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Empty chair at Surrey mayoral debate leads to some political theatre

Surrey, B.C. -

An empty candidate’s chair at a mayoral debate in Surrey Wednesday did not go unnoticed. In fact, the chair became a focal point for some theatrics and a few laughs.

Incumbent mayor Doug McCallum was the only one among a total of eight candidates for mayor in Surrey who did not show up at the event organized by the Surrey Board of Trade.

“It was just the nametag, no Doug,” said Surrey Connect mayoral candidate Brenda Locke.

During the forum, each candidate was given the opportunity to ask a question of one of the other candidates.

McCallum’s absence didn't deter candidate Gordie Hogg from asking the moderator if he could put a question to the absent candidate.

“I’ll be very respectful, I promise,” Hogg said.

To which the moderator replied: “Sure, go ahead. It will be entertaining.”

Hogg, after asking a question of the empty chair, then went over to it and jokingly answered his own question, as though he were McCallum.

“Well Gordie, you jerk, why would you bring this up?” said Hogg, prompting laughter again from the crowd.

Asked Thursday about his antics, Hogg said: “That was a question I wanted to ask him anyway and because he wasn’t there, I decided to ask him and give the response that I thought he might give.”

“A lot of people wanted to ask the mayor a number of questions," Locke said. "Certainly, I had a question for him.”

SBOT president Anita Huberman said McCallum did not reply to the invitation for the event.

“He wasn’t there and he wasn’t able to respond to critical economic questions,” she said. “We’re disappointed, but we went on with the evening without him.”

The Safe Surrey Coalition, McCallum's municipal party, said in a statement that McCallum is on the campaign trail “and had a prior commitment that he agreed to attend prior to receiving the invitation to the SBOT debate that he could not reschedule.”

The statement said McCallum had already attended many election debates and forums.

Locke admits she’s also missed a mayoral debate during the campaign, but argues the Surrey Board of Trade event was crucial.

The election is just over a week away. Top Stories

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