COLUMN: Vastly different elections

Civic races heating up in Surrey, Delta and White Rock

Dianne Watts may have been one of Surrey’s most popular mayors in many years, but Lois Jackson has done something that Watts will likely never achieve. Jackson has won the Delta mayor’s chair by acclamation. By nomination deadline on Friday, no one was willing to come forward to challenge her.

Jackson may not want to enter her sixth term as Delta’s mayor this way. She is a fierce competitor. As the first woman ever elected to Delta council, way back in 1972, she is a survivor par excellence, and she has usually had to fight for everything she has achieved.

In the last election, in 2011, she had three competitors, including two who had served as councillors, and received less than 50 per cent of the vote.

A woman winning an election was a singular achievement in 1972. Few women were sitting on municipal councils, although they were much better represented on school boards.

Delta was and is a conservative community, and was used to men on council. Jackson changed all that and blazed trails that many have women since followed, with perhaps no idea how challenging it once was.

Today, Delta is represented by a woman in the House of Commons. One of its two MLAs in Victoria is a woman. The current council has two female councillors, in addition to Jackson, who wasn’t even the first woman to be elected mayor. That honour goes to Beth Johnson, who was first elected in 1990.

Jackson has been a true role model for many young women and continues to fight for her community with conviction. Perhaps the win by acclamation is a way for the community to say thanks to her for all she has done. Either that, or no one else wants to lose to her.

Meanwhile in Surrey, there are no less than seven candidates for mayor, with three well-known politicians from past and present the likely frontrunners. Each of the three heads up a slate of followers, in the hopes that if he or she wins, they will have enough votes to implement some changes.

Surrey First should be in the driver’s seat, as the slate is endorsed by the popular Watts. Linda Hepner is the mayoral candidate, and her slate includes five incumbents. Surrey First won all nine seats in 2011, but Barinder Rasode left the organization and is now running for mayor with the One Surrey Electors Association. She heads up a team of seven councillor candidates. None have elected experience, but several are well-known in various community endeavours.

The Rasode-Hepner split may prove to be an advantage for former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum,  who is returning to the fray after nine years out of office.  He heads a team of four candidates – just enough for control of council, should they all be elected.

McCallum was in the lead in a poll released on Tuesday, but its findings are  somewhat suspect. Polls for municipal elections are even more unreliable than the provincial polls proved to be in 2013 – for the simple reason that most people who are polled do not vote.

This is particularly true in Surrey, which has a young population. Many young people pay little attention to municipal elections. They may be aware of some of the issues, but usually do not get out to the polls to vote. Considering that Surrey has more than 320,000 eligible voters, and it is unlikely that more than 30 to 35 per cent of them will vote, it is very hard for both pollsters and politicians to reach those who actually will go and vote.

The race for mayor will certainly increase the level of i nterest in the election and boost turnout, but it would be amazing indeed if the modern era high water mark of 43 per cent, reached in 1980, will be achieved.

There is also a challenging battle for council, with 36 candidates. In addition to the three slates, a fourth group of two candidates, former MLA Brenda Locke and Stephen Gammer, have formed Team Surrey. Of the 36, 21 are with slates, and 15 are independents. Among them are two former federal candidates, Cliff Blair and Jim McMurtry.

In White Rock, Mayor Wayne Baldwin is seeking a second term, and is challenged by David Bradshaw. There are 17 candidates for the six council seats, including former councillors Cliff Annable, Lynne Sinclair and Margaret Woods.

It will be an interesting month, leading up to election day on Nov. 15.

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

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