British Columbia

B.C. Votes 2017: Surrey-Panorama riding profile

A look at Surrey-Panorama, one of the 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

The riding has been cut in half, and in the process become much more friendly to the NDP

The riding includes all of Panorama Ridge, Sullivan and the southeast corner of Newton. (Elections BC)

In advance of the 2017 B.C. election, we'll be profiling all 87 electoral districts in the province. Here is Surrey-Panorama, one of nine ridings in Surrey — and one where that will get plenty of interest between now and election day.

1. In some ways, everything about this year's election in Surrey-Panorama is new.

Because of huge population growth in Surrey's eastern and southern parts over the last decade, the city has gained a new seat. The riding's old boundaries were effectively split in half, with the areas south of the Surpentine Fen — which tend to vote for more conservative parties — going to the new district of Surrey South.

And, with the riding's current MLA, Liberal Marvin Hunt, choosing to compete in neighbouring Surrey-Cloverdale, it leaves an open seat, with boundaries that make it much more amenable to the NDP than in the past. 

2. But in the most important way, the election faces a very old battle.

Running for the NDP is Jinny Sims, who represented part of the riding as MP for Newton-North Delta from 2011 to 2015. 

Meanwhile, the B.C. Liberal candidate is Puneet Sandhar, a young lawyer who sits on multiple boards in Surrey. But, a number of Surrey observers say the shadow of Liberal Sukh Dhaliwal, the Surrey-Newton MP who faced Sims in 2011 and 2015, looms large.

"B.C. Liberals are split now in the community. Some camps see this as Sukh Dhaliwal's pick," said Kwantlen Polytechnic University professor Shinder Purewal, a former federal Liberal Party candidate himself. 

The Green Party candidate is Veronica Greer, who the party says is a transgender person who has worked "in many different sectors like public transit, construction and the food industry."

3. Personality-driven politics in Surrey are nothing new.

"It's a young city with a large number of immigrants, and it's still personality-based," says Barinder Rasode.

The former city councillor, who ran for mayor in 2013, has talked extensively about changing the political culture of Surrey.

"I think we have definitely some great elected officials, and I'm confident that now as things are changing, with everyone having an equal platform, I think things will change over time, but I think Surrey has some catching up to do," she said. 

"I think it's important we all have a seat at the same table, instead of having a whole bunch of different tables that people have to go to get support."

4. However, riding-specific issues will also be important in the campaign.

Purewal says the aftermath of the 2014 truck drivers strike looms large in the riding, as does the possibility of the B.C. Liberals allowing Uber to enter the Metro Vancouver market.

"They fear somehow that Uber has it, but they won't announce it until the election," says Purewal of the cab drivers in the riding.  

5. Where does the NDP do well? 

It's a riding with a heavy split between the working class northern half and the middle class southern half, and the areas immediately south of 64 Avenue between Scott Road and King George Boulevard tended to support the NDP, as did the polling stations surrounding Georges Vanier Elementary. 

6. What about the Liberals? 

It did best in the extreme west of the riding (between Boundary Drive and 120 Street) east of the riding (past 152 Street in the Sullivan neighbourhood) and south of the riding (between 56 Avenue and Colebrook Road). 

7. Add it all up, and Surrey-Panorama will be hotly contested during the campaign. 

It's important to remember that while the B.C. Liberals won this seat by 19.7 per cent, most of their votes came from the southern half of the riding.

But polling stations now in the riding gave the Liberals a 9.1 per cent victory over the NDP. It's why the NDP have targeted the riding as a swing seat, are running a former MP, and believe they have a real chance at taking it.

"The NDP know they can win Panormara with somebody like Jinny Sims," said Purewal.