COLUMN: A long, winding road on way to election day

The federal election campaign is entering its final week, and in Surrey and North Delta, it is taking some interesting twists and turns.

In the four ridings whose MPs represent Surrey, North Delta and White Rock, all the incumbents are seeking re-election. While conventional wisdom at the beginning of the campaign suggested that they all had a decent shot at retaining their seats, things look different right now.

Two of the ridings appear to be real races. Surrey North was won by Dona Cadman in 2008. The seat had been held by Penny Priddy of the NDP from 2006-08.

From 1993 until 2005, it was held by two MPs, who (in succession) represented Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative parties. In 2004, the riding’s voters elected its incumbent as an independent.

First Reform MP was Margaret Bridgman, and Cadman’s late husband, Chuck, succeeded Bridgman in 1997. He was already well-known for his advocacy of victims’ rights, after the tragic death of his son, Jesse, due to teen violence.

He became a Canadian Alliance MP as that party emerged from Reform, then a Conservative MP when the Alliance and Progressive Conservatives merged. When he lost the nomination due to a number of “instant members” who flooded the nomination meeting, he ran as an independent in 2004 – and won decisively, with volunteers flooding in to help him.

Chuck Cadman was already suffering from cancer, and it took his life in 2005 – but not until after he cast a crucial vote in Ottawa, which kept the Liberal government of Paul Martin from falling.

Dona Cadman has been a different kind of MP from her late husband or Priddy. She is much less vocal and media-savvy. She initially promised to vote against the HST in Ottawa, but then decided not to show up for the vote instead. As her constituents are decisively against the tax, this has come back to haunt her during the campaign.

NDP candidate Jasbir Sandhu is mounting a vigorous campaign to unseat her, and Jack Layton has already been in Surrey to shore up support for Sandhu.

In Newton-North Delta, incumbent Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal is facing a different kind of challenge. He is well-known and popular. He narrowly won the seat in 2006 when it was an open three-way race. It was again a three-way fight in 2008 and will be again this year.

His main challengers are Jinny Sims of the NDP, a high-profile former president of the B.C. Teachers Federation, and Conservative Mani Fallon.

While many voters do look closely at the individual candidate, many more will decide who they are voting for based on the party and national leader. Thus Dhaliwal’s fate is tied up to some degree on how Michael Ignatieff is perceived.

Other than last week’s expulsion of candidate Alan Saldanha from the Green party ranks for an offensive comment on Facebook, the Fleetwood-Port Kells race has been quiet. The Liberals were late in naming Pam Dhanoa as their candidate, and incumbent Conservative MP Nina Grewal is again being challenged by the NDP’s Nao Fernando. It appears that there won’t be much change there, as Grewal won fairly comfortably in 2008. The NDP may well finish second instead of third.

The South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale race has nine candidates, with most of them vying for a large contingent of centre-right votes. Incumbent Conservative Russ Hiebert is being challenged by former Conservatives Hardy Staub (for the Liberals) and independent Aart Looye. Christian Heritage Party Mike Schouten is also running an energetic campaign.

The actual number of votes received by the major challengers will be interesting to see, but it will be tough to unseat Hiebert in such a staunchly conservative riding.

No matter what your riding, take the time to vote. If voter turnout goes up dramatically, the results could be vastly different.

Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.


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