COLUMN: Municipal politics – an election unseen

It is ironic, but not surprising, that the upcoming municipal election in Surrey is not high on the radar screen for most Surrey residents.

There are actually two ironies. One is that Surrey elections, which used to be hard-fought, colourful and high-profile, have become so low key. The other irony is that there are so many important issues in Surrey which deserve the full airing that can come in a municipal campaign. But they only receive that airing if citizens are engaged in the campaign – and thus far, it is likely that most Surrey residents aren’t even aware there is an election in November.

That is partially due to election fatigue, with a federal election in the spring, an HST referendum in the summer and talk of a provincial election until just a few weeks ago. Another factor is the growth of the city. This means many residents are newcomers.

Even if they have lived in Surrey for some time, city council is remote from most people, who likely have no idea who the members of council are. They do know who Mayor Dianne Watts is. They would be stumped if asked to name any of the eight councillors.

Surrey Civic Coalition has named a full slate of eight council candidates to compete with Watts’ Surrey First group, which currently holds seven of the eight council seats. Heading the SCC list is former mayor and longtime councillor Bob Bose. Also running with SCC is former councillor Gary Robinson. Others on the slate are Stephanie Ryan, Rina Gill, Grant Rice, Steve Wood, Kuldip Ardawa and Doug Elford.

Surrey First consists of incumbents Marvin Hunt, who ran in 2008 as an independent, and Tom Gill, Barinder Rasode, Mary Martin, Linda Hepner, Barb Steele and Judy Villeneuve, all of whom ran with Surrey First in 2008. All are expected to run again this year.

Watts may be challenged, but no high-profile candidate has yet emerged.

While Surrey is quiet, neighbouring Delta is anything but. Mayor Lois Jackson is already  facing three challengers. Coun. Heather King, former councillor Krista Engelland and John Meetch, a former member of the Southlands Community Planning Team, are all running for mayor.

Southlands, also known as the Spetifore lands, is once again a dominant issue in the Delta election, which likely frustrates North Delta residents. They seem to struggle to get council’s attention on a host of community issues. While Jackson, as a North Delta resident, does not ignore the area, far too much of council’s attention has been focused on Southlands (the last large parcel of potentially developable land in Tsawwassen, outside the Tsawwassen First Nation) for the past 20 years.

There are also a host of council candidates in Delta, and already the biggest controversy is over what the candidates say about Southlands. Jackson has suggested that candidates be careful in any comments they make, as their past positions may cause conflict if they are asked to make a decision on any of the plans for Southlands, if elected.

Nominations close on Friday, Oct. 14.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

newsroom@langleytimes.com

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