All together, police investigations, municipal elections and voter fraud seem like the perfect script for a Hollywood political thriller.
But the people of Surrey are living this script in real life, with the mayoral race wrapping up on Saturday.
The second-biggest municipality in the province will have a new mayor, with Linda Hepner not running again after serving one term as mayor. There are eight people running to replace Hepner, with three candidates emerging as the most credible choice to replace her.
City councillors Bruce Hayne and Tom Gill join former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum are the frontrunners.
The three candidates have grappled with crime, transportation and development issues throughout the campaign. The campaign could also lead to a shake-up on council, with Dave Woods and Barbara Steele breaking away from Surrey First to run with Hayne under the Integrity Now banner.
Getting ready to vote
You are eligible to vote in the Surrey municipal election if you registered as a resident elector in Surrey, are 18 years of age or older on general voting day, a Canadian citizen, a B.C. resident for at least six months and a resident of the City of Surrey for at least 30 days.
There are 57 voting locations set to be open on election day in Surrey. The city of Surrey will also be updating the website to inform voters which polling stations have short waits to vote and which polling locations are busier.
Meet the mayoral candidates
It was 13 years ago when Dianne Watts and Surrey First came into Surrey politics with a bang. Watts unseated mayor Doug McCallum and then guided her party to nearly a decade of dominance.
McCallum is now trying to disrupt the dynasty that took him down. Four years ago he lost to Surrey First’s Linda Hepner and now is trying to take down Tom Gill.
Bruce Hayne also has history with Surrey First. He served as a city councillor under the party’s banner but left earlier this year because of differences over the way public consultations were being done.
Gill has served on city council since 2005 and was chosen as the Surrey First candidate for mayor after Hepner announced she wasn’t running again. His number one issue is to address crime in Surrey. The focus is not just adding additional police resources but ensuring those resources are being used efficiently. He would also initiate a referendum where the public would vote on moving from the RCMP to a local police force.
On transit, Gill is a strong supporter of the LRT and supports the continuation of the project. He lives in the Fraser Heights neighbourhood with his wife and three children.
One of the major signs of cracks in the Surrey First armor was when Hayne decided to leave the party and sit as an independent councillor. He then announced his bid to be the next mayor of the city under the Integrity Now flag. Hayne is in favour of slowing down the LRT project and will conduct a ‘transparent analysis’ as to what sort of transit the city should push for going forward.
On crime, Hayne is focusing on a new relationship with the RCMP, including hiring 40 additional police officers per year over the next four years for a total of 160 officers.
What is old may be new again. McCallum served as Surrey’s mayor from 1996 until 2005. He ran in the 2014 election and lost to Hepner by more than 20,000 votes.
McCallum would no doubt be a thorn in the side of the provincial government. He wants Surrey’s own police force and to move away from the RCMP. He also wants to scrap the plans to build LRT through the city and instead use the money to extend the SkyTrain.
McCallum is also against the urban sprawl that has come to define many of Surrey’s neighbourhoods. He wants to see ‘well designed’ high density areas. He is running under the Safe Surrey Coalition banner.
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Meet the council candidates
There is likely going to be a shake-up on Surrey council as Surrey First fights to keep hold of all the seats on council. Hayne and Gill have given up their potential spots on council to run for mayor. Judy Villeneuve and Mary Martin are not running again.
Surrey First is running a full slate with a hope to hold on to all eight seats, while running Gill as mayor.
Vera LeFranc and Mike Starchuk are the only two incumbents running against for the party. Welcome into the fray Linda Annis, Narima Dela Cruz, Trevor Halford, Paul Hillsdon, Upkar Tatlay and Raminder Thomas, all of whom are hoping to continue the municipal party’s dominance.
Safe Surrey Coalition
Doug McCallum’s slate is the only one other than Surrey First to run eight candidates. There is political experience across the slate, but no incumbents. Doug Elford left the Surrey Community Alliance to run with McCallum. Elford is a well known community advocate in Newton. Former city councillor Brenda Locke is running on the slate as well. The Safe Surrey Coalition is rounded out with Laurie Guerra, Jack Hundial, Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton, Steven Pettigrew and Bableen Rana.
Surrey Integrity Now
One of the greatest threats to Surrey First’s stranglehold on council are the two incumbent councillors who are now running for Surrey Integrity Now. Dave Woods and Barbara Steele are hoping to keep their jobs even though they are now supporting a different political party. The slate has just five councillors, including Avi Dhaliwal, John Gibeau and Rina Gill. Bruce Hayne is the party’s candidate for mayor.
Voters will see multiple candidates from the Independent Surrey Voters Association, Proudly Surrey, People First Surrey on the ballot. Former Vancouver Park Board commissioner Roslyn Cassells is running for council under the GreenVote flag.
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The Big Issues
Gang violence has been synonymous, fairly or not, with Surrey for a long time. High-profile violent crimes have put the issue squarely in the middle of the municipal election. The discussion has also revolved around the future of the RCMP protecting the province’s second-largest city. The next mayor will immediately have to make a decision on next steps for policing and work with other levels of government to ensure funding for fighting crime and gangs.
The conversation about transit begins with mass transit. The money is finally on the table for the Surrey LRT, but there are still questions about whether that is the best way to move people around the city. The next mayor will need to quickly decide whether they are going ahead with light rail or pushing for a SkyTrain extension. The question will be whether the federal and provincial government money will be there for any project other than the LRT.
The city is also dealing with significant congestion due to a booming population.
Surrey is expected to see the population grow by 300,000 people in the next 30 years. All of those people will need somewhere to live. The next mayor will have to determine what sort of density they want to see in certain neighbourhoods going forward. The city also has a significant homeless population and has struggled to deal with the affects of the opioid crisis.
No matter who wins the mayoral race on Saturday there will be a cloud hanging over the results. The RCMP has been investigating allegations of illegal voting and voters are concerned that there have been increased cases of voter fraud. The next mayor may be stuck dealing with findings of any police investigation.