Surrey council instructs staff to explore switching to a ward system

Surrey council instructs staff to explore switching to a ward system

Several council members say a referendum would be the way to go

Surrey city council has asked staff to prepare a report considering a transition toward a ward system rather than the current “at large” system we use in civic elections today.

Councillor Doug Elford presented a motion at the July 27 council meeting, “That the City of Surrey consider the transition to a ward system of electing City Council representatives.”

Council approved it Monday, after some debate.

A ward system divvies up the city into neighbourhoods with a council member representing one of these electoral regions, much like an MLA or MP represents their particular riding.

Such a system was used in these parts from before 1879 up until 1957, when the provincial government put an end to it in favour of the “at-large” voting system we have today in which voters elect a mayor, councillors and school trustees city-wide. Mayors are still typically voted city-wide under a ward system.

Elford said the current first past the post system “has led to slate politics.

“It’s no secret the many of our previous councils resided in concentrated parts of Surrey, and other parts of Surrey have felt neglected,” he said. “Surrey is ripe for wards. We’re a city of distinct neighbourhoods separated geographically. I believe a ward system will enable community leaders a better opportunity to get elected to council.

“My intention of this motion is to receive a report back from staff for council to consider moving forward,” Elford said. “A majority of large cities across Canada have a ward system in place for a reason.”

READ ALSO OUR VIEW: Wards for Surrey worth a hard look

Though the motion passed, it received a frosty reception from some councillors. Councillor Linda Annis said the current system costs less to operate and encourages council members to “take a broader, city wide perspective” when it comes to city priorities. A ward system, she said, would mean more council members.

“Do taxpayers really want to pay more for politicians and additional administrative costs?” she said. “Do we want to have ward councillors who limit their attention and focus to a single neighbourhood rather than the broader priorities of the entire city and every Surrey neighbourhood?”

Councillor Brenda Locke said it wouldn’t change first-past-the-post because the wards would be done on the same basis. She said this kind of request should come from residents rather than politicians.

“Elections belong to the people, they don’t belong to us,” she noted. “We’re actually in a conflict-of-interest when we start talking about how we want to change or manipulate an election.”

Councillor Stephen Pettigrew said he couldn’t support Elford’s motion because he found it too “vague.”

“It sounds a bit self-serving,” he added. “A referendum would be a good place to have that.”

Councillor Laurie Guerra said she’d like to see this go to a referendum in the next civic election, which will be on Oct. 15, 2022.

Councillor Mandeep Nagra said he personally finds it “very challenging” to represent all of Surrey’s neighbourhoods fairly, “so I will fully support this.”

Councillor Allison Patton it’s an interesting proposal. “I think that it opens the door for other cities that could consider joining us, such as White Rock.”

Councillor Jack Hundial agreed “nothing less than a referendum would satisfy.”

Mayor Doug McCallum supports setting up a ward system in Surrey. “They work very efficiently in all the big cities,” he said. He too suggested a referendum might be the way to go.

“I think it’s time for Surrey,” he said. “I think it’s certainly something we need to look at as a council.”



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

Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man convicted of assault, unlawfully confining woman pregnant with his child loses court appeal

Victim tells court he drove her to Guildford parking lot after he’d ‘grabbed’ her neck and she fainted

Peter and Stephanie Chung. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey philanthropists presenting $285K in scholarships on Saturday

Drs. Peter and Stephanie Chung over the past nine years have awarded more than 500 students, in memory of their son Joseph

North Surrey Minor Football players in action. The club is among Surrey-area recipients of the B.C. government’s Local Sport Relief Fund. (File photo)
COVID ‘relief’ funding for some sports groups in Surrey, White Rock, Delta

‘Without financial support, these clubs are at risk of closure,’ says B.C. government

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

Most Read