So far this federal election campaign, at least in Surrey, seems to be flying below most people’s radar. Perhaps it’s simply too much of a good thing?
Canadian voters are set to cast their ballots on Monday, Sept. 20, only 23 months after they were last beckoned to their local polling stations.
The Oct. 21, 2019 federal election resulted in a minority Liberal government for Justin Trudeau – of note, minority federal governments in Canada typically have a lifespan of 16 months and Canadian voters have elected 12 of them since Confederation. The golden goose for the parties, at least those within realistic reach of forming government, is of course to achieve a majority at the polls on election day.
And so here we are.
The roster of major party leaders this time out is the same with the exception of Erin O’Toole replacing Andrew Scheer as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and Annamie Paul replacing Elizabeth May as leader of the Green Party of Canada.
The last election in Surrey’s five ridings saw three Liberals and two Conservatives elected, and this time out each of these incumbents have again put their hat in the ring.
Two of Surrey’s ridings – Cloverdale-Langley City and South Surrey-White Rock – as their names indicate, also embrace other communities. Both have four confirmed candidates each heading into this election, making for 24 candidates all told in Surrey.
Interestingly, in comparison, Surrey’s last civic election in 2018 saw eight candidates running for mayor, 48 running for city council and 27 running for school trustee.
Elections Canada issued the finalized candidates list for this federal election on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Dr. Stewart Prest, a lecturer of political science at SFU with expertise in Canadian and B.C. politics, Canadian political parties, democratic institutions and international affairs, says people don’t seem to care as much about this particular election as they typically would do.
“No, or at least not as much as usual,” he told the Now-Leader. “One is the summer timing, when people are not as focused on the news. I think another piece, might be a bigger one, is that people are actually paying attention to the news – the news matters quite a lot, we’re in the middle of a pandemic – but they’re not necessarily focused on what the federal government is doing because that’s not the centre of action. It’s with the provincial government setting rules and guidelines for our daily lives that has the attention of British Columbians and others in Canada since that’s where most of the key health provisions that affect our lives get taken. So I think that there are people paying attention, but they may not be as focused on the federal level as they usually are.”
Whalley resident Paulette O’Connell told the Now-Leader she got up at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday (Sept. 2) to attend an all-candidates meeting for the Surrey Centre riding, staged by the Downtown Surrey Business Association from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Civic Hotel. Only the Liberal and Green candidates participated.
“Only two candidates showed up, no NDP and no Conservative,” O’Connell lamented. “The only reason I went was to become more knowledgeable to make what I felt was a good judgment vote. I am sorry we were not worthy of their time to appear.
“So very disappointing for those voters that made the effort. Shame the party leaders were too busy for us the voters. The undecided voters.”
Bonnie Burnside, manager of the BIA, was also disappointed more candidates didn’t show at the meeting, which drew an audience of about 25.
“I think that the two candidates that did show up, they were very thoughtful. You know, they answered the questions; I didn’t really get the feeling that they were side-stepping anything in particular,” Burnside said.
Of the 24 Surrey candidates who are seeking a seat in the House of Commons, 18 souls have stepped forward in the hope of scoring a federal election win in the north end of Surrey come Sept. 20.
Of the three ridings in Surrey’s north end, seven candidates are in the running in Surrey Centre, six in Fleetwood-Port Kells and five in Surrey-Newton.
Voters in Surrey Centre will have a choice of Liberal incumbent Randeep Sarai, Conservative Tina Bains, New Democrat Sonia Andhi, Green Party candidate Felix Kongyuy, Kevin Pielak of the Christian Heritage Party, Joe Kennedy of the People’s Party of Canada and Ryan Abbott, of the Communist Party of Canada.
Of these, Sarai, Bains and Pielak also ran in the 2019 election.
This riding, according to Elections Canada, is 44 km-squared with a population of 120,172 and of that 74,637 eligible voters are on the list.
Running west along 88 from 148 Street, its boundary line then runs north on Scott Road, turns west on 96 Avenue to the Fraser River, then carries on to the Port Mann bridge from where it runs southeast along Highway 1 to 152 Street, then west along 100 Avenue to 148 Street, where it runs south down to 88 Avenue.
In Fleetwood-Port Kells, you have Liberal incumbent Ken Hardie, Conservative Dave Hayer, Raj Toor of the NDP, Green candidate Perry DeNure, Amrit Birring of the People’s Party of Canada, and Independent Murali Krishnan.
And of these, Hardie is the lone candidate to have also run in the last federal election.
Fleetwood-Port Kells is an even odder-shaped riding than is Surrey Centre. Its boundaries run from Surrey’s eastern border with Langley west along 88 Avenue to Highway 15, then southwesterly along the Serpentine River to 68 Avenue, from where it runs north along 144 Street to 88 Avenue, east to 148 Street, northerly to 100 Avenue, east to 152 Street, north to Highway 1, northwesterly to the Fraser River, and then easterly and southeasterly, capturing Barnston Island, to the north-east point of the city’s shared boundary with Langley back down along that border to 88 Avenue.
Elections Canada says this 74 km-squared riding has a population of 116,958 people and 80,410 eligible voters.
In Surrey-Newton, Liberal incumbent Sukh Dhaliwal is seeking re-election, challenged by Conservative Syed Mohsin, New Democrat Avneet Johal, Pamela Singh of the People’s Party of Canada and Independent Parveer Hundal.
Again, all candidates are newcomers in this race, with the exception of Dhaliwal. Election Canada’s district profile for this 30 km-squared riding indicates a population of 114,605 with 65,340 electors on the list.
Surrey-Newton is, refreshingly, shaped more or less like a rectangle. Its boundaries are Highway 10 at the south, Scott Road at the west, 88 Avenue at the north and 144 Street at the east.
Most Surrey residents will by now have received their card in the mail, from Elections Canada, identifying the location of their designated polling station on election day – which will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. – and the location where they can vote in advance, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., on Sept. 10, 11, 12 and 13.
People wanting to vote by mail must apply before 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, to do so. Check out elections.ca or call Elections Canada at 1-866-564-6466 for more information.
If you choose to vote by mail, deadlines apply. You must allow for enough time for your special ballot kit to reach you in the mail and for you to return your marked ballot to Elections Canada by election day. Once your application to vote by mail is approved, you cannot vote at an advanced polling station or polling station on election day.
Meantime, Prest expects “younger” Surrey families are looking for better access to childcare.
“They’re looking for ways to improve affordability, but also they’re also going to carry a lot of values we associate more with urban voters – there’s real concern about the climate, real concern about some of the social crises that we’re facing. They’re looking for a government that will address some of those issues simultaneously.”
He said there’s “certainly a possibility in a couple of these ridings” that Conservative candidates could come up the middle with the Liberals, NDP and Greens splitting the centre-left vote, and with the NDP “doing quite well this election.
“We’ve seen the Liberals certainly flip quite a lot since the writs were drawn up. Some of those votes have gone to the Conservatives but a fair number of them have gone to the NDP as well, so that means the table can be set for a weakened Liberal party, a stronger NDP and that can be a formula for the Conservatives to pick up a few seats,” Prest said. “The Greens have to some extent taken themselves out of this race. I don’t know if they’re going to be much of a factor this time around. That party has just been torn up by internal conflict, it seems like.”