Surrey remains a city divided.
While the NDP gained ground in Surrey on Saturday, with Surrey-Cloverdale changing from Liberal red to NDP orange, the city – as it was following the 2017 provincial election – remains divided between North and South.
That is, if preliminary voting results borne out on election night stand the test of time.
We have yet to see if any of those demarcation lines will change after Nov. 6, by which time 68,396 mail-in ballots from Surrey riding voters – roughly 19 per cent of 356,896 registered voters – are expected to be counted.
Preliminary results, though, have all five NDP MLA incumbents in North Surrey – Bruce Ralston (Surrey-Whalley), Rachna Singh (Surrey-Green Timbers), Garry Begg (Surrey-Guildford), Harry Bains (Surrey-Newton), Jagrup Brar (Surrey-Fleetwood) and Jinny Sims (Surrey-Panorama) – returning to Victoria.
“Everybody is still anxious about the mail-in ballots, right?” Sims told the Now-Leader on election night. “It’s a huge number to be out there. I know for my riding alone that there were a couple thousand sent out.”
The upset of the evening was Liberal incumbent Marvin Hunt’s apparent defeat to NDP newcomer Mike Starchuk – who like Hunt is a former Surrey city councillor – in Surrey-Cloverdale. But Hunt told the Now-Leader on Monday he is not prepared to concede defeat.
“I’m still waiting for the results because there’s 10,000 requests for ballots so let’s see what happens there,” Hunt said. “When you look at my vote count, I’m like half the votes I had last time, so there’s a massive gap there and so you go, is that hiding in the mail-in ballots? I don’t know, so let’s just wait ad see what happens and work from there. That’s a lot of ballots to be out still.”
“It was a total weird night,” he said. “How much is hiding in those mail-in ballots that we don’t know about? We just have to wait. We sort of knew this ahead of time, that this was what was going to happen, we just didn’t know how well it would manifest.”
Surrey-Cloverdale had been a Liberal outpost since its creation in 1991, with MLAs Ken Jones holding it from 1991-96, Bonnie McKinnon from 1996 to 2001, Kevin Falcon from 2001-13, Stephanie Cadieux from 2013-17 and Marvin Hunt winning it for the Liberals in 2017.
Meantime, incumbent Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux looks to have reprized her 2017 election win in Surrey South and preliminary result also have Liberal candidate Trevor Halford winning in Surrey-White Rock.
Following the 2017 provincial election, we reported that Surrey’s voters had divided the city with a jagged crack.
The northwest portion of Surrey went NDP orange, and the southeast, Liberal red. While some ridings predictably go left or right in any given election in this politically polarized city and province, 2017’s election roughly split the city in half.
Surrey-Whalley has been a solid NDP riding with the exception of Liberal MLA Elayne Brenzinger (2001-05) and Surrey-Green Timbers has been held by the NDP with the exception of Liberal Brenda Locke (2001-05). Surrey Newton has traditionally been an NDP riding with the exception of Social Credit premier Rita Johnston (1983-91) and Liberal Tony Bhullar (2001-05).
Surrey-Panorama, once called Surrey-Panorama Ridge, has had both NDP and Liberal MLAs. Surrey-Fleetwood has also had NDP and Liberal MLAs.
So what now?
The Liberals promised during the election campaign to pause the Surrey policing transition and stage a referendum on the matter. But given the election, results it appears any hope of a referendum has disintegrated.
Given both local and provincial election results thus far, for 2020, is the Liberal defeat a death blow to efforts to derail the City of Surrey’s plan to swap out the Surrey RCMP for a made-in-the-city police force, the Surrey Police Service?
Certainly not, says Ivan Scott, organizer of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign.
“We gave an offer on that, that offer was clearly rejected,” Hunt noted. “It was clearly rejected inside Surrey, much less outside Surrey, so what can you say?”
Scott said while his group “sees this as a slight setback, we’re still focused on the end-game.
“I believe that with the petition that we have, we still have a powerful voice out there,” Scott said, “and all of our signs out there and the people that are behind us. This election that we’ve had over here was won a far way outside of Surrey and even though Surrey candidates held onto their seats, etcetera, this was more of an election against the Liberals from way back as opposed to keeping the NDP there. So I think it’s more of a protest.”
Scott said he doesn’t think the Surrey vote was based on the policing transition “at all.”
“I believe that Mr. Horgan is obliged to still talk to us now,” he said.
Scott said he doesn’t see Saturday’s election result as a referendum of sorts on Surrey’s policing transition.
“No, I don’t see that as the referendum here. There were much, much bigger issues around B.C. and people were very, very concerned about certain things,” he said. “This is just one of the things that was in there and it came up and it wasn’t the deciding thing to keep the Liberals in here. There’s a lot of other issues. Horgan did a reasonable job as far as the COVID stuff is concerned, he was riding a wave,” Scott said. “We’ve had so many people come back to us and say we’re still with you as far as this is concerned, please carry on.”
“We’re not going to stop this fight until it’s over,” Scott said. “I do believe we still will win, even if it’s two years down the track. We’ll follow it all the way through and vote McCallum out and stop the process right there and then.”
Scott said his organization has gathered more than 50,000 signatures on a petition calling for an end to the policing transition and nearly 7,500 lawn signs in Surrey opposing it.
On Monday, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum issued a statement congratulating Premier John Horgan on his election win, noting that during the campaign the NDP had recognized the Liberals’ “unwarranted interference in the affairs of the City of Surrey” concerning the latter party’s proposal for a referendum on the policing transition.
McCallum noted the NDP leader and premier-elect promised his government would “commit to building the entire 16 kilometre-long, eight-station Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project from a new $9 billion infrastructure plan” and he “also pledged to designate the project as a provincial capital project, which would fast track completion.”
In his statement McCallum appeared to be aligning his Safe Surrey Coalition slate with the BC NDP.
“The BC NDP strongly backed the key commitments that allowed the Safe Surrey Coalition to elect a majority on City Council, empowering the will of the people once again,” McCallum said. “Our caucus is ready to work with our provincial counterparts to ensure that continued collaboration propels these projects forward smoothly and efficiently.”
His press release stated “both the Safe Surrey Coalition and the BC NDP share an unparalleled commitment to listening to their constituents.
“The success we achieved in the 2018 municipal election mirrors the BC NDP’s strong showing in Surrey because both victories are rooted in respecting the voices of residents. It is time to get to work together for the betterment of our city,” McCallum said.
Meanwhile, Surrey city Councillor Jack Hundial, of the Surrey Connect slate, said Monday there are 719 days until the next civic election “and none of the promises made by the mayor have yet come to fruition. If you look at the totality of people that did vote (in the 2020 provincial election), and we will get the final numbers still, but I would say that more people collectively voted for candidates that did wish to have a referendum.
“However you chose to slice it, and at the end of the day, it’s going to be the Surrey taxpayers that are going to be paying for the initiatives moving ahead, whether it’s on a referendum or anything else,” Hundial said. “For the mayor to speak only from his own party, I think, is very disingenuous because when you are the mayor you speak for everyone.”
Hundial said he expects the NDP to make good on its commitment to build a second hospital for Surrey, in Cloverdale.
“I’m certainly hoping he (Horgan) will be able to shore up the funding for TransLink to assist in expanding SkyTrain down the corridor,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the true costs for the policing numbers are going to be, with the police board coming up. I certainly look forward to be able to start investing in the city with real projects, on the ground, as opposed to sort-of pie-in-the-sky ideas that we’ve had for the last two years.”