The 41st British Columbia general election is tentatively scheduled for May 9, 2017. But BC cabinet minister Peter Fassbender has become one of the first BC Liberals to officially launch his re-election bid. Last weekend, he opened his Fleetwood campaign office with the help of Premier Christy Clark, signalling the party expects a long, tough fight to win a majority of seats in Metro Vancouver’s fastest-growing region.
“There were lots of rumours that I was thinking of moving to a safer riding,” said Fassbender, who is now driving around the city in a pickup truck emblazoned with his photo. “I love the riding I’m in, I’m committed to running here and I’m not a quitter. I’m not running away to anything.”
The boundaries of many provincial ridings in Surrey have changed for the 2017 election, as the region’s population continues to grow. There’s also a new ninth riding called Surrey South, giving Surrey more seats in the legislature than the entire northern half of the province.
It’s expected to be a key battleground for the Liberals and the NDP in the May 9 election, with the NDP hoping to win back lost ground and the Liberals to build on their five seats.
Fassbender won his Surrey-Fleetwood riding by only 200 votes in 2013, knocking off then-incumbent NDP MLA Jagrup Brar. The shifting borders are expected to increase NDP support, and Brar is running again for the New Democrats.
The B.C. NDP sees an opportunity to retake lost ground, and Brar is also already out campaigning against Fassbender.
“I think he should be scared,” said NDP president Craig Keating. “It was a narrow defeat in 2013 and probably a lot of voters in Surrey-Fleetwood are feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse with Peter Fassbender.”
Both parties have already given considerable attention to Surrey’s emerging campaign issues — overcrowding at schools and an increased number of portables, gang violence and crime, traffic congestion, promised rapid transit lines, and the housing affordability crisis that’s gripped much of the Lower Mainland.
The B.C. Liberals are moving around some of their Surrey incumbents. Surrey-Panorama MLA Marvin Hunt plans to run in neighbouring Surrey-Cloverdale, where he lives.
Cloverdale is held by Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux, who will run in the new riding of Surrey South. Cadieux has come under intense criticism in her ministry after several child death scandals this term. The new riding — which encompasses much of her old riding plus an addition west to Crescent Park — is expected to be more positive to the governing party.
Boundary changes mean Technology Minister Amrik Virk also faces a tougher fight to hold Surrey-Guildford (formerly Tynehead).
On the NDP side, MLAs Harry Bains (Surrey-Newton), Sue Hammell (Surrey-Green Timbers) and Bruce Ralston (Surrey-Whalley) have said they’re running again in what is considered comfortable New Democrat territory for the multi-term incumbents.
The NDP has yet to name other candidates, but Keating promised “big name people.”
Meanwhile, the race for Surrey-White Rock remains in flux as both sides wait to hear whether incumbent Liberal MLA Gordie Hogg seeks a sixth term. Hogg, who recently finished his PhD, has been offered an adjunct professorship at Simon Fraser University.
“It’s a very difficult decision for me,” Hogg said Wednesday.
Liberal MLAs were supposed to tell the premier their re-election plans by the end of August, but Hogg said Clark has been patient while he makes up his mind.