British Columbia

Federal Liberal and Conservative leaders visit Surrey as byelection race heats up

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer are both putting in some face time in Surrey.

Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer both expect a tight contest in the race to replace former MP Dianne Watts

Liberal candidate for the South Surrey-White Rock riding Gordon Hogg, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, pose with students from White Rock Elementary on Nov. 15, 2017. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer put in some face time in Surrey on Thursday ahead of what's expected to be a closely-contested byelection in South Surrey-White Rock.

The seat was vacated when Conservative MP Dianne Watts announced her campaign to be the leader of the B.C. Liberal Party.

Historically, the seat has been a Tory stronghold for years, but that may be changing. In 2015, Watts defeated Liberal candidate Judy Higginbotham by just 1,439 votes.

Sensing the seat is up for grabs, the Liberals recruited Gordon Hogg, a former White Rock councillor, mayor and MLA, to run. 

"It will probably be a close call," said Kwantlen Polytechnic University Professor Shinder Purewal.

"Gordon Hogg is a local boy."

Shaking hands and posing for photos

Trudeau spent more than an hour with Hogg at a White Rock coffee shop on Wednesday, shaking hands and posting for photos. 

At the same time, Scheer was speaking to a group of business leaders at a Surrey Board of Trade event.

"I'm here to show my support for our candidate Kerry-Lynne Findlay," Scheer said.

"I know she's working hard and she had a great record in the previous government."

Findlay — the former MP for Delta-Richmond East and federal minister of revenue — is also well known in the riding, leading Purewal to believe she'll give Hogg all he can handle.

"In a very tight race, if you can sway a few hundred votes here or there, you'll get the riding," he said.

What about the NDP?

The New Democrats received about ten percent of the vote in the previous election and B.C. Caucus Chair Kennedy Stewart says the party has realistic expectations.

"We're under no illusions and we know that White Rock has not been a traditional NDP stronghold," he said.

"We're looking at this as a training opportunity for all of our new members who, perhaps, have never been involved in politics before."

The Greens received about 3.5 per cent of the vote in 2015, but that was perhaps expected given candidate Larry Colero spent only $12 on his campaign.

Voters in South Surrey-White Rock will head to the polls on December 11.