Surrey-Panorama: New MLA bridge between Surrey and Province

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Marvin Hunt, MLA Surrey-Panorama Photo: Ray Hudson
Marvin Hunt, MLA Surrey-Panorama
Marvin Hunt, MLA Surrey-Panorama

By Ray Hudson

Marvin Hunt is a rookie MLA, elected to the BC Legislature in the 2013 election. But he brings with him over twenty-three years as a councilor in the city, which over that period, grew from 258 thousand to 530 thousand, to become the province’s second largest. He spoke with Ray Hudson about the riding and his experience of moving to the more senior level of government.

“My riding is made up of a lot of successful, affluent business people. The main thing I hear from them are issues around the economy. They want me to make sure that we are not either, creating more red tape or keeping it in control, so people can create business, have it flourish and everybody walks away happy. I also have a very large South Asian population, which is why one of my constituency assistants is a fluent Punjabi speaker. Panorama also encompasses the southern part of east Newton which is the mix of the many different cultures.”

“The greatest issues of concern that I have expressed to me, outside of the teacher’s strike, is wanting to see the government putting the pieces in place so the economy can flourish and stay out of the way of people trying to create businesses and getting things done.”

“Finally, I am proud of the multicultural nature of our riding, how well everyone mixes and works together. You have people in other parts of this province that don’t understand the absolute beauty of multi-cultural Surrey, which during Vaisakhi, is just flooded with people celebrating, as happens with our Fusion Fest in July. We have those opportunities to celebrate the diversity of our culture, and certainly Surrey-Panorama is very multi-cultural. I enjoy that uniqueness about our community.”

Asian Journal: How do you contrast your role now, from that of Surrey Councillor that you held for so many years?

Marvin Hunt: One of the duties that carried over is business and economic development, although in Victoria, you’re dealing with a much larger bureaucracy. Over the last twenty years in Surrey, we really changed the culture of the administration, to a can-do atmosphere, a ‘how can we get things done’ attitude, whereas at the provincial level you have a much larger bureaucracy. You get those areas where people are very focused on what they’re doing and not always looking at the bigger picture. It’s a challenge understanding and dealing with that different culture. The whole process of how decisions are made is so much more complex with so many more considerations and consequences. The first year I’ve basically sat back to watch how it all happens, and now I’m trying to work on some things in the north dealing with homelessness, now starting to walk through issues to be part of those decisions and how they are made.

Being a back-bencher makes it a whole lot easier for me. I can be a generalist and work across all sorts of ministries. For example the homeless shelters; I can work on those quite easily even though technically they aren’t in my riding, I can work on truck parking in Surrey, and knowing Councillor Tom Gill as I do, I can help liaise between the province and the city on this issue.

Asian Journal: Do you see much value for your constituents in the transportation funding plebiscite?

Marvin Hunt: We’re very fortunate in my riding that the former Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, got Highway #10 four-laned at that time. When I first got elected to Surrey council, it was our number-one priority, and you can see how long it took to complete. Now you will notice that on 152nd we have the new rail overpass completed, eliminating the congestion from the Roberts Bank rail corridor. We’re fortunate in having these things done already, and remember, the city as well as TransLink paid money into those improvements. Automobile drivers need to remember too that the plan includes a “B-line” right through the riding, on King George Boulevard from Newton to South Surrey area. That is a benefit to us because people will have a transit system to use instead of their cars, and there will be more room on the road for people who have to drive a vehicle.

Asian Journal: When you stop and think about now sitting in the legislature, what goes through your mind?

Marvin Hunt: I have to admit, my first meeting as a city Surrey Councillor was far more impactful because for the first time that you realize that you carry this awesome trust, that people have put their confidence in you to represent them, to advocate for them, to make good decisions for citizens. Going to Victoria was less of a transition in that sense, because it was a continuation of the same thing. I had already become used to that awesome responsibility. But when you go into that room (the legislative chamber) you’re one of only 85 people that are allowed to speak in that room. I’m one of a very exclusive group of people to speak for and advocate for the residents of Surrey Panorama, and the residents of Surrey so it’s a real privilege and I do not take lightly the awesome privilege I have to represent my constituents.