FOCUS: New battle lines drawn in Surrey

As wild U.S. election heads for homestretch, B.C.’s NDP hunker down in their ridings while B.C. Liberals strategically put pieces in place

Surrey NDP MLA Harry Bains

As a wild U.S. election heads for homestretch, B.C.’s NDP candidates hunker down in their ridings (which have all changed in Surrey) while B.C. Liberals strategically put all their pieces in place…

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All that was missing was the white scarves.

Surrey MLAs Harry Bains, NDP, and Marvin Hunt, Liberal, rose from their respective tables at the Surrey Board of Trade luncheon and tossed off a salute at one another, like First World War fighting aces.

New battle lines have been drawn for the next provincial election.

There will be nine local ridings instead of eight, with a new Surrey South riding, and a new Surrey-Guildford riding taking in Surrey-Tynehead.

“Every riding has changed in Surrey,” Hunt noted. “I would say the three NDP ones have changed the least; ours have changed a lot.

“One obvious impact is that we get another riding, and the necessity of getting another riding means that all the ridings are going to shrink. But that’s a function of the population growing.

“I think it’s better for Surrey,” Hunt said, “because we get one extra voice for Surrey in the legislature.”

John Horgan, leader of the official opposition, was the guest speaker, stumping for his NDP.

“I believe in Surrey,” he said.

“I believe that the future of British Columbia is being shaped right now, right here, in this dynamic place.”

The provincial election is still a long way off, set for Tuesday May 9, 2017, but the campaign is already full-on.

Hunt was flying reconnaissance, politically speaking, listening to what Horgan had to say.

“It’s always good to have the leader of the opposition in your community,” Hunt said, after Horgan’s speech. And why is that?

“Because the leader of the opposition, obviously, is one who is thinking of policies – thinking of them in a different way,” Hunt said. “No one group that has all the ideas and if we all get together, and we all look from our perspectives, we all end up with better solutions. And so I’m always willing to listen to people’s ideas on how we can do a better job.”

Did Hunt hear anything he liked, or didn’t like? “Well, of course,” he replied, “but that we’ll talk about in the next six months.” Hunt is a veteran of municipal and provincial elections. Currently the Liberal MLA for Surrey-Panorama since 2013, he is swapping out that riding to run in Surrey Cloverdale this time round.

Will this election campaign be civil, or rock ‘em sock ‘em?

“Well, they (the NDP) are saying the problem with the last election, the reason why they lost the last election, was because they were too civil and so they’re not going to be as civil this election,” Hunt replied. “That’s what they said about themselves. So time will tell whether that’s true or not. I don’t think that necessarily wins you elections, but that’s their opinion and they’re entitled to it.”

For his part, Horgan told his Surrey Board of Trade audience that he believes “picking fights with people never gets you anywhere.

“I know Marvin may have a different view of this, but I don’t think of myself as pugnacious, I think of myself as standing up for the little guy.”

His speech, which touched on public transit, education, health and jobs, was a headline writer’s dream:

  • “I would commit, with my colleagues from Surrey, to eliminate the (school) portables in Surrey by the end of the first term of a B.C. NDP government…”
  • “What’s the root of gang violence? Overcrowded classrooms…”
  • “Supports for young people with mental health challenges are just woefully inadequate…”
  • “Nowhere are examples of the failure of the government more evident than here in Surrey. With respect to transit and transportation, 20 percent of the people live here, 7.5 per cent of the services are provided here. The math is stark, the math is graphic. The math speaks to a desperate need for change.”

 

The players

As it is, New Democrat incumbents are hunkering down in their respective ridings while their Liberal counterparts are being shuffled around like a deck of cards.

The NDP has yet to reveal nominees for Surrey-Cloverdale, Surrey-Panorama, and the two south ridings.

Former NDP MP Jinny Sims is contemplating a run at office in Surrey-Panorama, again under the NDP banner.

Sue Hammell, NDP MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, intends to run for her party again in that same riding and will likely be acclaimed at a nomination meeting sometime in January.

Bruce Ralston, the NDP MLA for Surrey-Whalley since 2006, also intends to keep his seat and will likely also win his party’s nomination by acclamation.

Harry Bains, NDP MLA for Surrey-Newton, has been representing that riding since 2005 and wants to keep his job. He was acclaimed as the party’s candidate for Surrey-Newton at a nomination meeting in September, clearing the way for his fourth run at provincial office.

Jagrup Brar was the NDP MLA for Surrey-Panorama Ridge from 2004 to 2009 and held Surrey-Fleetwood from 2009 to 2013 until Liberal Peter Fassbender defeated him.  Winning by acclamation at a nomination meeting in July, Brar is preparing for a re-match with Fassbender. It will be the NDP candidate’s fifth campaign.

“Surrey is going to be the battleground, of course,” Brar said. “It’s a tough fight…Surrey-Fleetwood is the most contested constituency in the province.”

Fassbender, like Brar, is an acclaimed candidate. He will campaign for re-election in Surrey-Fleetwood, which he has represented since 2013.

In the new riding next door, two former Surrey RCMP inspectors will do battle in Surrey-Guildford.

Liberal MLA Amrik Virk was first elected in Surrey-Tynehead in the May 14, 2013 general election and is running for the Liberals in Surrey-Guildford, a new riding which takes in much of his current Surrey-Tynehead riding.

Garry Begg, who ran unsuccessfully for the NDP last federal election in Fleetwood-Port Kells, wants to be the NDP MLA candidate in Surrey-Guildford, where he hopes to retire Virk.

“I’m seeking the nomination,” Begg told the Now this week. “Stay tuned.”

Stephanie Cadieux, who has served as Liberal MLA for Surrey-Panorama  (2009 to 2013) and Surrey-Cloverdale (2013 to present), will seek election as the Liberals’ acclaimed MLA candidate in the new South Surrey riding.

Gordon Hogg, who has served five terms as the Liberal MLA for South Surrey and White Rock, is calling it a day. He recently announced he will not seek a sixth term.

A new face in Surrey provincial politics will be carrying the Liberal banner in Surrey-Panorama after Premier Christy Clark appointed Surrey lawyer Puneet Sandhar as her party’s candidate in that riding.

The Liberals have yet to announce candidates in Surrey-Whalley, Surrey-Green Timbers and Surrey-Newton.

Tracy Redies, former Coast Capital Savings CEO, will run in Surrey-White Rock.

Meanwhile, Horgan says the NDP’s remaining nominations will be “coming through in the fall and some into next spring.”

As for the premier handpicking candidates, Horgan said, “That’s something the Liberals always do. What we do in our party is we allow local communities to make those choices. I think that leads to better campaigns and better representations.

“When you see people elected and dropped in – like Peter Fassbender who was the mayor of Langley then a candidate in Surrey, it doesn’t speak to any profound understanding of the community and speaks to a desire to have power. That’s what you see with the BC Liberals,” Horgan told the Now. “Ms. Cadieux moving to a safer seat, Hunt moving over, this chess board stuff speaks to the gamesmanship of the BC Liberals.”

Asked what she thinks about premiers appointing candidates, Hammell remarked, “I think the democratic process is something we have to cherish.”

With a file by Amy Reid

 

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