A veteran federal and BC Liberal insider who finished fourth in the 2022 Vancouver mayoral election is lobbying the NDP government on behalf of Surrey City Hall to keep the RCMP in B.C.’s second-largest city.
Mark Marissen registered Jan. 5 to arrange meetings between Surrey officials and counterparts in the office of Premier David Eby and the Solicitor General and Municipal Affairs ministries. According to the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, Marissen’s stated topic of communications is “acting on Surrey city council's request to maintain the RCMP as the police of jurisdiction in Surrey.” His projected end date is March 6.
Mayor Brenda Locke ran on a platform last fall to shut down the fledgling Surrey Police Service. A city hall report estimates it would cost another $235 million over five years to finish the cop swap. On Jan. 6, the day after Marissen began lobbying, Locke said that keeping the Surrey Police Service would mean a 55 per cent property tax hike.
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth is considering Surrey’s December-submitted proposal and an announcement is expected before the Legislature reconvenes Feb. 6.
Marissen has a history of acrimonious political battles with the NDP. In the 2013 election, Eby was successful in unseating Marissen’s political collaborator and ex-wife, then-premier Christy Clark, in Vancouver-Point Grey.
However, Marissen is also a longtime associate of Shannon Salter, Eby’s deputy minister, cabinet secretary and head of the public service. In 2005, when Paul Martin was prime minister, Marissen was the campaign director for the Liberal Party of Canada in B.C. and Salter in charge of communications.
It isn’t the first time Surrey City Hall has hired a Liberal insider to lobby on its behalf. In 2016, under then-mayor Linda Hepner, Prem Vinning’s Concise Consulting was given a $28,800 no-bid contract to arrange meetings aimed at securing federal funding for a light-rail transit system.
The City of Surrey has not yet disclosed how much it is paying Marissen.
On Jan. 17, a reporter asked Locke’s communications staffers Oliver Lum and Amy Jugpal for the maximum value of Marissen’s contract, why he was chosen for the assignment and whether Locke would be available for an interview.
Instead of answering the questions and scheduling an interview, they arranged for Jai Baska of the city’s freedom of information office to send an email on Jan. 18 requesting a $10 payment. Under the freedom of information (FOI) law, public bodies can take 30 business days or longer to provide information to an applicant.
Locke did not respond to a text message or call to her mobile number. Jugpal later said by email that “Mayor Locke will not be commenting.”
Locke’s platform last fall included a promise to eliminate the $10 FOI fee imposed by former mayor Doug McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition council majority.
Locke voted against the measure during an early 2022 city council meeting and used the annual international Right to Know Day for universal access to information last Sept. 28 as the backdrop to announce she would end the fee.
“We believe that access to information should be accessible for everyone, and that’s why we will be dropping the fee for information requests, if elected,” declared Locke in a Surrey Connect campaign news release. “The current fee for each information request is a minimum of $10. The Surrey Connect team sees the fee as a barrier for the public. By eliminating the fee, residents will see we are serious about transparency and good government.”
Locke’s successful campaign to unseat McCallum last Oct. 15 also criticized him for keeping secret the amount he was spending on the team of defence lawyers he retained to fight a public mischief charge.
A Provincial Court judge acquitted McCallum Nov. 21. Four downtown Vancouver lawyers represented him at the trial, including Richard Peck and Eric Gottardi, who defended Huawei executive Meng Wenzhou in extradition proceedings at BC Supreme Court.