AND FRANKLY: Some tough questions ahead for Surrey South candidates

The Surrey South provincial byelection, set for Saturday, Sept. 10, will be an interesting test of the NDP government’s ability to draw votes from former supporters of other parties.

In the provincial election held in 2020, Surrey South went to the BC Liberals – but not by a wide margin. Stephanie Cadieux, who was elected in the 2017 election with almost 51 per cent of the vote, saw her share of the vote fall to 47.38 per cent – just over four per cent ahead of NDP candidate Pauline Greaves, who is running for the party again in the byelection. Cadieux won the riding by 1,176 votes.

Cadieux resigned her seat in April to become Canada’s first chief accessibility officer. Premier John Horgan took his time in calling a byelection – doing so on Aug.13 – more than four months after Cadieux resigned her seat.

Contrasts make Surrey South an unusual riding. It includes most of Surrey’s agricultural lands, a portion of South Surrey reaching as far west as 128 Street, the Hazelmere Valley and a portion of Cloverdale and even Clayton. Its northern boundary is 76 Avenue. The urban areas within it range from spacious large lots in South Surrey to the cramped streets of East Clayton.

The NDP did extremely well in Surrey in the 2020 election, winning seven of the nine ridings. They won one seat they had never held before, Surrey-Cloverdale, and improved their margin of victory in seats the BC Liberals have held at various times in the last decade, notably Surrey-Fleetwood, Surrey-Guildford and Surrey-Panorama.

That might have been their high-water mark. The party has now been in power for more than five years and has a track record it has to defend. In addition, Horgan, who remains very popular, is stepping down for health reasons and his likely successor, David Eby, lacks his cross-party appeal.

Health care seems to be the major issue raised thus far in the byelection and both parties have some vulnerability. With thousands of people unable to get family doctors, urgent care centres lacking staff and a shortage of everything from nurses to ambulance attendants, the health system is far from healthy.

Greaves is banking on the party’s promise to build a hospital in Cloverdale as a winning ticket. There is no doubt the hospital is badly-needed, although it is likely of only passing interest to most South Surrey residents. Cloverdale residents are enthused about it. However, the planned hospital is far too small to meet the anticipated growth in the area.

It also will lack an ICU and BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon, a former Surrey-Cloverdale MLA, says it will be little more than an urgent care centre. As noted above, such centres can‘t seem attract enough staff.

Falcon has also suggested it should be located in another part of Surrey, claiming Cloverdale is not well-served by transit (which is true).

However, he was finance minister in the BC Liberal government when it decided to sell a hospital site at Highway 10 and 152 Street. That site is now covered with housing and commercial space. Surrey needed a second hospital then, and the 15-year delay (from that time until the new hospital opens in 2027) at a time of rapid growth is inexcusable.

Voters need to look beyond the glitter of a new hospital and ask Greaves and BC Liberal candidate Elenore Sturko the tougher questions about what their parties would do to attract and keep health care staff, to offer meaningful incentives to family doctors and to ensure that the ambulance service is available at all times when an urgent call comes in.

It should also be noted that the Green Party is running candidate Simran Sarai, an SFU student, and the BC Conservative Party is running businessman Harman Bhangu. Both will draw votes from the other parties, and while they have no chance of winning, their vote totals may prove decisive in determining the winner.

Frank Bucholtz writes twice a month for the Peace Arch News.

AND FRANKLY: Some tough questions ahead for Surrey South candidates Source link AND FRANKLY: Some tough questions ahead for Surrey South candidates

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