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Battleground BC

Two Surrey Area Ridings No Longer ‘Up for Grabs’

Surrey-Newton is now ‘likely NDP,’ Delta North shifts to ‘likely Liberal’.

By Will McMartin, 24 Apr 2005, TheTyee.ca

Two ridings in Battleground BC’s North-Central Surrey region have been moved in opposite directions. Surrey-Newton now is considered ‘likely’ to elect a NDP MLA, while Delta North has shifted to the ‘likely Liberal’ column.

SURREY-NEWTON was established prior to the 1986 general election, and returned Social Credit MLA Rita Johnston. She later became British Columbia’s first female premier, succeeding Bill Vander Zalm, but the promotion evidently meant little to her constituents as she was defeated in 1991 by Penny Priddy, a New Democrat. Priddy garnered 46.2% of the vote in her initial victory and 49.5% in her 1996 re-election before retiring in 2001.

Tony Bhullar, a Liberal, captured the riding four years ago with a 49.5% vote-share, about eight percentage points below his party’s province-wide average. He left the Liberal caucus after facing a relatively minor criminal charge, established a reputation as an inconsequential political ‘maverick,’ and finally rejoined the caucus in anticipation of the 2005 general election. But he opted to leave his riding — evidently at the request of Liberal party officials — to make way for Olympian Daniel Igali, and unsuccessfully contested the party nomination in next-door Surrey-Panorama Ridge. His political career at the provincial level appears at an end, for now.

Igali, a gold medal winner in wrestling at the 2000 Olympic games, has been promoted by the Liberals as one of their ‘star’ candidates in 2005. But he faces long odds in winning a legislative seat for Surrey-Newton, where a relatively unknown New Democrat took 28.9% of the vote in 2001. It was the second-highest vote-share in the Lower Mainland for a non-incumbent NDP candidate.

The New Democratic Party hopeful and likely victor is Harry Bains, a veteran bureaucrat with the IWA (now the Steelworkers-IWA).

DELTA NORTH was won in 1991 by a New Democrat, Norm Lortie, who snared just 38.7% of the popular vote. Five years later, Lortie fell to Reni Masi, a Liberal who took a 45.5% vote-share; and the 2001 re-match between the two saw Masi triumph with a whopping 60.5%.

Neither Lortie nor Masi made much of an impact in Victoria during their respective legislative terms, and neither served in cabinet.

Jeannie Kanakos is the Liberal candidate hoping to succeed Masi. A self-described ‘community development specialist,’ she played basketball for Simon Fraser University while earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Canadian history, and has worked with the federal treaty negotiations office. She also has made unsuccessful bids for Delta council and school board

Wearing the New Democratic Party colours is Guy Gentner, a bus driver and Delta councillor. He was appointed the NDP candidate after a nomination dust-up between the constituency association and an Indo-Canadian hopeful.

Delta North’s average household income, according to the 2001 census, is $72,982 — the highest among the six ridings in Battleground BC’s North-Central Surrey region (see April 22). This number, along with the Liberals’ 2001 vote-share in Delta North and current province-wide public-opinion polls, suggests that the riding is likely to elect Kanakos as MLA on May 17.

Check in daily for Battleground BC, Will McMartin’s voting predictions and analysis, exclusive to The Tyee. You can reach him with tips, insights and info at will@thetyee.ca  [Tyee]