October 13, 2018 8:07 pm

With 1 week to civic elections, Metro Vancouver candidates face unsettled electorate

A sign points the way to a voting place in Vancouver.

Simon Little / Global News
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With just a week to go before civic election day, some Surrey voters spent Saturday taking advantage of the last day of advanced voting in the city.

This marks the final countdown for one of the most unpredictable campaign seasons in the region’s history.

In Surrey, voter fraud allegations are posing new challenges for the undecided, while a laundry list of independents threatens to overwhelm the public in Vancouver.

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Indeed, a poll released Thursday by Research Co. found that half of Vancouver voters were considering supporting independent candidates.

READ MORE: COMMENTARY: Surrey election campaign may be B.C.’s most consequential

The online poll of 402 Vancouver voters found 50 per cent said they will “probably” or “definitely” consider voting for independent candidates.

A total of 27 independents are vying for various seats on city council.

Research Co. president Mario Canseco said the crowded field of independents could have an unintended outcome for voters.

“You could be in a situation where a lot of people vote for independent candidates and nobody gets elected, or there’s three or four who really corner that independent vote and get into council,” Canseco said.

Back in Surrey, where voters lined up to cast early ballots, the mood was that of an unsettled electorate.

“I think some people have been there too long, and it might be nice to have some new perspectives,” one voter told Global News.

READ MORE: Surrey mayoral candidate blames low blood sugar for not answering key debate question

“If we go for just one slate, there’s chances that we don’t get the able and competent people,” said another.

“I don’t like when there’s a whole slate. Period,” added a third.

Surrey was the first Metro Vancouver municipality to see fraud allegations surface, with anti-crime group Wake Up Surrey alleging a co-ordinated campaign to illegally use absentee ballots.

None of those ballots were ever distributed to voters, but the Surrey RCMP said nearly 70 fraudulent applications had been identified.

New allegations surfaced this week regarding a campaign to buy votes in Richmond, Vancouver and Burnaby.

Some election watchers say there could be a connection between the high number of candidates and voter fraud allegations.

READ MORE: B.C. municipal election digest Oct. 12: This week’s top stories

New campaign finance rules mean big money is out and small money is fighting its way to the top.

“They don’t have to have deep pockets, and it’s in that context that we’re beginning to see some of these shenanigans occurring, which suggests an attempt to influence voters or to buy votes or to offer inducements to vote,” said UBC political science professor Max Cameron.

While early voting wraps up in Surrey on Saturday, voters in a number of other Metro Vancouver municipalities will still have a chance to cast a ballot before Oct. 20.

Remaining early voting dates for Metro Vancouver

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