SURREY — Longtime Surrey councillor Barb Steele is jumping ship from Surrey First to run alongside Bruce Hayne in this fall’s civic election.
The question is, was she pushed?
In a press release Tuesday (July 17), Steele said “It has become clear that philosophically I can no longer be a part of Surrey First,” citing “leadership and integrity“ as concerns. The release states Steele “has resigned from the party she was a founding member of.”
But Tom Gill, Surrey First’s mayoralty candidate, tells a different story.
“She left because we did not endorse her,” Gill told the Now-Leader on Wednesday. “She had trouble committing to Surrey First and her loyalties were elsewhere.
“I am so disappointed that Barbara would convey to the media it was her choice to leave Surrey First,” Gill said.
City Councillor Tom Gill, Surrey First mayoralty candidate. (Metro Vancouver video image)
Gill said push came to shove after Steele told him she had been speaking with the Rich Coleman camp and Bruce Hayne about throwing her lot in with them. Coleman decided this week not to run.
For her part, Steele said she doesn’t recall “the word endorse or not being endorsed coming up at all.”
“Nobody said they wouldn’t endorse me,” she said. “Yes, I resigned, for sure. I also don’t want to play Grade 6. The facts are the facts.
“Tom knew I was doing some serious thinking,” Steele said. She also said she and Gill “sometimes clash” and “really hadn’t been seeing eye to eye for a while.”
“I have no intention of carrying on a great big fight in the press,” Steele said.
Gill furnished the Now-Leader with what he says is a text-message conversation between himself and Steele earlier this week:
“I have made up my mind. I am staying where I am. I don’t think we need to meet tomorrow. Ok?”
“Let’s meet at city hall.”
“Why. I am staying with Surrey First. My mind is made up.”
“I have to close loop on a few things We should meet as scheduled, it’s important that we meet.”
“What loopholes Tom? You I am a member of Surrey First. I don’t see any loopholes.”
“Sorry for typing”
“We are good Tom”
Gill said Steele did not show up for the meeting.
City Councillor Barbara Steele. (File photo)
Following councillor Hayne’s departure from Surrey First in June, Steele is the second sitting Surrey First councillor to part ways with the civic party in less than a month. Hayne has yet to publicly declare whether he intends to run for mayor or councillor this fall.
Steele has been a councillor with the City of Surrey for two decades, and is a past-president of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM).
In the Oct. 20 civic election, she will seek an eighth term on Surrey council.
“I’m looking forward to running in the election this fall to continue the work I’ve started on behalf of the good people of this city,” Steele stated in the release.
“I joined Surrey First because I believed in the work, the values and the vision of my friend and colleague Dianne Watts. This is no longer the party that represents the ideals we began with, and in good conscience I can’t be part of it.”
On June 22, Surrey First announced Tom Gill will be its mayoral candidate in the election, following a decision by Mayor Linda Hepner to not seek re-election.
Judy Villeneuve and Mary Martin, current members of the all-Surrey First council, are also not seeking re-election this fall.
— with files by Tom Zillich