With big-city problems creeping into the land of cul-de-sacs and single-family homes, no incumbent is safe.
’ 2017 provincial election will not be decided in Vancouver or Victoria, where the pipeline-hating urbanites often vote NDP or Green. Nor will it be decided in Kelowna or Fort St. John, where the latte-disdaining pro-LNG residents steadily vote right.
The election will be won in places like the Pantry in Guildford Town Centre. On a busy Saturday, the mall buzzes like an electrical transformer and cars and minivans circle the maze-like parking lots. Two Surrey parents, who helped lead a monthslong campaign to get more money from Premier Christy Clark for their public schools, are sitting over popcorn shrimp and fries, assessing which party they think is the most likely to help their cause.
The NDP MLAs listened to their presentation, yes, say Lisa Garner and Karen Tan. But their promise to get rid of all the portable classrooms in just four months wasn’t realistic. And the education critic guy, Rob Fleming, faded away from meetings for reasons they still don’t understand.
The Liberal MLAs, that was a different story. Sure, there was one guy who got all defensive and tried to make it sound like there was no problem with having 7,000 Surrey kids in portables. But Peter Fassbender and Stephanie Cadieux, both cabinet ministers, they really listened. “Those MLAs now understand our problems,” says Tan, an accountant who helped analyze the local school budget and long-range capital plan. Garner, who runs a before- and afterschool daycare in her home and works with people with disabilities, adds another level of analysis: “I think they did understand, but we didn’t have the right group of people [lobbying] before. And I think they paid attention because of the number of voters.” Then Clark came through, just ¥ve months before the election, with $217 million dedicated to building new schools and additions.
Of course she did. Those Surrey ridings are key. Fassbender won his seat in Surrey–Fleetwood by only 200 votes in 2013, against the NDP’s Jagrup Brar. This time around he’ll be facing Brar again, and the boundaries of his riding have been redrawn, not to his advantage.
It’s not just Surrey that will see hard skirmishing. Rumblings of discontent have risen to high decibels in Maple Ridge. Coquitlam. Burnaby. Richmond. Those growing suburbs east and south of Vancouver are uniquely poised to see swings among