We’re only a couple of days into an election campaign and it is already clear that the riding-rich municipality of Surrey is considered key to the election hopes of both the NDP and the B.C. Liberals.
The leaders of both parties were quick to visit there and to talk a lot about the kinds of things near and dear to voters there: schools, hospitals, and transit.
B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson have already accused each of breaking promises on all kinds of fronts and betraying the voters there. Get used to hearing that a lot in the days ahead.
There are nine ridings up for grabs there but six of them can be considered virtual locks for either of the two parties.
The B.C. Liberals are strongest in the southern part of the municipality and put up big victory margins in Surrey-White Rock and Surrey South.
The NDP has a tight grip on north-end ridings such as Surrey-Whalley, Surrey-Green Timbers, Surrey-Fleetwood, and Surrey-Newton further south.
There likely will be more competitive races in the central ridings of Surrey-Cloverdale, Surrey-Panorama and, perhaps to a lesser degree, Surrey-Guildford. The NDP currently holds two of them, with the other in the B.C. Liberal fold.
If the polls hold, then Surrey-Cloverdale, currently held by veteran B.C. Liberal MLA Marvin Hunt, may be ripe for an NDP pick-up. Hunt won by fewer than nine percentage points (anything under 10 points makes a riding a potential “swing” riding) in 2017.
But if the B.C. Liberals regain their footing, then the riding of Surrey-Panorama, currently held by the NDP’s Jinny Sims, may come into play. Sims won by nine points as well (and more than 2,100 votes). The B.C. Liberals really thought they were going to win this riding (a new one) in 2017, but internal infighting and a poor local campaign contributed to their loss.
The party’s candidate in Surrey-Panorama is Gulzar Cheema, a former one-time B.C. Liberal MLA in the first Gordon Campbell administration.
The riding of Surrey-Guildford, held by first-time NDP MLA Garry Begg, seems less likely to flip to a different party. He won by 12 points but fewer than 2,300 votes and the B.C. Liberals have won there before.
Surrey has some unique issues that are not necessarily key ones in other cities and municipalities. A huge number of school portables, a proposal to get rid of the RCMP, ride-hailing services versus a traditional taxi industry, and a SkyTrain extension are just some of the issues on the minds of Surrey voters.
There is every reason to think this election outcome will be a very close one, despite what the polls suggest now. If that is indeed the case, then two or three Surrey ridings may well determine which party wins the keys to the kingdom come Oct. 24.
In an election campaign, where leaders travel says a lot about where they think they can win or where they must win. So expect Horgan and Wilkinson to criss-cross this municipality a number of times in the weeks ahead.
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