Surrey council instructs staff to explore switching to a ward system

Several council members say a referendum would be the way to go

Surrey city council has asked staff to prepare a report considering a transition toward a ward system rather than the current “at large” system we use in civic elections today.

Councillor Doug Elford presented a motion at the July 27 council meeting, “That the City of Surrey consider the transition to a ward system of electing City Council representatives.”

Council approved it Monday, after some debate.

A ward system divvies up the city into neighbourhoods with a council member representing one of these electoral regions, much like an MLA or MP represents their particular riding.

Such a system was used in these parts from before 1879 up until 1957, when the provincial government put an end to it in favour of the “at-large” voting system we have today in which voters elect a mayor, councillors and school trustees city-wide. Mayors are still typically voted city-wide under a ward system.

Elford said the current first past the post system “has led to slate politics.

“It’s no secret the many of our previous councils resided in concentrated parts of Surrey, and other parts of Surrey have felt neglected,” he said. “Surrey is ripe for wards. We’re a city of distinct neighbourhoods separated geographically. I believe a ward system will enable community leaders a better opportunity to get elected to council.

“My intention of this motion is to receive a report back from staff for council to consider moving forward,” Elford said. “A majority of large cities across Canada have a ward system in place for a reason.”

READ ALSO OUR VIEW: Wards for Surrey worth a hard look

Though the motion passed, it received a frosty reception from some councillors. Councillor Linda Annis said the current system costs less to operate and encourages council members to “take a broader, city wide perspective” when it comes to city priorities. A ward system, she said, would mean more council members.

“Do taxpayers really want to pay more for politicians and additional administrative costs?” she said. “Do we want to have ward councillors who limit their attention and focus to a single neighbourhood rather than the broader priorities of the entire city and every Surrey neighbourhood?”

Councillor Brenda Locke said it wouldn’t change first-past-the-post because the wards would be done on the same basis. She said this kind of request should come from residents rather than politicians.

“Elections belong to the people, they don’t belong to us,” she noted. “We’re actually in a conflict-of-interest when we start talking about how we want to change or manipulate an election.”

Councillor Stephen Pettigrew said he couldn’t support Elford’s motion because he found it too “vague.”

“It sounds a bit self-serving,” he added. “A referendum would be a good place to have that.”

Councillor Laurie Guerra said she’d like to see this go to a referendum in the next civic election, which will be on Oct. 15, 2022.

Councillor Mandeep Nagra said he personally finds it “very challenging” to represent all of Surrey’s neighbourhoods fairly, “so I will fully support this.”

Councillor Allison Patton it’s an interesting proposal. “I think that it opens the door for other cities that could consider joining us, such as White Rock.”

Councillor Jack Hundial agreed “nothing less than a referendum would satisfy.”

Mayor Doug McCallum supports setting up a ward system in Surrey. “They work very efficiently in all the big cities,” he said. He too suggested a referendum might be the way to go.

“I think it’s time for Surrey,” he said. “I think it’s certainly something we need to look at as a council.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

City of Surrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Transgender Surrey brothers debut fantasy novel as author duo Vincent Hunter

‘Transgender people are being misrepresented in popular fiction and media, and we aim to change that’

Delta, Metro Vancouver add more than 300 hectares to Burns Bog Conservation Area

Delta Nature Reserve among parcels of land added to conservation area but will remain open to public

Rivers could rise rapidly as heavy rains hit Lower Mainland

Larger rivers to reach peak levels on Thursday or into Friday, according to high streamflow advisory

Two Surrey women win BC Sports Hall of Fame awards for inspired service

Jane Blaine and Wendy Pattenden recognized during virtual summit

Horgan says Surrey mayor opened ‘hornets’ nest’ with Surrey policing transition

Surrey election battle heating up over Doug McCallum’s controversial cop transition

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Mounties impound car of impaired driver celebrating birthday in North Vancouver

RCMP say the person was driving with their headlights off

UPDATE: Abbotsford high school killer back in court for ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing

Gabriel Klein was previously convicted of stabbing Letisha Reimer to death

Rainfall warning says significant showers forecast for entire region

Rain moving across Howe Sound, The Fraser Valley and northern parts of Metro Vancouver this morning.

‘Won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving:’ Trudeau says COVID-19 2nd wave underway

In all, COVID-19 has killed about 9,250 people in Canada

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Most Read