COLUMN: A time for skepticism

Surrey is a key battleground that attracts leaders during long federal campaign

One of the side effects of having fixed election dates in Canada – a move pioneered by the BC Liberals when first elected in 2001 – is that campaigns have become much, much longer.

In fact, having a short campaign period is now considered a disaster by most political handlers. One of the criticisms made of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives’ recent campaign (after the fact, of course), is that they only had a 28-day period to campaign in.

Premier Jim Prentice, in fact, broke Alberta’s fixed election date law and called an election a year early. His party placed third after being in power for 44 years.

The federal election campaign has actually been underway for some time. While Parliament is still sitting and passing laws, MPs and candidates of all stripes are hard at work getting ready for the October election.

Under redistribution, Surrey now has five ridings.

Candidates in the new Cloverdale-Langley City riding are mostly in place, and several have already set up campaign offices.

Many candidates have been nominated in all five local ridings. Because of the long campaign period, voters need to treat almost everything said or done by political parties, and particularly by their leaders, with a great deal of skepticism.

They need to follow the advice of lead singer Sting of The Police in the song, Every Breath You Take:

“Every vow you break

Every smile you fake

Every claim you stake

I’ll be watching you.”

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was in Surrey for a rally last Friday – clearly an election-related visit. Two of the current Surrey ridings are held by NDP MPs, and their party is doing well in recent opinion polls.

The surprising win by the NDP in Alberta is causing more people across Canada to look at the federal party a little more closely. Some are, for the first time, considering it as a government in waiting. The fact it has been the official Opposition in the current Parliament also helps.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also made a number of recent visits to the Lower Mainland, including a February stop at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s campus in Cloverdale, located in the new riding.

While they haven’t been election rallies, his visits are connected to the campaign. In particular, the time he spent in April with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Surrey was invaluable.

On Monday, Delta-Richmond East MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay was in Surrey to announce a $3.5-million grant to Wrap, Surrey School District’s anti-gang program. She also confirmed the 100 new RCMP officers Surrey has requested will be coming – although she did not give a date.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will almost certainly be in the area several times in the coming months, and it is possible Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will be in the vicinity on occasion.

Surrey is a key battleground, with the election in at least three of the seats to be hard-fought.

The South Surrey-White Rock race, with former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts the Conservative candidate, is more likely to be a coronation.

Voters may not be too engaged in federal politics right now, but the parties most certainly are.

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

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