COLUMN: A more interesting race than originally anticipated

Plenty of election intrigue in local ridings

We now know when the federal election is taking place, and we also know that the candidates’ list for the five local ridings is still being finalized.

We also know that Surrey will be a battleground. NDP Leader Jack Layton has already been here – visiting Surrey North on Sunday, where candidate Jasbir Sandhu likely has the best chance of any of the local NDP candidates.

Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff will be visiting Surrey eventually. The seats their parties now hold here are very important to their future hopes, whether those hopes be of a majority or minority government, or even a revitalized opposition.

As mentioned in this space last week, when it became obvious there was going to be an election, it seemed initially in this area that the Conservatives were likely to hold on to their four seats, and the Liberals would hold onto Newton-North Delta.

However, some additional challenges now face the the Conservatives. Their Delta-Richmond East  candidate, Dale Saip, was asked to step aside by the party after concerns about past financial challenges he had faced were raised, two days after he was nominated. While that position has now been filled by Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the delays and controversy will cost the Conservatives some votes. The longer it takes to select a candidate, the more that seat goes into play.

In South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale, Russ Hiebert should be a shoo-in for the Conservatives.

The riding and its predecessors have been Conservative or Reform strongholds since 1974.

However, Hiebert has been under fire for his spending, and some members of his constituency association feel there should have been an open nomination race, rather than the automatic acclamation ordered for incumbents by the party and prime minister.

As they could not challenge him within the party, they are doing so in other ways. Former White Rock mayor Hardy Staub, who was a Conservative until very recently, is running for the Liberals, and Aart Looye is running as an independent conservative. Together, they will definitely erode Hiebert’s vote total, but it will be tough to convince many people, who simply vote for the party, to switch their votes.

In Surrey North, incumbent Dona Cadman will face a stiff challenge from Sandhu, who has NDP veterans John Pollard and Penny Priddy running his campaign. Priddy is the former MP for the riding, and is a popular former MLA, councillor and school trustee, and Pollard has run many a successful NDP campaign in Surrey.

In the last election, Cadman was able to run on her name. Her late husband, Chuck, is revered by many Surrey residents of all or no political stripes. However, now she has a record to run on, and that’s always a challenge. It’s more challenging when you are part of a governing party.

Former candidate Shinder Purewal is running for the Liberals in the riding, but this fight will likely be between the NDP and Conservatives.

In the other two ridings, the incumbents are quite likely to prevail. Part of that is due to the advantages of incumbency. Sukh Dhaliwal held Newton-North Delta for the Liberals in 2008 and seems quite likely to do so again. Nina Grewal held Fleetwood-Port Kells for the Conservatives by a comfortable margin and seems likely to repeat the feat this year.

While the interest in the May 2 election isn’t high, the number of interesting races within Surrey and Delta should help boost voter turnout. As we look around the world and see how people struggle for the basic right to have a say in their country’s affairs, we should be thankful that doing so here is so simple.

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