British Columbia

New party takes aim at Mayor Linda Hepner's dominant Surrey First team

A new political party in Surrey wants to accomplish what no party has been able to do since Dianne Watts launched a new political coalition in 2007: defeat Surrey First.

Surrey Community Alliance is gearing up for municipal election in October

Longtime community advocate Douglas Elford is now president of the Surrey Community Alliance. (CBC)

A new political party in Surrey, B.C., wants to accomplish what no group has been able to do since Dianne Watts launched a civic coalition in 2007: defeat Surrey First.

Watts scored a convincing victory over Doug McCallum in the 2008 municipal election and remained in the mayor's chair until 2014, when she decided not to run again.

Linda Hepner replaced Watts as Surrey First's mayoral candidate in 2014 and not only did she win in a landslide, but her party also swept every seat on the council and school board.

With Surrey First in power for a decade, longtime community advocate Douglas Elford believes voters aren't as enamoured with the party as they used to be.

That's why Elford is launching a new party to challenge them.

The Surrey Community Alliance will host nomination meetings for council candidates in the spring and Elford's group is mulling over whether to run a mayoral candidate against Hepner.

"There are some strong people that are sort of sitting back and watching right now," Elford said.

"They want to see how it all shakes out but there are some very good people, from all political stripes, that are considering stepping up."

The organization has roots in the Surrey Civic Electors and Surrey Matters parties, which have had varying degrees of success in previous elections.

Linda Hepner delivers a victory speech after being elected mayor of Surrey in 2014. (Nicolas Amaya/CBC)

What they stand for

Elford says he has watched people become increasingly frustrated over the last four years by the decisions made at city hall.

"It seems to be a case of wealthy developers coming in and influencing council," Elford said.

"Hawthorne Park is an example, or the Coyote Creek development, where a lot of the community has stood up against the development and the Surrey First people seem to ignore them."

Elford says a lack of transportation options and crime are two issues that his party wants to address.

Tough to beat

However, Kwantlen Polytechnic University political science professor Shinder Purewal says Surrey First will be tough to beat unless there is a power struggle within the party.

"Cracks never happen on policy," he said.

"Cracks happen on ambition of individuals who may want to be mayor. If Surrey First were to have internal opposition or if they were to spread into tents, it would be easier for a third party to pose a bigger challenge."

So far, the only council candidate to launch her campaign is Rina Gill, who lost by about 8,000 votes in 2014.

"We need to have more public consultation so that the people who don't understand what's happening in the city have an opportunity to learn what the plans are," Gill said.

"I feel like there's a little bit of a disconnect when it comes to that."

Gill, who ran as part of McCallum's Safe Surrey coalition four years ago, hasn't decided whether she'll run as part of a slate or as an independent.

Jesse Johnston