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

Just Posted

Gerry Vowles (left), Michael Cook, and Dave Sinclair were awarded “Dominion Command Presidential Citations” June 17 in Cloverdale. The rare awards were given out for “exemplary service to the Legion.” (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Three B.C. legionnaires awarded ‘Presidential Citations’

Ceremony took place in Cloverdale June 17

A cache of 89 crabs was discovered during a 2018 compliance inspection at South Surrey’s Elgin Park Marina. (Contributed photo)
$7,500 fine for illegal crab harvest discovered in South Surrey

Laird Goddyn found guilty in Surrey Provincial Court following 2018 investigation

City of Surrey photo
Surrey starts Slow Streets pilot project

Speed limits have been reduced in six Surrey neighbourhood zones for one year to monitor impact on residents

Gymnast Shallon Olsen. (Photo: olympic.ca)
Olympics-bound Surrey gymnast Shallon Olsen enters sports hall of fame – in Coquitlam

She was the youngest member of Team Canada when she made her Olympic debut at Rio 2016

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August 2019 about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
Elections BC approves petition application for referendum on Surrey policing transition

Application was filed under Recall and Initiative Act by the widow of a Surrey murder victim

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)
B.C. government to allow home cannabis delivery starting July 15

Added convenience expected to persuade buyers to ‘go legal’

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read