Liberal Gordie Hogg and Conservative Kerry-Lynne Findlay were considered the two South Surrey-White Rock frontrunners out of a field of seven candidates. (Lance Peverley photos)

COLUMN: Miscalculations along the way

South Surrey-White Rock vote was no byelection by the numbers

For politicos, this week’s byelection in South Surrey-White Rock was a numbers game.

A federal Liberal candidate – for the first time since 1949 – won after MP-elect Gordie Hogg received 14,369 votes.

Conservative candidate Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the second in a field of seven, received 12,824.

Combined, the NDP (1,478) and Greens (1,247) had enough to alter the count, had their voters swerved right.

Oh, and 30,383 votes were cast by 79,359 eligible voters – a turnout of 38.2 per cent.

But none of these numbers target what I thought was the most interesting. One that took hold for me in the brief month-long campaign was the number 12.

That was the age that Findlay claimed would be allowed to possess marijuana, under the Liberals’ incoming prohibited-substance laws. Of course, Hogg pooh-poohed it, noting the age will be 19 in B.C., the same as liquor laws. But there, at the debate, the number 12 hung in the air.

And, as we know from U.S. politics, a single politician stating a belief is enough for it to be a ‘fact’.

More numbers came up when Findlay and Tory Leader Andrew Scheer, visited South Surrey for his first “public” event following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau being mobbed by more than 1,000 during his walking tour of Five Corners – though Scheer’s tour was in east Surrey at a private potato-chip plant, where one might think the public is less likely to hang.

Still, it could have made a good photo-op, had Conservative handlers not forbid tour photos. Instead, Scheer held a scrum, in which said handlers limited the number of “byelection” questions and wanted media to focus on his message that Findlay has “deep roots” in this community and that Trudeau is bad – yes, the same ones heard ad nauseam throughout their campaign.

The Liberals’ attempts to control the message, behind the scenes, seemed equally calculated.

Liberal Party of Canada senior director of communications Braeden Caley took issue last week after Peace Arch News reported online a leaked version of White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin’s bizarre, overreaching letter to Trudeau, castigating the PM for visiting his riding without officially notifying city hall.

Why in your personal opinion, a reporter was asked, is this letter the number-one story of the campaign?

Now, we’re not sure why the high-ranking Liberal came to this conclusion. We report news. Whether an online post is “big” news or “little” news is up to readers. If we post a story and nobody clicks, perhaps it should be considered “non” news.

Oddly, two days earlier, PAN had received a message from Caley just before Scheer’s “public” display at the chip factory. Seems the manufacturer was one of 11 businesses that received a portion of a $233,000 federal grant on July 27, and the high-ranking Liberal considered that nugget newsworthy enough to report on, presumably for our readers’ benefit.

Hmmmkay… This was federal money – your and my tax money, not party money – so including this so-called news didn’t seem to add up.

The election may be over, but all these miscalculations by spin doctors certainly leave me dizzy.

Lance Peverley is the editor of Peace Arch News.

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