frank

COLUMN: The cranky voters have spoken in Surrey and White Rock

Turfing of more than 3 dozen incumbent mayors across B.C. sends a message

The voters have spoken – and that means two one-term mayors are packing their bags, and Surrey Police Service is on life support.

Brenda Locke is Surrey’s new mayor, beating out incumbent Doug McCallum by less than 1,000 votes. As a result she says the police transition will be halted – something she was crystal clear about during the campaign. McCallum had served one term, after coming back in 2018 following 13 years in the political wilderness. He was mayor from 1996-2005, before being defeated by Dianne Watts.

Whether the province, which approved the transition, will go along with Locke’s plans to keep the RCMP and get rid of SPS remains to be seen. In some ways, it is a situation of Solicitor General Mike Farnworth’s own making. It was clear when it approved the transition that there had been no real consultation with citizens. Had the province ordered a referendum first, it would not be in this situation.

White Rock citizens also elected a new mayor. One-term mayor Darryl Walker was nowhere near as controversial as McCallum, but he lost because of a four-way split that allowed Megan Knight to win by getting 190 more votes. The other two candidates were former members of Walker’s Democracy Direct slate, which fell apart before the election.

Walker actually lost just 72 votes from 2018, when there were six candidates for mayor. Knight, who placed seventh in the run for council in 2018, gained 245 votes in her run for mayor. Voter turnout was down seven per cent, to 30.7 per cent.

A similar situation happened in Surrey. Former White Rock mayor Gordie Hogg polled a strong third, and by splitting the vote (along with MLA Jinny Sims and MP Sukh Dhaliwal), ensured that Locke had enough votes to beat McCallum.

The percentage share of the votes was significant. McCallum had 27.3 per cent of the votes to Locke’s 28.1 per cent, with Hogg gathering 21 per cent. Sims and Dhaliwal managed to get just over 20 per cent between them.

Voters made it clear that incumbent politicians from other jurisdictions, who do not resign their seats to run, cannot be taken seriously. As Watts pointed out on an election night TV broadcast, running for office in the entire city is very different from running in one portion of it.

Voter turnout in Surrey was up, to just under 35 per cent. It was just under 33 per cent in 2018. Given that there were 56 on the ballot for councillor, that is commendable.

To improve voter turnout, a ward system needs to be looked at. This would reduce the size of the individual ballot, and allow candidates to campaign far more effectively.

The new Surrey council will have two Safe Surrey Coalition incumbents, Doug Elford and Mandeep Nagra, along with four new councillors from Locke’s Surrey Connect group (Harry Bains, Gordon Hepner, Rob Stutt and Pardeep Kooner), and incumbent Linda Annis and newcomer Mike Bose for Surrey First.

White Rock council has two incumbents returning, Christopher Trevelyan and Dave Chesney, former councillor Bill Lawrence, and newcomers Ernie Klassen, Elaine Cheung and Michele Partridge.

The overall mood among voters in B.C. could be described as cranky. More than three dozen incumbent mayors lost their seats (as did many more councillors). Both federal and provincial parties need to be aware of that.

The immediate post-pandemic trend of re-electing governments on the basis of their pandemic performance no longer holds true.

Frank Bucholtz writes twice a month for Black Press Media.

BC Election 2022City of SurreyCity of White RockPolitics

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