COLUMN: Familiar faces crowd race for MP of new riding

A federal election is two years away, but interest is high for the newly created Cloverdale-Langley City riding

Who would have thought it was such a prize – being an MP in Ottawa, representing the new riding of Cloverdale-Langley City?

Judging by the level of interest in the Conservative nomination, in a riding that as yet does not officially exist, it must be quite a prize indeed to represent this area in the House of Commons.

There are already four declared candidates, with a nomination meeting not likely to take place for more than a year.

The riding must be officially created by an act of Parliament. Then the various parties have to organize riding associations, and only then can a nomination meeting start to shape up.

The election is two years away.

One reason it is such a prize is that it is one of the “new” ridings created in B.C. with no incumbent MP. While Conservative Russ Hiebert could logically run in the riding, as he currently represents part of it as MP for South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale, he is planning to continue to represent the South Surrey area in the renamed South Surrey-White Rock riding.

The reason there is so much interest in the Conservative nomination is that the voting patterns suggest it should be a fairly easy win for the Conservative candidate. The area has been represented continuously by Progressive Conservative, Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative MPs since 1974.

The recent provincial election saw BC Liberal candidates in both Cloverdale and Langley City easily win their seats. Many of their supporters would likely line up behind the Conservatives federally.

Two of the four candidates have lengthy political track records. Gurmant Grewal was MP for Surrey Central from 1997-2004, and for Newton-North Delta from 2004-’06. He was first elected as a Reform MP, and was part of the Canadian Alliance afterwards. He was also involved in helping draft a merger agreement between the Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives.

His wife, Nina, is the current Conservative MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells.

The other veteran politician in the race is long-time Surrey-Tynehead Liberal MLA Dave Hayer, who stepped aside in the last election, but was an MLA from 2001-’13.

The other two candidates are Paul Brar, who has been part of the Conservative executive in Newton-North Delta, and Cloverdale resident Mike Garisto.

There will likely be at least one entry from Langley, so it is quite possible this will be a five or six-person race.

The early entry into the race of so many contenders is all about signing up members. In a wide-open nomination race, the candidate who can get the most supporters to actually cast a vote will win.

Signing up members is the first step, but the most important is actually getting them to cast their ballot. Whether this has to be done at a nomination meeting or can be done electronically or ahead of time remains to be seen.

With all the interest in this nomination, it’s an excellent time for people who live in the riding to bring up issues they are concerned about with the candidates. They will be out and about in the community and are seeking input (and of course, members).

A wide-open nomination race like this one is true grassroots democracy, and it the way that nominations for federal and provincial office should be secured. Unfortunately, political parties have distanced themselves from routinely holding wide-open nomination meetings. In many cases, incumbents automatically get re-nominated.

The NDP continues to actually hold open meetings at which their candidates are nominated. Incumbents rarely face serious challenges, but they can be challenged.

Both the Conservatives and Liberals have done away with this in many ridings, and the net result is that democracy is weakened – both locally, in Victoria and in Ottawa.

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

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