COLUMN: Tighter race than predicted

Federal election expected to be as closely contested as ever.

It is quite possible that voters in Surrey and Delta will be taking part in the most competitive elections in many years, for all or most of the six local seats in the House of Commons.

That is likely why many came out to vote at advance polls over the weekend. Across Canada, 3.6 million voted at the four-day advance polls – up 71 per cent from the 2011 totals. In Surrey, a number of voting stations had lengthy lineups at times over the weekend. Elections Canada clearly had not expected so many to come and vote early.

It seems certain that voter turnout will be up in this election. There are a number of reasons.

It has been a lengthy election campaign, the longest in modern Canadian history, so few people can say they aren’t aware of it. The prime minister has been in office for almost 10 years and, as a result of decisions made over that period, there is clearly a mood for change among many.

Strategic voting has been highlighted more than ever, and has been aided by several high-profile campaigns and detailed instructions on the Internet.

To all that must be added that the Liberals, in particular, have run an energetic campaign which has captured the attention of some people who might normally ignore a federal election. Leader Justin Trudeau’s relative youth, when compared to his two main rivals, and his familiarity, as the son of a well-known former prime minister, have been factors in the added interest.

Surrey and Delta are not normally Liberal-friendly areas. Sukh Dhaliwal, who was MP for Newton-North Delta from 2006 to 2011, was the first Liberal elected to represent any part of Surrey since 1953. Dhaliwal lost his seat in 2011 to the NDP’s Jinny Sims but is running again in the rejigged riding taking in most of the area. It is now known as Surrey-Newton.

Delta last elected a Liberal MP in 1968 (Pierre Trudeau’s inaugural campaign), when Tom Goode became MP. He lost his seat in 1972, and was soon elected Delta mayor.

This time around, the Liberals are running hard in all six ridings, which have been held by either the Conservatives (and their predecessor parties) or NDP for decades.

While it appears to be a longshot that the Liberals could win South Surrey-White Rock, where former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts is running for the Conservatives, or Delta, where incumbent Conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay is seeking re-election, observers who closely track polls say it is possible.

In South Surrey-White Rock, former Surrey councillor Judy Higginbotham took over partway through the campaign as the Liberal candidate. Pixie Hobby represents the NDP. In Delta, Carla Qualtrough is the Liberal candidate while the NDP is represented by Jeremy Leveque.

In Surrey-Newton, it is sure to be a three-way race between Dhaliwal, Sims and Conservative Harpreet Singh.

Fleetwood-Port Kells also appears to be a genuine three-way race between four-term Conservative MP Nina Grewal, Ken Hardie of the Liberals and Garry Begg of the NDP.

Liberal candidate Randeep Sarai is vying with NDP candidate and incumbent MP Jasbir Sandhu in Surrey Centre, the former Surrey North seat. It appears that Conservative candidate Sucha Thind is further behind, in what has usually been a strong NDP area (with the notable exception of the Chuck Cadman years).

Cloverdale-Langley City is seen by observers as also being fairly close, although Conservative Dean Drysdale apparently has an edge in the polls. Liberal John Aldag and NDP Rebecca Smith have run energetic campaigns.

However, it is important to remember that riding polls often have a small sample size and can be notoriously inaccurate. Given that polls in general have been wildly off-base in many recent elections, including the 2013 provincial election, it is a real gamble to make any predictions based on polls.

However, there has been genuine momentum for the Liberals across Canada in this election, and the Conservatives have had some difficulty defending some actions from their nine years in power. At least some of that has shown up in Surrey and Delta. The NDP are seen to be slipping in the polls, but in this area, the party always runs strong campaigns and ensures its supporters show up to vote. The Greens aren’t likely to be a factor locally, although may act as spoilers in a close race.

The likelihood that all six ridings may be closer races than they have been is a very good reason to vote on Monday. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for Peace Arch News. frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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