Support for online voting, referenda

The Surrey Civic Coalition (SCC) agrees Surrey and other local governments should consider online voting.

In our view, this will increase citizens’ participation in local government, and any steps we can take toward this goal are laudable.

SCC also supports referenda as another tool to increase voter engagement and, hopefully, voter turnout. We believe that all Surrey voters should have a say on the dedication of city parkland, whether we should elect city council by wards, and what our priorities should be for public transit.

Prior to the 2008 election, SCC lobbied for a referendum on wards. Every major city in Canada, except Surrey and Vancouver, elects local government representatives this way, and we thought Surrey voters deserved a say.

Mayor Watts and Surrey First candidates countered that there wasn’t enough time to put a referendum in place and they didn’t think it was the right time to discuss the issue.

Imagine that: They didn’t think an election campaign is a good time to discuss how we elect our representatives.

Currently, TransLink is studying options for improving public transit south of the Fraser, whether extending SkyTrain, building light rail transit, or simply buying more buses is the best solution.

Mayor Watts has been encouraging citizens to participate in the process and let their views be known. A logical extension of this participation would be to include a question on the ballot to determine voters’ priorities.

Last year, Surrey council came within a whisker of plowing a four-lane road through Bear Creek Park. SCC and other citizens’ groups worked hard to increase public awareness and eventually led to Surrey First hearing the outrage and retracting its position.

Surrey held a referendum in 1988 to dedicate Green Timbers and Sunnyside Urban Forests as parkland. Now is the time to do the same for Bear Creek and some of Surrey’s other signature parks. We expect if voters are given the choice these parks could be given permanent park status and be protected from potential development.

If Mayor Watts and council want more voter participation, online voting is but one tool. Engaging voters directly via referenda questions could be just as effective and implemented in time for the November election.

Stephanie Ryan

President, Surrey Civic Coalition

Surrey North Delta Leader