The race for Surrey mayor just got a little more crowded.
Long-time Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal has made his candidacy for the top job in B.C.'s second largest city official, joining MLA and former MP Jinny Sims, Coun. Brenda Locke and incumbent mayor Doug McCallum in the race.
After months of speculation, Dhaliwal held a news conference in Surrey Monday morning to announce his candidacy.
"Over the last four years, we have seen divisive politics, unprecedented division, partisanship, no focus on the citizens of Surrey," he said.
Calling Surrey's current council "secretive" and "biased," Dhaliwal added that he plans to "repair a divided city."
Dhaliwal, MP for Surrey-Newton, has run against Sims in three federal elections and was a key organizer for McCallum when he was first mayor in the 1990s.
Dhaliwal began his campaign by announcing specific promises if elected.
The promises include rolling back a $200 increase to the yearly parcel tax that Surrey council enacted in 2020, along with "an immediate one-year tax freeze," saying the move "will help the people that need the help now, because we are going through unprecedented uncertainty."
Hamish Telford, a political science professor at the University of the Fraser Valley, says freezing taxes in a growing city like Surrey could be problematic.
"To freeze taxes means you're going to freeze development in this fast growing city," said Telford.
When asked how he would pay for the tax cuts, Dhaliwal said Surrey's accumulated surplus would support the changes.
"We have accumulated wealth, almost $300 million and we can use that money that we have accumulated to make sure that we are able to help the ones that need the most by freezing those taxes."
Dhaliwal said he has no intention of reversing the biggest development of McCallum's tenure — the transition to an independent municipal police force from the Surrey RCMP.
While Locke is promising to overturn the transition and Sims has promised to study the details before making a decision, Dhaliwal says the move is too far underway to reverse now.
"It is my understanding that almost 300 people are already hired in the city police. We have come a long way."
Dhaliwal's entry into the race has created a "very crowded field," said Telford.
While Dhaliwal's entry could improve McCallum's chances due to vote splitting, Telford says Surrey residents may also want a clean slate after McCallum dominated news headlines for many years in controversial ways, including a criminal charge for mischief that won't be fought in court until after the election.
"Doug McCallum, although he has fulfilled his signature promises from the last election, has also been very controversial," said Telford.
The field could get even more crowded. Former White Rock mayor, MLA and MP Gordie Hogg is contemplating a mayoral bid as well, which could further split the vote.
Given that McCallum has established himself as a promise-keeper on his policing and SkyTrain pledges, his opponents would have to differentiate themselves in the months before the general election vote on Oct. 15, Telford said.
"Other than being different people, what are they actually going to do differently?" he said.