and in line with personal beliefs or agendas. In numerous occasions final vote result is split vote 5-4, recently South Surrey Casino which could bring multimillion addition to the budget was strike down by Mayor Watts vote, and we don’t know how many millions of dollars in visitors spending went away to some other local or near by municipality.

Councillors Hunt and Hepner during 2011 campaign
Councillors Hunt and Hepner during 2011 campaign

If Councillor/MLA Hunt listens Premier Clark and takes leave of absence or stays on Council until January 2014, Surrey’s situation will be very very difficult. Vote in Council will be split for next 18 months to 4-4, because Mr. Hunt will need to absent his vote in many cases due to possible Conflict of Interest. Also that will happen in the provincial politics when it comes to any decision related to the City of Surrey, this could be hundreds of millions of dollars and that would also bare him of chance to be in same way lobbyist to Premier Clark for his constituency and people of the city as whole. Without any doubt I can say now that dozens if not even hundreds of projects in Surrey will be stopped, delayed or in the worse case abandoned due to 4-4 vote situation, and who’s gonna pay for that? Bill will be issued to same taxpayers which Premier Clark tries to protect from spending several hundred thousand dollars on by-elections. So my question is: What better, to spend few hundred thousands of dollars on by-elections or to lose several dozens of millions of dollars and bare citizens of new services? My second question would be to Madam Premier: Are you ready to find a way in your next provincial budget to fill that gap for the citizens of Surrey? 

Taking all above in count, and in a position of Councillor Hunt, I would resign my Councillor seat and would allow democracy to happen because I’m the part of that process. I would give a chance to citizens of Surrey to chose new Councillor, their own representative from whichever political group in the city, and would let them chose how they want this City to go ahead until next municipal election.   That would be an honourable, right and proper way to close this chapter and allow both levels of government to go ahead and fulfill their mission and that is proper representation of voters and protection of their interests.