Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding is Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner. (Submitted photo)

Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding is Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner. (Submitted photo)

Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner brings ‘objectivity’ to the job

Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding is Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner, also a first for B.C.

Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding has been piped aboard as Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner, to help city council run a more open, transparent and accountable ship.

His new job is also a first for this province. Harding, 54, a resident of Port Moody, was chosen unanimously by city council over more than 30 other well-qualified candidates. Besides advising council on matters of ethical conduct, he also has the authority to investigate complaints and recommend disciplinary sanctions to its members, with the city’s Code of Conduct bylaw, which was approved in April, serving as his guidebook.

“Remember, it’s mayor and council that mete out the sanctions,” Harding told the Now-Leader on Tuesday, “I only make recommendations. I don’t have jurisdiction to imposed sanctions, they do, on my recommendations. But my goal is to be very much positive and proactive, and to push the advisory and educational aspects of this office.”

READ ALSO: Surrey Code of Conduct gets final nod on five-yes, four-no vote

READ ALSO: Surrey council removes ‘age discrimination’ clause after Code of Conduct bylaw complaint

Harding is a partner with Young Anderson, specializing in local government law, which he has practised for 26 years. “Our clients are municipalities all over B.C. We act for governments anywhere from villages up to big cities.” He will continue to practice law with his firm while also wearing his new hat as an independent officer.

Mayor Doug McCallum, in a written statement city hall issued Tuesday, said Harding’s “comprehensive experience in municipal law, advising elected officials on responsible conduct, and conflict resolution and his high standing among his peers makes him the right person to fill this important role at the City of Surrey.”

Harding admitted Tuesday he doesn’t yet have a “tremendous amount” of knowledge about Surrey.

“I know what I read in the papers,” he said.

“I’m not invested in the details of Surrey now and I think that’s actually helpful and beneficial because I do come, I think, to Surrey with a bit of objectivity and I don’t have a lot of deep relationships or historic relationships with a lot of the people in Surrey so I come, I think, with my reputation.

“It give me a sense of, I hope anyway, some objectivity coming into Surrey to help, to be of assistance.”

Speaking of relationships, news and social media reports concerning the mysterious nature of the relationship between Surrey’s mayor and Councillor Allison Patton, which neither have publicly addressed, has not been lost on him.

“I’ve read those things in the paper too,” Harding said. “I’m aware of those things but I don’t know what role if any I would be playing in that, I think time will tell when it comes to that stuff.

“Remember, I was advised only yesterday that I was appointed to this role,” he told the Now-Leader on Tuesday, “so I’m going to need some time to get familiar with things. But my aim is to get familiar pretty quickly, to get up to speed on matters. We’ll see what’s engaged by the process, the Code of Conduct bylaws there. It puts a formal process in place and will see what that process, we’ll see how it’s triggered, and what it leads to. I don’t think I can comment in any detail on that.”

READ ALSO UPDATE: Surrey council votes to hire ethics commissioner

Harding said the key, in his new role, is “education, education, and more education” with the Code of Conduct bylaw setting out the “overarching” duties of the Ethics Commissioner.

“It’s all about providing to elected officials the opportunity to be advised and assisted on understanding that role, understanding what their roles require of them,” Harding said. “One of the things in this particular Code of Conduct bylaw that I think is really bold by the city is offering the elected officials the opportunity to seek guidance from the Ethics Commissioner on conflict of interest concerns.”

His advisory role, he said, is to help council members “stay out of a problem before they get into a problem.

“I hope that role will be well utilized.”

Asked what her first question for Harding might be, Councillor Linda Annis replied, “My question is, sort of motherhood in a way, is how can he help the council in Surrey become the benchmark for local politics in our province?

“I think there’s a real opportunity there because our council has been quite fractious,” Annis said. “The good news is, though, on the notion of getting an Ethics Commissioner, and on his appointment, we were unanimous. So I think we’re starting on the right foot and I’d like to see what he can do to help us become a benchmark for local politics.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

City of Surrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Firefighters battled a wildfire on Mount Woodside near Harrison Mills on Wednesday, April 14. Seabird Island and B.C. Wildfire Service firefighters helped keep the blaze from spreading to brush, keeping it to roughly half a hectare. (Photo/Agassiz Fire Department)
Agassiz, Seabird Island firefighters contain Mt. Woodside wildfire

Half-hectare fire among the first wildfires of the year

web
Mission theatre group presents Bev’s Diner, a 12-episode web series

Opening Nite Theatre Society taking its productions online

Structural firefighter Ken Barwich sits on a mountain overlooking Hope and the Fraser River, in a new safety video that promotes the simple steps to take around your yard and home to protect it from forest fires. (Screenshot)
VIDEO: Hope featured in B.C. fire safety video for homeowners

Simple steps can protect a home from being lost in a forest fire, says B.C. FireSmart

Emergency crews help an injured pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle this afternoon. / Patrick Penner Photo
Pedestrian struck close to Mission’s Windebank Elementary School

RCMP, firefighters and ambulance are on scene

Vancouver police say eight people were arrested Wednesday after anti-pipeline protesters blocked off both the entrances and exits to two buildings in the downtown core. (Instagram/Qtcatspictureclub)
8 people arrested after anti-pipeline protestors chain themselves to Vancouver buildings

Cst. Tania Visintin said demonstrators caused ‘a serious safety hazard’ downtown for hours Wednesday

Jamie Coutts recorded a man following her around downtown Vancouver for a half-hour on Wednesday, March 18. (Instagram screenshot/Iammjammbamm)
Man charged in alleged high-profile Vancouver stalking case that went viral online

Man faces five other charges including criminal harassment and assault with a weapon

Police barricade (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey RCMP investigate shooting overnight at Whalley motel

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said a 38-year-old man was taken to hospital suffering from a serious injury

A new Lower Mainland study will examine feline COVID-19 transmission using data gathered from up to 40 cats living with newly infected adults. (Pixabay)
CDC conducting mobile kitty COVID tests outside of Lower Mainland homes

Researchers are probing whether humans can transmit the coronavirus to household pets

A sea lion swims past the window of an empty viewing area Vancouver Aquarium is pictured Thursday, September 10, 2020. The Vancouver Aquarium has had to close its doors to the public due to the lack of visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
U.S.-based theme park company buys Vancouver Aquarium

Aquarium had to shut its doors in September due to COVID pandemic

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

A deep cut on a humpback whale is shown in this recent handout photo in the Vancouver area. A conservation organization is warning boaters to be extra careful to prevent further harm to an injured humpback whale swimming in the Vancouver area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Ocean Wise, Vanessa Prigollini *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Boaters urged to use caution around hurt humpback off Vancouver

Ocean Wise says watchers first noticed the wound 3 days ago and believe it was caused by a vessel strike

Most Read