ELECTION 2015: Spotlight on Surrey-Delta ridings

CLOVERDALE-LANGLEY CITY: Stuck in traffic and financially strapped

The fifth of a series: The Leader continues to shine a spotlight on candidates in each of this area’s six federal ridings: Surrey-Newton, Fleetwood-Port Kells, Surrey-Centre, Cloverdale-Langley City, South Surrey-White Rock and Delta. The stories can also be read online at surreyleader.com

Predictions are aplenty, but nobody really knows how Cloverdale-Langley City will vote until the ballots are counted on election day.

It’s a new riding and with new boundaries and no incumbent MP, it’s anybody’s race to win – in theory.

Cloverdale-Langley City is carved out of the northern half of the former White Rock-South Surrey-Cloverdale riding represented by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert, plus a strip of Langley Township, along with the municipal boundaries of Langley City, also previous Conservative territory represented by Mark Warawa.

The riding also pulls in the Clayton section of Fleetwood-Port Kells, held by incumbent Conservative Nina Grewal.

The riding is an unusual piece of geography in that it spans three different municipalities and takes in two important local downtowns – historic Cloverdale and Langley City. It stretches as far west as Sullivan, following the south side of the Serpentine River.

Between middle class concerns about paying bills and mortgages, saving for retirement and caring for aging parents, families are dealing with the reality of rapidly densifying neighbourhoods throughout the riding.

Townhomes and condos are sprouting steadily, particularly in areas such as Clayton.

That population growth also means increased traffic and demand for transit alternatives to driving.

Cloverdale-Langley City candidates“We need to get people moving more efficiently,” says Liberal candidate John Aldag, a Langley father of three who’s worked with Parks Canada for 32 years, at times criss-crossing the country and, more recently, the Lower Mainland, as family and work commitments pulled his family in various directions.

He’s on leave from his federal civil service job as a historic sites manager while campaigning.

Knocking on 26,000 doors across the riding, he’s heard from many residents who are commuting up to three hours a day to jobs in other centres – time that comes at the expense of families and communities.

“I’d like to see more jobs in the valley, south of the Fraser, or let’s make it fast to get home, so people can volunteer, teach classes, or clean ditches – whatever it is – rather than sitting in traffic listening to an audio book,” Aldag says.

The City of Surrey’s push for a new, 17-kilometre Light Rail Transit (LRT)  line from the City Centre SkyTrain terminus through Cloverdale to Langley City would finally put the riding on the rapid transit grid.

All major parties have indicated they would deliver a federal one-third share of the $2.1-billion Surrey LRT plan. The Conservatives recently announced their direct commitment of up to $700 million as part of Ottawa’s one-third contribution.

Post TransLink referendum, where the region’s share would come from will remain unresolved after Oct. 19.

• • •

Critics are also arguing whether the City of Surrey’s preferred option – running light rail through Cloverdale to Langley versus an elevated SkyTrain, or express buses – would be best.

Federal Industry Minister James Moore vowed last week Ottawa will respect Surrey’s light rail choice, echoing Conservative candidate Dean Drysdale’s stance.

Drysdale, a 51-year-old instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and businessman who has run federally before in Quebec, says the Conservatives have pledged to be a partner to the province and municipalities on transit, supporting – but not guiding – local priorities.

The former two-time Langley Township councillor sees the role of MP as ensuring the area gets its fair share of federal funding for transit infrastructure, which he admits was lacking historically.

• • •

To NDP candidate Rebecca Smith, the transit issue is just one area of many where the federal government in the past 22 years, first under the Liberals and more recently the Conservatives, has fallen short of their commitment to voters by cutting payments to provinces.

The 44-year-old Cloverdale resident says the NDP has pledged $1.2 billion, every year, for 20 years, to fund transit investments across Canada, a pledge Smith has no qualms with.

“People want infrastructure support and we can’t ignore it,” she said. “Our party has stated, straight up, we’re not about cutting things, we’re about being a transparent, reliable partner.”

• • •

The riding’s Green party candidate, Scott Anderson, a construction manager with Bosa Construction, says he’d work to secure federal funding for a light rail line between Chilliwack and Surrey.

Anderson says a diesel train running along the existing Interurban right of way would cost $500 million, compared to the billions spent on the Canada Line and pledged to build the Evergreen Line.

Even more top-of-mind than transit in the riding, according to Aldag, are financial worries – something Aldag has heard expressed behind nearly every doorstep.

“Absolutely the top issue is financial,” he said. “It’s wages not keeping on top of the cost of living. It’s the housing costs in the Lower Mainland. And a lot of parents are saying they’re not sure that their kids are going to have the same opportunities that we did growing up,” he says.

“People are struggling.”

Health – good or ill – weighs heavily on the older generations, he said. One senior with equity in their home described to him a palpable fear of not leaving enough money behind for children and grandchildren.

“It’s like, ‘I hope I don’t live until I’m 90’,” he recounts. “God, that’s an awful sentiment to express.”

Providing people with good jobs has to be part of the solution and efficient, reliable transit is key to that, says Aldag, who adds the Liberals have promised to make the largest infrastructure investment in Canadian history in order to boost jobs and the economy.

For the NDP’s Smith, health care – along with daycare affordability, rising debt levels and long commutes – stands out as a giant concern in the riding, home to Langley Memorial Hospital, where she says resources are tapped out, and where family physicians are in desperately short supply.

Her work with GP For Me, a provincial program to provide people with family physicians, revealed a stark reality: “I know for a fact that Langley has no physicians that are taking new patients.”

Clinics, she points out, reach their daily quota and can shut their doors regardless of demand. “We need to make things better,” she says. “We need more family doctors.”

She says the NDP has promised to fund and recruit 7,000 more family doctors across Canada.

“It’s needed.”

While Cloverdale hasn’t often been the site of the frequent gang-related shootings in Surrey, the community was rocked by violent crime this summer.

Colin Hill, a 42-year-old father, was shot and killed when he confronted a 22-year-old man with a long criminal record breaking into his home.

As with the 2013 killing of Julie Paskall in Newton, it reinforced the sense that random attacks can happen anywhere.

Drysdale, one of three Cloverdale-Langley City candidates who are bilingual (Aldag and Smith are, too), says crime – especially on the Surrey end of the riding – and safety are a key focus for voters.

“People have different views on it,” he said. “They want more police, they want tougher laws. They want more programs to keep kids out of gangs.”

He thinks the Conservatives have generally been on the right track, he said, pointing to the party’s introduction of tougher laws on violence, theft, and street racing, and ending the practice of two for one credit to offenders for time served prior to trial.

“In the past, the focus was on protecting criminals’ rights. The victims tended to get lost in the shuffle,” he says.

Both Aldag and Smith expressed deep concerns about voter apathy, something that could affect the election’s outcome.

 

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