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Surrey South candidates showcased in Surrey Board of Trade-hosted online forum

Meeting highlighted significant differences in political parties’ approach

BC NDP Surrey South MLA candidate Pauline Greaves says that she is proud to have been part of “this great community” for nearly 30 years.

“But I believe it could be even better,” she said during an Aug. 31 candidates forum hosted online by the Surrey Board of Trade, and moderated by executive director Anita Huberman.

Greaves, an instructor at the School of Business at Langara College, said the people of Surrey South “have been waiting a long time for health care that they need, and that is close to home,” while also being stuck in “long traffic delays” and paying river crossing tolls, prior to 2017 – which is why she wants to push for completion of projects such as a new hospital in Cloverdale and a replacement for the Massey tunnel.

Meanwhile, BC Liberal candidate Elenore Sturko said it’s partly her experience as working as a police officer that inspired her to take up her pursuit of public office.

“I’ve seen first-hand in homes here in Surrey how the opioid crisis has affected individuals, how untreated mental health (issues) and addictions are taking their toll here in Surrey – I want to take my experience and be voice for South Surrey and people all across the province.”

READ ALSO: Voters go to the polls Sept. 10 for the Surrey South byelection

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Candidates Simran Sarai (BC Green Party) and Harman Bhangu (BC Conservative Party) also discussed their reasons for seeking office.

Sarai, a political science and environmental management student at SFU, said she was running because “we’re out of time to act on issues such as the climate crisis, affordability and health care.”

Bhangu said he decided to get into the race because he has “a young family with kids of four and two,” and because he’s a small business-owner in the “very volatile industry of trucking, (in) which we’ve seen gas prices change weekly – so we always have to adapt and prepare for the future.”

Voters go to the polls on Sept. 10 to elect an MLA in the riding – a seat left vacant when BC Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux resigned in April to take on a new role as Canada’s first Chief Accessibility Officer.

The hour long meeting – it could not be described as an all-candidates forum (BC Libertarian candidate Jason Bax was a no-show for undisclosed reasons) – focused on a series of questions posed by Huberman.

It was these that revealed the sharpest political differences between the candidates – Greaves and Sturko in particular.

In a question on how best to unite Surrey, for example – Huberman referred to it as “existing as a series of silos” – Sturko and Greaves could not resist taking shots at each others’ parties.

Sturko said a key element to breaking out of silos and connecting business hubs was improving transportation between different areas of Surrey.

“It’s disappointing to see that, in their second term of government, the NDP has failed to service, especially, the transportation in Surrey South,” she said.

“We’re not looking to cancel that hospital project (in Cloverdale) but we would like to have our second hospital – which we’re committed to providing to residents – closer to our brand new Skytrain, that’s going to be moved up along Fraser Highway.”

“After years of the BC Liberals making policies requiring (people) to pay more, they’ve left us with an unstable social inequity system where only the wealthy benefit,” Greaves countered. “What we’re working on is working with local governments and businesses to address some of these concerns.

“If the BC Liberals had actually completed what they promised, which is the extension of the Skytrain, this would have been working by now.”

By contrast, Sarai said she wanted to focus on all levels of government working with each other.

“As an MLA working in the provincial legislature, I think the most important thing we can do is collaborate with other levels of government,” she said.

“It can’t just be the provincial government (members) saying we’re going to operate out of one area, we’re going to operate out of our riding – we need to be willing to work with or fellow MLAs, whether they’re (BC) Liberal or NDP and work together to come up with ways that we can bring together our communities … supporting small business or community programs.”

Bhangu said he believes that while work should be done to unite Surrey, just as much work should be done on uniting politicians.

“You always have your voter base, but you need to reach across the aisle, and reach out to other voter bases, other voters and constituents that might not see things eye-to-eye right now.

“We need to sit down at the table and have constructive conversations and work towards compromises,” he said, noting that Surrey South is a very diverse community with a lot of different issues to balance.

“As of late, all I’ve seen is a lot of hateful rhetoric from all sides. We need to put an end to that – we need to work with our municipal governments.”

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About the Author: Alex Browne

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