COLUMN: Departures dog BC Liberals
As the BC Liberals reel from a very damaging internal memo released last week, one of the party’s most challenging fronts in the upcoming election is proving to be Surrey.
There are at least five separate issues in Surrey that have emerged in the past week.
One is the resignation of Brenda Locke, the respected former Surrey-Green Timbers MLA who also ran federally for the Liberals on two occasions.
She had been president of the Surrey-Fleetwood constituency association. While her resignation may have been in the works, as the party says, it’s curious timing in terms of the recent naming of Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender as candidate and the scandal over the outreach to ethnic groups.
The second is resignation of James Plett as vice-president of the Surrey-Tynehead constituency.
He has written a damning blog about his recent experiences in the party, and how constituency associations have been kept out of the loop by the party headquarters.
Plett says the only reason his association was kept in the loop about their anointed candidate, Amrik Virk, was due to the efforts of the outgoing MLA, Dave Hayer.
Both of these resignations can be linked to the way the BC Liberals nominate candidates. There no longer seem to be nominating meetings, where people within the riding actually choose their candidate in a democratic manner.
Plett says that party headquarters has basically taken over the entire process, which isn’t much different from the party leader simply appointing the candidate and shutting out the local members entirely.
It has been reported that other executive members in Surrey riding associations have resigned.
Thus far, the reasons for those resignations have not been made clear.
In Surrey, there have been no contests for any of the eight Liberal nominations.
A candidate in Surrey-Green Timbers has yet to be named. The other seven were simply named by the party.
In one case, candidate Sukh Dhaliwal had to step aside.
Just last week, Coun. Marvin Hunt took his place as party candidate in Surrey-Panorama.
In another case, Surrey-Panorama MLA Stephanie Cadieux moved over to run in Surrey-Cloverdale to take over for retiring MLA Kevin Falcon.
This lack of respect for the democratic process at nomination meetings, involving people who actually live in the riding, speaks volumes.
The contents of the leaked memo sparked outrage from some representatives of ethnic groups. This is a big deal in Surrey.
Vikram Bajwa, who ran for mayor in Surrey in 2011, said that a large number of Indo-Canadian BC Liberals met over the weekend and want the premier to resign, and also want the Times of India Film Awards cancelled. Many people from various ethnic groups feel patronized by the wording in the memo, and Bajwa’s concerns speak to that.
In addition to all these challenges, the BC Liberals face some tough sledding in the Surrey ridings because of the lack of attention to needed services in this fast-growing city, notably the levels of service in education and health.
While the provincial government has committed funding for new schools and hospital expansion, this city remains badly under-served in basic social services.
Waits at emergency rooms are the longest in the province, and there are more overcrowded schools here than anywhere else.
Then there is the toll on the new Port Mann Bridge and the continued lack of transit, including no access from Surrey to the only bus service that goes over the new bridge.
This added burden to Surrey families’ budgets will be a key factor in the May 14 election.
Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.