SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Surrey is once again shaping up to be an important campaign battleground as we head toward the provincial election one month from Thursday.
The NDP took some key wins south of the Fraser in the 2017 election, some by relatively narrow margins, and swing ridings have the potential to decide who governs this time around.
“The NDP did very well in the Surrey area, including North Delta, winning seats they hadn’t held,” says Frank Bucholtz, a former newspaper columnist and editor who covered politics south of the Fraser for years.
“I think a lot of that was driven by the promise to take tolls off the Port Mann Bridge. That’s an accepted fact now so I don’t think they are going to gain any votes for that,” he tells NEWS 1130.
From RCMP to Surrey Police
Bucholtz believes the fight over Surrey’s switch to a municipal police force could be a “tipping factor” that will bleed over into provincial politics, as groups pushing to keep the RCMP in the city put pressure on NDP candidates.
“The group fighting the most is already communicating with NDP MLAs and has not been getting a massive amount of response. In a couple of ridings that the NDP won by smaller margins, if they can get their message across and the NDP is not that responsive, I think that could move votes away from the NDP.”
Bucholtz points to Surrey-Panorama, which had been held by the Liberals before New Democrat Jinny Sims won the riding in 2017, along with Surrey-Guildford.
“[The NDP’s] Garry Begg holds that riding and he is a former Surrey RCMP officer, so he is very familiar with the issue. I would definitely expect a lot of pressure in those two ridings for sure.”
Focus on swing ridings
Bucholtz expects to see the party leaders spend a lot of time campaigning in potential swing ridings.
“They will definitely be here. Policing will be one topic and I think transportation will be another. Will the SkyTrain line be extended to Langley or will it stop at Fleetwood? That’s going to be a hot topic because transportation is a challenge.”
Other regional issues, according to Bucholtz, include new school construction and whether or not there are enough resources around COVID testing south of the Fraser. He says both the Liberal and NDP leaders have a lot of work to do to gather votes.
“Surrey, historically, has probably been a little friendlier to parties right-of-centre, though not as much in north Surrey. But the BC Liberals under Andrew Wilkinson have taken Surrey for granted, I think, and we haven’t seen a lot of attention paid specifically to Surrey issues in recent years. They have some work to do to boost their recognition here,” he says.
And while Bucholtz says the NDP’s John Horgan has been popular in Surrey, he may have lost some of that goodwill by calling an early election during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That will probably slide away, but I think they still have to show that the NDP is listening to Surrey residents on all these issues.”