COLUMN: New riding adds balance

Additional MP for Surrey reflects growing population

The revised proposal for Surrey’s new federal ridings makes far more sense than did the initial proposal from the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission.

Surrey will have five ridings in the House of Commons when the new boundaries are agreed to by Parliament – up from the current four. It’s a far cry from the days when Surrey had one MP in the House of Commons, which was the case until the late 1970s.

The redrawing of boundaries takes place every 10 years, based on the census. On this occasion, the government also pushed through a bill that would expand the House of Commons to ensure that B.C., Alberta and Ontario, which have historically been under-represented in Ottawa, would get more MPs to help ease the population imbalance. Thus B.C. gets six new MPs.

Nowhere in B.C. is that imbalance more obvious than in Surrey.

The current riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, represented by MP Nina Grewal, is 52 per cent over the quota set for the commission of just under 105,000 people per riding.

As the commission says in its final report, “It is important to note that Surrey has seen the highest population growth in the province.”

The five Surrey ridings will be much more representative of Surrey’s communities than would have been the case under the commission’s first proposal. In its report, the commission acknowledged that comments from Surrey residents helped it to draw boundaries that more closely fit existing communities.

Surrey Centre will include Whalley and a portion of Guildford. Surrey-Newton will take in most of the Newton area, Surrey’s most populous area. It will no longer be combined with North Delta, which returns to the Delta riding.

South Surrey-White Rock will be somewhat smaller than the current riding for that area, which currently includes a part of Cloverdale.

As both Cloverdale and Clayton are among Surrey’s fastest-growing areas, they get a new riding of their own (Cloverdale-Langley), which is being combined with the City of Langley and the Willoughby area of Langley Township – another fast-growing area.

This is a concern. This riding contains two very fast-growing neighbourhoods, yet it is already over the population quota by four per cent. Should these boundaries go through unchanged, this riding will likely be the largest one in B.C. in 10 years time, as a great deal of growth is still coming to both Clayton and Willoughby.

It would be better if a portion of Langley is put back into the riding that covers most of Langley, now renamed Fort Langley-Aldergrove.

The fifth Surrey riding is the shrunken Fleetwood-Port Kells. With the new boundaries, it is now populated by 109,742 people. At that, it is not the most populous riding proposed. That is Surrey Centre, which currently has 111,486 residents.

The population imbalances between the five ridings are not overly significant. While South Surrey-White Rock has the fewest people, a great deal of development is planned in that area as well, so its population will grow.

Given that these boundaries aren’t likely to change a great deal when they are given final adoption, the new ridings beg some speculation. Which of these five ridings will see incumbent MPs seek re-election, and which one will be a new open seat?

My best guess is that the Cloverdale-Langley seat is the most likely to be the open seat. Conservative MP Russ Hiebert is most likely to stay in South Surrey-White Rock, although he could run in Cloverdale, where he has lived. Fellow Conservative Grewal will likely run again in Fleetwood-Port Kells.

Of the two NDP MPs, Jinny Sims will likely seek the Surrey-Newton seat and Jasbir Sandhu will likely run in Surrey Centre.

While it is impossible to predict which seat will see the closest race at this point in time, most likely the contests in Fleetwood-Port Kells and Surrey-Newton will be closer than in the other ridings — given past voting patterns. The next election won’t occur until Oct. 19, 2015.

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

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