It was announced last week that Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt will be running in the provincial election for the Liberals in Surrey-Panorama.
With a relatively good chance of him winning the riding, he was posed the question: Will there be a byelection called for his seat? His immediate reaction? Not necessarily.
Hunt stated that he’s open to sitting as both a councillor and MLA at the same time. The decision to call a byelection, he said, rested with council. In other words, his colleagues should choose whether he can hold two jobs at once.
Why hasn’t this caused any outrage? Hunt has essentially suggested that he will double dip, with two jobs at two levels of government simultaneously. 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, which would defeat any number of motions. Leaving his seat empty does a disservice to Surrey citizens who elected him.
If Hunt wins in Surrey-Panorma, holding a byelection this summer would be a sound decision. 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 byelection to choose his replacement.