B.C. Votes 2017: Surrey-Newton riding profile
It's one of the smallest, most diverse ridings in the province — and one the NDP is looking to hold onto
In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Surrey-Newton, one of nine ridings in Surrey — and a place where the NDP has won handily three straight times.
1. Demographically, Surrey-Newton is a riding of fascinating extremes.
Under its previous boundaries, the riding was the second youngest (median age of 34), the seventh poorest (average income was $26,985 in 2006), the sixth most diverse (62 per cent have a mother tongue other than English), and the eighth smallest (14 square kilometres).
2. Where it hasn't been as fascinating recently is election night.
In 2005, Harry Bains defeated Olympic gold medallist Daniel Igali handily, retaking a seat the NDP held from 1991 to 2001, and he easily won re-election in 2009 and 2013.
He's seeking a fourth term in 2017 and will be facing B.C. Liberal candidate Gurminder Parihar, an accountant and small business owner.
The Green candidate is Richard Krieger, one of the B.C. Green Party's founding directors in 1983.
3. The riding boundaries have changed, but likely won't impact the election.
Because Surrey gained an extra seat through redistribution, Surrey-Newton has slightly shrunk, losing the part of the riding east of 144th Street, while adding the area between King George Boulevard and Hazelnut Meadows Park.
Based on results from polling stations affected, that will benefit the NDP slightly — although given that Bains has beaten his Liberal candidate by at least 3,000 votes in all three of his wins, he likely won't need the help.
4. Crime will clearly play a role in the campaign.
Ever since hockey mom Julie Paskall was killed in a random attack outside the Newton Arena in 2013, the community has been as the centre of the violence plaguing the city. Bains' own nephew was killed in a 2015 shooting.
But while the government has announced money for anti-gang measures, and the topic is sure to be a key topic in local debates, Kwantlen Polytechnic University professor Shinder Purewal believes it's unlikely to help the B.C. Liberals.
"Any government eight months before the election will announce a few things, but voters haven't seen any action once [they] formed the government," he said.
5. However, health and education are just as important.
Purewal believes that the main issues in Surrey will be linked to the rapid growth in population — a boom that hasn't been matched with rapid growth in infrastructure.
"There's only one hospital for the entire population here," says Purewal, referring to Surrey Memorial Hospital.
"You compare that to Vancouver — there's a lot more hospitals. And here in Surrey, the biggest population of people with young kids. But in terms of school portables, Surrey has half the portables of British Columbia as a province."
6. Where does the NDP do the best?
The NDP's support is dispersed throughout the neighbourhood, but they have traditionally done well in the blocks to the immediate east and west of King George Boulevard — in 2009, they received 94 per cent of the vote between King George, 72nd Avenue, 132nd Street and 80th Avenue.
7. What about the B.C. Liberals?
There are a few blocks around Kwantlen Polytechnic University that supported the Liberals last election, but that's it.
8. Bains' strength in the community could be his ace in the hole.
The NDP did bleed a significant amount of support in Newton during the last election, going from 69 to 56 per cent. But Purewal believes that Bains, who got his start with the Steelworkers-IWA Canada union, has too much political capital in the riding to lose.
"Harry Bains has done a good job for constituents. He's available, he worked in a union, he has a lot of links in the community," he said.
"There's really nothing burning against him personally, and against the NDP, in that riding."