British Columbia

Surrey mayoral race heats up as long-term MP says he's considering run

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum could be facing strong competition in the next civic election as long-running Member of Parliament Sukh Dhaliwal considers running for the city's top job.

Surrey–Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal says he's 'seriously thinking about' challenging Doug McCallum in October

Surrey-Newton Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal said many people are encouraging him to run in the city's mayoral race in October. (James Mulleder/CBC)

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum could be facing strong competition in the next civic election as a popular federal politician considers running for the city's top job.

Long-running Member of Parliament Sukh Dhaliwal said Wednesday that many people have been encouraging him to challenge McCallum in October's poll.

"Lots of individuals from all walks of life and all political stripes have come to me over the last two months and they have asked me to run for the mayoral chair here in Surrey, and I'm seriously thinking about it," said Dhaliwal, who has won a federal seat in Surrey for the Liberal Party five times, and has held the Surrey–Newton seat since its creation in 2015.

Dhaliwal said "divisive politics" are affecting the municipality at a time when the focus should be on growing the city.

McCallum, who has already declared his plan to seek re-election, gave only a brief comment when asked about the possibility of Dhaliwal running against him.

"That's his decision. I think anyone who wants to run that's up to them and they can make those decisions," said McCallum.

Dhaliwal described McCallum as his friend when he congratulated him on his mayoral win during a statement in the House of Commons in 2018.

The names of provincial politicians have also surfaced as possible contenders in the civic election this October, though few people have officially declared their plans.

MLA Jinny Simms told CBC News last month that she had received calls asking that she challenge for the mayor's job. MLA Harry Bains, meanwhile, ruled out a run on social media.

Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke has already thrown her hat in the ring and has tabled harsh criticism over McCallum's leadership and his move to transition the city from Surrey RCMP to a municipal police force.

Many variables in mayoral race

Political scientist Hamish Telford with the University of the Fraser Valley noted prospective candidates are likely calculating their chances as McCallum faces criticism over the costs of the new Surrey Police Service.

The mayor is also set to appear in court on Jan. 25 after being charged with public mischief related to an incident at a grocery store involving a pro-RCMP supporter.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum pictured in May 2019. Potential challengers might see the mayor's position as vulnerable due to a recent mischief charge and the ongoing debate over the city's move to a municipal police force, political scientist Hamish Telford says. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"There is perhaps a sense out there that Doug McCallum is perhaps a little bit vulnerable. He's been a controversial mayor. He's now got some legal troubles," said Telford.

He said at this stage timing will play a key role for anyone considering a run.

"You have to sort of announce early enough that you can do the campaigning you need to do to win, but you also want to wait long enough to see who your opposition is going to be and all of the prospective candidates who are in that vote," said Telford.

Civic elections in B.C. are set to take place Oct. 15.

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