Surrey mayoral candidate Gordie Hogg who has decades of political experience from having been the mayor of White Rock, a provincial MLA and a federal MP, is jumping into a highly competitive and heated political race for the city's top job under the Surrey First banner.
Hogg, who is 75 years old and lives in White Rock, is heading up the party started by former Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts. He was the last of the five high-profile Surrey mayoral candidates to jump into the race, although his party has been gearing up behind the scenes with help from well-established public relations company, the Pace Group.
Hogg is a familiar face in South Surrey and is pushing a community-based approach to civic decisions. Whether that will pack enough citywide punch to win the race is unclear.
What is Surrey First?
Surrey First is arguably the longest-running party in Surrey in this election, despite having only been established by Dianne Watts in the run-up to the 2008 election, which the party won with a majority council.
Over the years, the party's success in civic elections waned after Watts left to further other political interests. Coun. Linda Hepner ran for mayor in 2014 and won, but personal ambitions and infighting weakened the party's united front.
In the 2018 election, mayoral candidate Tom Gill lost badly to Doug McCallum, and Surrey First was reduced to one elected city councillor, Linda Annis.
Under Hogg, the party is running eight council candidates: incumbent Linda Annis, along with Bilal Cheema, Mary-Em Waddington, Paul Orazietti, Ajit Mehat, Mike Bose, Sargy Chima and Kulwinder Saini.
What is the party's biggest issue?
As a former elected official, Hogg said his eye is on the future and that progress in the city needs to be guided with members of the community having their say.
"We're not dictators."
Hogg said having disagreements is healthy for democracy.
"Well, firstly, I think that the elected representatives have to remember that they report to their citizenry, and that's an important part of our democratic process, and I've talked to people who said they've been barred from going to council meetings and that they've been muted," he said.
Hogg said he wants to hold council meetings in different community centres across the city and give people a chance to ask questions at the beginning of them.
What will they do about policing?
Surrey First is pushing for a referendum on the transition from Surrey RCMP to a municipal police force.
Hogg said the police transition was one of the most controversial decisions Surrey had seen in decades, and the best approach is to ask the residents what they want.
"We would immediately do a forensic audit to find out exactly what the costs are and what the details are around that, and then we would provide the citizens of Surrey an opportunity to vote on that, to speak on it, to give their point of view."
He said more work needs to be done to understand the financial impact of the decision.
What are some of their other promises?
Hogg believes the city needs a form of light rail transportation running from north to south through the Newton town centre — but not necessarily a SkyTrain line.
"I've met with one of the directors of B.C. Transit, and they're talking about the possibility of running something down the side of King George Boulevard," said Hogg.
"And they said that they have things that look like SkyTrain, but they're on wheels and on tires and could run parallel to King George Boulevard."
Such a proposal would look similar to light rail, which was on the table for Surrey prior to the 2018 election but was eliminated after McCallum's victory, when he promised to transfer the funds to the Langley SkyTrain extension instead.
As a grandfather, former football player, little league coach and founder of community sports programs for at-risk youth, Hogg also said multiple smaller community facilities should be prioritized by Surrey rather than the 60,000-seat stadium promised by McCallum.
Surrey First is also promising more neighbourhood pools, rinks, sports fields and community centres, with free access for local children, teens and seniors.
Even though he lives in a neighbouring municipality, Hogg said much of his public service has been in Surrey.
"I'd like to believe that my experiences can be helpful in terms of moving forward in a positive way. I think that the values that are reflected in the things that we do are more important than where we live."