Sur­rey by­elec­tion tests Lib­eral pop­u­lar­ity

Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date Findlay pushes mes­sage about high business tax bur­den

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - LAURA KANE

In­side a colour­ful candy shop in Sur­rey, An­drew Scheer and Ker­ryLynne Findlay mar­velled at del­i­cate Bri­tish choco­late bars, chewy Red Vines and an edi­ble Monopoly board.

The Con­ser­va­tive leader and by­elec­tion can­di­date weren’t shop­ping just to soothe a sugar crav­ing. They were mak­ing a po­lit­i­cal point about small business taxes, an is­sue they’re push­ing to be front and cen­tre in South Sur­rey-White Rock.

“Peo­ple are say­ing, ‘I’m pay­ing a lot higher taxes than I was be­fore. I’m be­ing called a tax cheat be­cause I’m an en­tre­pre­neur with a small business,’ ” said Findlay, 62, a former na­tional rev­enue min­is­ter.

The rid­ing is one of four across Canada where a by­elec­tion will be held Mon­day, but it’s ex­pected to be the clos­est race. Con­ser­va­tive Dianne Watts won by just 1,400 votes over the Lib­eral can­di­date in 2015, while the NDP placed a dis­tant third.

The vote ar­rives mid­way through Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s term and it’s ex­pected to test his pop­u­lar­ity, as well as the po­ten­tial of rookie leader Scheer, ahead of the 2019 elec­tion. Both men have vis­ited the rid­ing twice and both have sug­gested the out­come will in­di­cate whether the Lib­eral surge of 2015 is con­tin­u­ing or wan­ing.

“Two years ago, in the elec­tion, Cana­di­ans didn’t ran­domly or sud­denly change who we are,” Trudeau said at a re­cent rally to sup­port Lib­eral can­di­date Gordie Hogg, 71. “We have al­ways been pro­gres­sive, for­ward-think­ing, open, com­pas­sion­ate, am­bi­tious peo­ple. … It was just about get­ting a gov­ern­ment that rec­og­nizes that.”

South Sur­rey-White Rock has older, wealth­ier and whiter de­mo­graph­ics than other rid­ings in Sur­rey, the fastest-grow­ing city in Metro Van­cou­ver. It’s home to a pic­turesque water­front and an ar­ray of restau­rants, shops and other small busi­nesses.

In July, Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment an­nounced plans to close loop­holes that it said have al­lowed high-earn­ing business own­ers to avoid higher taxes. The mea­sures in­cluded changes to “in­come sprin­kling,” which al­lows own­ers to split in­come among fam­ily mem­bers.

Af­ter a back­lash, the gov­ern­ment said it would cut the small business tax rate from 10.5 per cent to nine per cent by 2019.

Hogg said he and Trudeau are com­mit­ted to cut­ting taxes for small busi­nesses, while the Con­ser­va­tives voted against a tax cut in 2015 for “mid­dle-class” Cana­di­ans earn­ing be­tween about $45,000 and $90,000 a year.

“To me, their record is more im­por­tant than their rhetoric,” said Hogg. “This by­elec­tion is about elect­ing the strong­est pos­i­tive voice for our com­mu­nity, and only Justin Trudeau and I have a pos­i­tive plan to strengthen our mid­dle class and of­fer real help for fam­i­lies.”

The seat be­came va­cant af­ter Watts re­signed to run for leader of the B.C. Lib­eral Party, an in­for­mal coali­tion of fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives and Lib­er­als.

By­elec­tions will also be held in Bat­tle­fords-Lloy­d­min­ster in Saskatchewan, pre­vi­ously held by the Con­ser­va­tives; Bon­av­ista-Bur­inTrin­ity in New­found­land, a Lib­eral seat; and Scar­bor­ough-Agin­court in On­tario, also won by the Lib­er­als in the last elec­tion.

In South Sur­rey-White Rock, Hogg has name recog­ni­tion and deep roots. He was White Rock mayor for 10 years be­fore be­ing elected to the B.C. leg­is­la­ture for two decades. Findlay, mean­time, rep­re­sented Delta-Rich­mond East in Par­lia­ment from 2011 to 2015.

Asked about her con­nec­tion to the rid­ing, Findlay said her par­ents lived in the com­mu­nity and she has also lived there at var­i­ous points, in­clud­ing af­ter she was wid­owed at 34 and was rais­ing her chil­dren alone.

She said she moved to White Rock this sum­mer.

The NDP can­di­date is Jonathan Sil­veira, 40, a real es­tate agent and founder of ad­vo­cacy group Sur­rey Kids Mat­ter. He said the by­elec­tion was an op­por­tu­nity to train new vol­un­teers and strengthen re­la­tion­ships, but added he was se­ri­ous about win­ning.

“There are two big sharks fight­ing here. I am not afraid of the fight as well,” he said.

New Demo­crat Leader Jag­meet Singh has not joined Sil­veira in the rid­ing.

Trudeau’s re­cent rally with Hogg in Sur­rey drew hun­dreds. Some were not lo­cal vot­ers, how­ever, in­clud­ing a Syr­ian refugee who said she wanted to thank Trudeau, and a vis­i­tor from Sin­ga­pore who wanted to see the fa­mous Cana­dian politi­cian in person.

The prime min­is­ter is pic­tured along­side Hogg on cam­paign signs, in­di­cat­ing con­fi­dence among Lib­er­als in Trudeau’s pop­u­lar­ity.

Scheer and Findlay, how­ever, said they’ve heard from peo­ple who have “buyer’s re­morse” af­ter vot­ing Lib­eral in 2015. It’s hard to pre­dict a gen­eral elec­tion based on by­elec­tions, Scheer added, be­cause the lat­ter gen­er­ally have lower turnouts, and lo­cal is­sues be­come am­pli­fied over na­tional ones.

“But I think we would love to send a sig­nal, midterm, that what the Lib­er­als have been do­ing for Cana­di­ans isn’t work­ing.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Justin Trudeau has been in South Sur­rey-White Rock to help Lib­eral can­di­date Gordie Hogg with his by­elec­tion cam­paign. The vote for the seat va­cated by former Con­ser­va­tive MP Dianne Watts is Dec. 11.

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