COLUMN: New year, new beginnings

Politics in British Columbia could see a shake up, writes Peace Arch News columnist Frank Bucholtz

The new year is right around the corner, and it will be a very interesting one.

Many of the issues that have attracted attention and comment in Surrey and its immediate environs over the past year or two revolve in one way or another around the provincial government.

Victoria has enormous taxing authority and powers over many of the day-to-day institutions we deal with. These include police, health care, schools, transit, highways, municipalities, gambling, farm land, resource development and, ultimately. the economy.

As almost everyone knows, there will be a provincial election on May 15. At this point in time, the NDP have the upper hand in polling, but much can change in a few months.

The BC Liberals have been on the ropes, almost from the day in 2009 when they announced that the HST was being introduced, but they have improved a little bit in recent polls.

The NDP’s dominance in the polls has been helped by the resurgence of the BC Conservatives, but that party has had a lot of challenges since September and its poll numbers have dropped significantly.

At the same time, the Greens mounted a strong campaign in a recent federal byelection and are energized by the antipathy towards the Northern Gateway pipeline. If they run a strong campaign, they too could hurt the NDP’s chances.

In Surrey and North Delta, the NDP are likely to win all but two or three seats. Incumbents Sue Hammell, Bruce Ralston, Jagrup Brar and Harry Bains are all running again, and all are likely to win their seats easily.

Surrey-Tynehead is being vacated by longtime Liberal MLA Dave Hayer, and the NDP will have a good chance to win that seat. Delta North has been an NDP seat, but Guy Gentner is retiring from politics. NDP candidate Sylvia Bishop will likely hold that seat as well.

That leaves Surrey-White Rock, where Gordon Hogg has the advantages of incumbency, personal popularity and a reputation as being a bit of a maverick within the Liberal caucus all going for him. He is most likely going to win that seat, as it will be a very steep uphill for the NDP to win it. If the Conservatives mount a credible candidate against him, it will cut into his support, but that’s probably all it will do.

Stephanie Cadieux will be running in Surrey-Cloverdale, being vacated by Kevin Falcon. Cadieux is moving over from Surrey-Panorama, where the Liberal candidate will be former MP Sukh Dhaliwal.

Surrey-Cloverdale isn’t quite as safe as Surrey-White Rock, but the NDP need to have a good candidate there. If the Conservatives run a strong candidate there, and there is no sign of that, the NDP have a better chance to win as a result of the vote split. It’s still likely to stay Liberal.

Surrey-Panorama could be a tougher seat for the Liberals. While Dhaliwal won two terms in Ottawa, and has strong support from the South Asian community, many South Asians back the NDP. The demographics of the riding favour the Liberals, but not overwhelmingly. Again, what the Conservatives do or do not do could be crucial.

On election day, the Liberals will likely be in a stronger position than they are today, but it seems unlikely they can regain enough ground to own a fourth straight term.

More likely is an NDP government with Premier Adrian Dix in charge, with Ralston as finance minister and Bains in charge of transportation.

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

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