It may be nine months yet until municipal election season, but the mayoral race in British Columbia’s second most populous city is already heating up.
Veteran Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal is the latest name to generate buzz, and the three-term member of parliament isn’t doing anything to cool spectulation.
“Many people from different walks of life and very different political stripes have come over and asked me to consider running for mayor of Surrey and I am giving it very serious consideration,” Dhaliwal told Global News on Thursday.
Dhaliwal currently serves as MP for Surrey-Newton, and was previously twice elected in the former riding of Newton-North Delta.
While Dhaliwal suggested he may throw his hat in the ring to challenge sitting Mayor Doug McCallum, he wasn’t yet ready to take aim at the incumbent’s record.
“Right now as member of parliament, my duty is to serve my constituents of Surrey Newton and to work with the local mayor and council,” Dhaliwal said.
Dhaliwal’s name joins a growing list of confirmed and potential candidates to challenge McCallum, who is seeking re-election.
Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke — who was elected with McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition in 2018 but has since broken with the slate — has already said she plans to run for the job.
Coun. Linda Annis, the only city councillor elected in 2018 that wasn’t a part of McCallum’s slate, has said she’s also weighing her options.
And Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Simms, who faced off twice against Dhaliwal in federal elections — with each winning once — has also been floated as a potential contender.
Sims told the Surrey Now-Leader last month that she was focused on her constituency, but that she’s also learned to “never say never.”
Adding to the volatility of this year’s campaign, McCallum is facing a criminal charge of public mischief, over claims he made that his foot was run over by activists campaigning to block Surrey’s transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force.
“Obviously Doug McCallum won quite handily last time and his slate won most of the seats on council last time — but he has proven to be a fairly controversial mayor, and particularly his desire to push forward with a local police force has been quite controversial,” University of the Fraser Valley associate professor of political science Hamish Telford said.
“And now of course he’s facing criminal charges and a potential trial. So I think other prospective candidates are thinking he is perhaps beatable and they are testing the waters to see if they might be the person who can beat him.”
Telford said the possibility of a crowded field likely has would-be candidates hedging their bets as they see who else could be aiming for the job.
Potential candidates will also need to work out whether they can build a big enough team and war chest to run a successful campaign, and in the case of politicians like Dhaliwal and Sims, will need to assess whether they have enough name recognition outside of their provincial or federal riding.
British Columbians will go to the polls to elect municipal politicians on Saturday, Oct. 15, marking ballots in the sixth municipal, provincial or federal election in the last six years.