EDITORIAL: Political engagement grows on Semiahmoo Peninsula

Will visits from Trudeau, Scheer result in greater voter turnout for the Dec. 11 byelection?

Federal politics has been the talk of the town – of two towns, really – this week on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, as two of the country’s most prominent politicians made whirlwind appearances in both Surrey and White Rock.

On Wednesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer made two appearances in Surrey – at a board-of-trade meeting in the morning, and in the evening, at a campaign-launch event for South Surrey-White Rock byelection candidate Kerry-Lynne Findlay.

Also Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in White Rock in support of the federal Liberals’ candidate in the byelection, Gordon Hogg.

While an appearance by a sitting prime minister is bound to draw a crowd – especially in a small community such as White Rock – Trudeau’s appearance, which was announced only the evening prior, seemed to harken back to the Trudeau-mania heyday of his father’s era, as residents waited for more than an hour to catch a glimpse – maybe take a selfie – of the country’s top politician.

A few hours later, Scheer’s appearance at the Pacific Inn – originally billed by the party as an event “to deliver remarks” to supporters and party volunteers, rather than a campaign launch – drew a crowd of nearly 300.

Social media was also abuzz with news of both leaders’ appearances, with many noting it unique to have both leaders in the community on the same day – especially considering the Semiahmoo Peninsula has not historically been frequented by the top dogs of either party.

And while the buzz has died down from its Wednesday heights, it’s worth noting that there was, indeed, a buzz. In an era when voter turnout is, by most accounts, still low, and political apathy is rampant, it’s encouraging to see interest spiked locally, regardless of which party you support.

Byelections, historically, draw even less voters than do regular elections. With the South Surrey-White Rock byelection set for Dec. 11 – with candidates vying for the seat left vacant by Conservative Dianne Watts – let’s hope this week’s interest is more than just a passing fad, or a chance to take a photo with someone famous, and instead results in strong turnout at the polls and a genuine enthusiasm for the candidates and the issues that affect our community.

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