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Battleground BC

Surrey-Panorama Ridge Now 'Likely Liberal'

NDP’s big byelection win probably won’t be repeated.

By Will McMartin, 3 May 2005, TheTyee.ca

The last remaining 'up-for-grabs' seat in the six-riding North-Central Surrey region has been shifted into the 'likely' Liberal column. Earlier, three seats - Surrey-Whalley, Surrey-Green Timbers and Surrey-Newton - were assigned to the NDP, and two - Delta North and Surrey-Tynehead - were placed with the Liberals.

SURREY-PANORAMA RIDGE was created prior to the 2001 general election, and won by Liberal Gulzar Cheema. At 58.9%, his share of the popular vote was slightly better than the Liberal province-wide average of 57.6%.

The New Democratic Party representative had 19.9%, a Green candidate was at 8.8% and a Unity party hopeful took 6.9%. Marijuana, Reform and Action nominees shared the remainder.

Cheema quickly became minister of state for mental health, but announced his intention in early 2004 to seek a seat in the House of Commons. (He lost.) In October, the NDP scored a stunning upset in a by-election to fill the vacant provincial seat.

New Democrat Jagrup Brar recorded 53.6% of the vote, while the Liberal standard-bearer garnered a 33.4% vote-share. Green leader Adriane Carr finished an embarrassing third with a paltry 8.4%.

Little noticed in the by-election's aftermath was the fact that while the NDP's vote-share had skyrocketed, the number of votes cast for Brar was substantially below the number garnered by Cheema in 2001. Where Cheema's general election tally was nearly 9,600 votes, Brar's by-election total was under 6,800. (This is not unusual in mid-term by-elections, as voter turn-out is often lower than in general elections.)

To hold the seat, Brar is going to have to garner a minimum of 7,500-8,000 votes, more than a thousand votes above the level he attained in the by-election - and more than double the number of votes won by the NDP candidate in 2001. This appears to be a tall order, indeed.

The by-election was a painless opportunity for local voters to express their displeasure over the Campbell government's record in office. Since current province-wide polls show the Liberals with support in the mid to high 40s, it is likely that the party enjoys similar support in this riding.

Another by-election issue concerned the perception amongst Indo-Canadian voters that the Liberal party was insensitive to their needs. This sentiment was exacerbated by some measure of voter antipathy for the Liberal by-election candidate, Mary Polak (now running in Langley).

The Liberals may have resolved both issues with the candidature of Bob Hans, an Indo-Canadian businessman with interests in the trucking industry.

Finally, as the tables below indicate, Surrey-Panorama Ridge enjoys the second-highest home values in the North-Central Surrey region, and the third-highest average household incomes. These factors should help the Liberals regain this riding, although the contest certainly will be much closer than in 2001.

Table - Surrey-Panorama Ridge, 2001 general election votes

  • Liberal - 9,590
  • NDP - 3,240
  • Green - 1,437
  • Unity - 1,123
  • Marijuana - 424
  • Reform - 408
  • Action - 50
  • Conservative - 0
  • Independent - 0
  • TOTAL - 16,272

Table - Surrey-Panorama Ridge, 2004 by-election votes

  • NDP - 6,740
  • Liberal - 4,194
  • Green - 1,053
  • Conservative - 276
  • Independent - 68
  • Unity - 0
  • Marijuana - 0
  • Reform - 0
  • Action - 0
  • TOTAL - 12,577

Table - average owner-occupied home-values in North-Central Surrey

  • Surrey-Tynehead - $257,627
  • Surrey-Panorama Ridge - $248,543
  • Delta North - $235,319
  • Surrey-Newton - $210,197
  • Surrey-Green Timbers - $175,385
  • Surrey-Whalley - $168,308

Table - average household incomes in North-Central Surrey

  • Delta North - $72,982
  • Surrey-Tynehead - $71,675
  • Surrey-Panorama Ridge - $64,524
  • Surrey-Newton - $54,875
  • Surrey-Green Timbers - $50,617
  • Surrey-Whalley - $48,983

Check here 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]