COLUMN: Vote signals change for city

BC Liberals are now well-represented in Surrey, after provincial election earlier this month.

Surrey and Delta issues will get plenty of attention in the next four years, with a strong contingent of MLAs backing the government of re-elected Premier Christy Clark.

While Clark does not yet have a seat, that will likely be taken care of very soon. She will seek a safe BC Liberal seat to get back into the house, and among the safe seats she may be looking at are Surrey-White Rock and Surrey-Cloverdale.

The biggest surprise in the local results was how well the BC Liberals polled in areas where the NDP are strong. Their vote counts went up quite significantly in NDP strongholds such as Surrey-Newton and Surrey-Green Timbers, and also rose in Surrey-Whalley.

The BC Liberals also won former the NDP seats of Delta North and Surrey-Fleetwood.

Seats where the BC Liberals and NDP had been closer in 2009, Surrey-Tynehead and Surrey-Panorama, went more decisively to the Liberals.

The results mean a number of changes are in the wind. Longtime Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt won for the BC Liberals in Surrey-Panorama, finally getting into the house 27 years after his first attempt.

In 1986, he came close to winning the Surrey-Guildford-Whalley seat for Social Credit, but was beaten by the NDP’s Joan Smallwood. She won the seat by several hundred votes.

Hunt hopes to remain a Surrey councillor until January, so that the huge cost of a byelection (estimated as costing at least $500,000) can be avoided. For the sake of taxpayers, let’s hope he is able to do so. He has said he will not attend council meetings unless it is necessary, will not serve on committees and will donate his salary to charity.

Most taxpayers would endorse this fiscal prudence.

Both Hunt and Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, who was elected narrowly in Surrey-Fleetwood, should have decent shots at cabinet seats. Both have lengthy experience at the local and regional levels of government and can be expected to speak up on issues like transit, bridge tolling, road pricing, new schools, and hospital expansion.

Both are big believers that Surrey needs to get more of its share of regional and provincial funding to help it keep pace as it continues to grow.

Stephanie Cadieux of Surrey-Cloverdale already represents Surrey in cabinet and is likely to stay. Longtime MLA Gordon Hogg, in Surrey-White Rock, has been in cabinet previously, but may not have much of a chance of returning, with so many other Surrey MLAs having a good shot at it.

Some commentators suggest that Mayor Dianne Watts was lukewarm to the BC Liberals’ re-election.

I have seen no evidence of that. Instead, she wisely stayed on the sidelines, as did Vancouver Mayor (and former NDP MLA) Gregor Robertson. Both mayors realized they have to work with whichever party was elected.

Delta North MLA-elect Scott Hamilton will be a good advocate for Delta in Victoria, as an experienced Delta councillor. Whether he plans to depart council before January, which will lead to a byelection, hasn’t been determined yet.

However, byelections in Delta are much less costly than those in Surrey, because of the much smaller population.

It is also fitting to thank outgoing MLAs Jagrup Brar, in Surrey-Fleetwood, Kevin Falcon, in Surrey-Cloverdale, Dave Hayer in Surrey-Tynehead and Guy Gentner, in Delta North. Brar proved a good advocate for the less privileged. Falcon served in a variety of cabinet positions and came close to becoming premier.

Hayer was a tireless advocate for his constituents, and Gentner proved to be a good spokesman for Delta in Victoria.

I wish them all the best in their new career paths.

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

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