By most standards, a mid-term federal byelection in a riding that has for decades voted right-of-centre would be expected to be all but ignored by the voters, the media and, indeed, the political parties themselves.
But next month’s vote in South Surrey-White Rock is not your standard byelection. Not by a long shot – not when, in a single day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer come to town to endorse their respective candidates.
While the safe bet in the last general election, in 2015, was on the then-governing Conservative party and their star candidate – former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts – it didn’t go unnoticed that Watts was far from a shoo-in with voters. In a constituency that previously saw her lacklustre Conservative predecessor take relatively massive leads over his opposition, Watts won by a mere 1,439 votes to serve as opposition MP.
Add to this Watts’ decision in September – not two years into a four-year term – to abandon her post to compete for the leadership of the provincial opposition party, the BC Liberals.
Add to this the week-long headstart the Liberals had in naming their candidate and their choice of retired White Rock mayor/MLA Gordon Hogg, and it’s likely both parties see this as a footrace to the Dec. 11 finish line.
While Conservative Kerry-Lynne Findlay will need to take some pains to explain to voters her ties to their community (a rather confusing bio indicates she lived in “South Surrey-White Rock, Vancouver and Delta” since her teens), it’s undeniable she brings experience, not only as a past Delta-Richmond East MP but also as minister of national revenue.
The growing influence of other parties cannot be discounted in the current shift in BC’s political climate. Familiar face Larry Colero is returning to run for the Greens, while the NDP will formally acclaim Jonathan Silveira as their candidate on Saturday. Can both candidates score some benefit on the federal level from B.C.’s shifting mood and the current provincial NDP-Green working relationship in Victoria?
In addition, there are candidates from three other parties – Michael Huenefeld (Progressive Canadian), Donald Wilson (Libertarian Party) and Rod Taylor (Christian Heritage Party) – that might have ideas that appeal to voters.
The only thing that can be predicted with any degree of certainty is that it shapes up to be a lively race right down to the wire.