You might call it the calm before the storm.
But sure enough, the lazy days of summer are being interrupted by knocks on residents’ doors by incumbent and would-be MPs in hot pursuit of votes in the 43rd Canadian federal election. Election day is set for Oct. 21, a little more than three months away.
In recent decades, in Surrey, various incarnations of conservatives have done quite well at dominating the polls under the Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative banners.
The NDP has enjoyed intermittent wins – Jim Karpoff, Penny Priddy, Jinny Sims, and Jasbir Sandhu – in the city’s north end. The Liberals were basically shut out in Surrey for many years, with the exception of Sukh Dhaliwal, until the 2015 election when Trudeau-mania 2.0 breached the Rockies and has us where we are today, with the Liberal Party of Canada now occupying all of Surrey’s five ridings.
Will the Liberals’ fortunes change here in Surrey, or be affirmed? You will be the judge.
Shinder Purewal, a former citizenship judge who teaches political science at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, is a unique case. He ran twice as a Liberal in the old Surrey-North riding, losing to the NDP’s Sandhu in 2011 and Canadian Alliance’s Chuck Cadman in 2000. But he has since switched teams and aims to lead the Conservatives to victory in Fleetwood-Port Kells where he and his wife Jeetender, a Surrey teacher, raised their three daughters.
Why the switch? Purewal explains that while he is a fan of Paul Martin – Canada’s 21st prime minister – and Pierre Trudeau, he does not harbour the same admiration for Justin Trudeau.
“I belonged to the section of Paul Martin loyalists who were fiscally conservative. I’m not a fan of this Trudeau, although I admired his father. I think people had hopes in 2015. There was a lot of negative feedback on Harper, his style, and people were sort of, they had high hopes for Justin Trudeau. They looked at him as a young fellow with new ideas.”
But it hasn’t panned out, Purewal says.
“I’ve been door knocking since December, and particularly since SNC-Lavalin but even before that, people are not impressed with Justin Trudeau’s leadership.”
Surrey’s five incumbent Liberal MPs are seeking re-election and will be defending their leader’s record as well as their own. They are John Aldag (Cloverdale-Langley City), Ken Hardie (Fleetwood-Port Kells), Gordon Hogg (South Surrey-White Rock), Sukh Dhaliwal (Surrey Newton) and Randeep Sarai (Surrey Centre).
Affordable living is one of the “hot issues here at home that have been really consistent since I started at the doorsteps six years ago,” Aldag says. Lots of young families and seniors, he notes, are “just concerned about making their paycheques meet their living needs in a high-cost living area, and so I expect that to very much be front-of-mind for people as it has been for the last several years.”
Public transit is also an issue.
“I find that there’s way too many of our families who are sitting in vehicles in commutes out of the community every day and so I think transit commitments, and what that will look like, will be pretty important in Cloverdale-Langley,” Aldag says.
The changing climate is also an issue people are “waking up to and seeing as important.”
Aldag is facing off against the Conservatives’ Tamara Jansen, Caelum Nutbrown of the Green Party and a familiar face in Surrey’s political history, former Surrey Reform and Canadian Alliance MP Gurmant Grewal, who is running for Quebec MP Maxime Bernier’s fledgling People’s Party of Canada.
Jansen is a Langley resident, mother of five and grandmother of 10. She and her husband Byron built a small agricultural business into a multinational company employing more than 200 people locally.
Nutbrown works as a mental heath professional in the Downtown Eastside, at the centre of the opioid crisis.
He says if elected MP he “will not be afraid to speak truth to power as corporate and elite interests have been receiving free market socialism in the form of subsides, tax havens and legislative loopholes all the while leaving little for hard-working Canadians.
“I will speak the truth in parliament and work to restore a balanced and healthy middle class in Canada.”
So far, Hardie will be defending his record in Fleetwood-Port Kells against Mike Poulin (People’s Party of Canada), the NDP’s Annie Ohana and the Conservatives’ Purewal while Liberal MP Randeep Sarai will try to keep his party’s flag flying in Surrey Centre.
He’s being challenged by NDP candidate Sarjit Saran, Jaswinder Singh Dilawari of the People’s Party, Conservative Tina Bains and Kevin Pielak of the Christian Heritage Party.
“On the local level, I think the main campaign issues will primarily be related to infrastructure, public safety, and housing affordability,” Sarai tells the Now-Leader. “Nationally, I think the main campaign issues will be based on the environment, housing affordability and pharmacare. I am proud of the work that we have done together thus far, and I am grateful for the opportunity to keep moving Surrey forward.
Sarai offers up a catalogue of taxpayers’ contributions made to Surrey Centre under his party’s watch.
“Locally, for example, the federal government contributed $45 million to SFU Surrey’s new engineering building. This infrastructure will accommodate 440 full time students for SFU’s Sustainable Energy Program,” he says.
Sarai says the Liberal government has invested heavily in public transportation – $900M for more buses and SkyTrain improvements, stations and rail cars, and $1.6 billion for Surrey’s Rapid Transit Line.
“I hope to continue the work that we have done on the national scale to boost the economy, build a strong and robust middle class, and reduce poverty, all measures that are necessary for ensuring the growth and well being of Canada’s economy and standard of life.”
The NDP’s Saran says he’s running because “I just don’t like the inaction. There’s too much back-benching and no one’s really advocating for Surrey, and that concerns me.
“I find that the people that do get elected for Surrey, their focus is on immigration, and helping people with immigration. I think there’s a lot more issues that plague Canadians. There’s a lot more. It doesn’t matter what party you are in Surrey, we need to flip that dialogue towards everything else but immigration letters, right.”
Meantime, Benjamin Sears of the People’s Party and Conservative Harpreet Singh, a veteran journalist of 26 years, will try to replace Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal in Surrey-Newton.
Dhaliwal is in his fifth campaign. Does he see this one being any different?
“Basically every campaign is all about making sure that I’m out there keeping active, meeting all the constituents I can and reaching out to them, and focus on the policy,” he says. Major issues in his riding, Dhaliwal says, are securing improvements to infrastructure as well as “affordable” housing.
Singh, for his part, says he has been living in “this great country” of Canada since 2002 and can relate to issues important to average Canadians – like having lower taxes, safer communities and seeing jobs created “to ensure that every resident of Surrey-Newton has a great future.”
“I will operate in an accountable and responsive manner and leave no stone unturned to safeguard freedom and Canadian values,” he says.
Meantime, Liberal MP Gordon Hogg already has plenty of competitors lined up in South Surrey-White Rock, among them former NDP candidate Pixie Hobby – who is now running for the Green Party – Joel Poulin of the People’s Party, and former Conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who represented Delta-Richmond East and shouldered many responsibilities, among them parliamentary secretary to justice (2011-13), associate minister of national defence (2013), and minister of national revenue (2013-15). She lives in White Rock with her husband, with whom she has four children.
“I think it’ll be significantly challenging,” Hogg says of the election race in his riding. “Certainly the byelection that I was elected in was quite challenging as well. I think the only other time it was Liberal was in the 1940’s when the riding consisted of all of Surrey and part of New Westminster.”
This is not been an exhaustive list of candidates seeking political office as more are expected to join the fray, so stay tuned.
So far, nobody has declared locally for the Animal Protection Party of Canada, Alliance of the North, Stop Climate Change Party or the Rhinoceros Party.