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Surrey scores the lowest participation rates in ProRep referendum

FILE: The 2018 Referendum on Electoral Reform package and mail in ballot from Elections B.C. is pictured in North Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward)

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — Early numbers from Elections BC show a big drop in voter turnout in Surrey, despite being the second largest city in the province.

Areas like Whalley, Green Timbers and Newton had some of the lowest percentages of voter turnout in all of BC, despite their large populations. There are a number of reasons why, and as Vyas Saran, political researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, explains because Surrey is so diverse, more needed to be done to reach out to immigrants, and those who aren’t fluent in English.

“There wasn’t a lot of language resources for no-first English speaking people to get them involved in this referendum. I would actually lay some of the blame on the provincial government,” Saran says.

He also points out a lack of service stations in the city made it difficult for people to turn in referendum packages. Because of the population of Surrey, Saran can see the low turnout to have a major impact on results of the referendum.

“I think there was only one B.C. referendum service station for people to hand in their ballots and that was very far up north in Surrey, in Guildford. The province probably should have put a few more stations in there,” he adds.

While he was not surprised to see “low-income” neighbourhoods like Whalley turn in low participation numbers, Saran would have expected higher rates in places like Fleetwood and neighbourhoods with substantial South-Asian demographics, as those tend to be more politically vocal, he says.

“The biggest thing that speaks to me, there was not a lot of money spent on activating, mobilizing the vote in these ethnic suburbs. It ended up falling on the hands on smaller religious groups and a few individual activists,” he adds.

“If we were to imagine that Surrey ridings sort of at the same level as the average, then I think it would have had a really significant impact.”

For full participation rates across B.C., visit Elections BC.