British Columbia·Metro Matters

Why the mayoral races south of the Fraser are so important

It’s an area that’s home to the largest school district in the province (Surrey), an ongoing gang war (multiple locations) and the fastest growing municipality in Metro Vancouver (Langley Township).

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One of the big issues south of the Fraser is the population, which is growing so rapidly that municipalities are struggling to keep up with infrastructure demands. (Shutterstock)

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Hello, it's Jesse Johnston here. I'm the reporter who covers the part of B.C. that is south of the Fraser River between Delta and Chilliwack.

If you want to be technical about it, I cover the part of B.C. that is south of the south arm of the Fraser River. That means Richmond isn't included. Sorry Richmond. You're great but you know how it is with tunnel traffic.

It's an area that's home to the largest school district in the province (Surrey), an ongoing gang war (multiple locations) and the fastest growing municipality in Metro Vancouver (Langley Township).

The biggest issue is the population is growing so quickly that municipalities struggle to keep up with infrastructure demands. Schools are overcrowded, transit is insufficient and it's hard to find an affordable place to live. And yes, there's also a gang war going on.

It will be up to the mayors and councillors who are elected on Saturday to solve those problems and you can bet they won't be shy about asking Victoria and Ottawa for financial help.  

That means a good-sized chunk of your tax dollars will be spent here, whether or not you live here.

SkyTrain vs. LRT

By now, you probably know the deal about rapid transit. Surrey has been waiting for it for 30 years and it hasn't arrived yet. It's the same story in Delta and Langley. If you live in Chilliwack or Abbotsford and you want to visit a friend in Vancouver, your best bet is probably Skype.

The Metro Vancouver Mayors' Council came up with a 10-year plan to improve transit. The big ticket item in that plan for people south of the Fraser is LRT in Surrey. The first phase will run from Guildford to City Centre to Newton. The second phase will run from Surrey to Langley along the Fraser Highway.

The Surrey First Party thinks LRT is a great idea. Former mayor Dianne Watts fought for it. Outgoing Mayor Linda Hepner fought for it, too. The party's current mayoral candidate, Tom Gill, is also all in on LRT. 

Doug McCallum wants to kill LRT and build a SkyTrain line instead. Bruce Hayne's language isn't as strong as McCallum's, but he's made it clear that he prefers SkyTrain. Over in Langley, mayoral candidates Peter Fassbender and Val van Den Broek aren't fans of LRT either.

That leaves Gill in a lonely position that could win or lose him the election. 

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Public safety

Police and politicians agree the gang war that was blamed for many recent shootings is a regional problem but most of the debate about how to stop it happens in Surrey. McCallum wants to scrap the Surrey RCMP to create the city's own municipal force. Hayne says he wants to study the issue, and Gill wants to put it to a referendum. 

Tell us what you think? Should Surrey have a municipal police force? Email us at metromatters@cbc.ca.

Open races

Some of the most interesting mayoral races are south of the Fraser. 

The departure of mayors Linda Hepner (Surrey), Lois Jackson (Delta), Ted Schaffer (City of Langley) and Wayne Baldwin (White Rock) has created tight races in the region.

In Delta, the city's former CAO George Harvie is up against former police chief Jim Cessford and Coun. Sylvia Bishop.

Managing development, protecting farmland and a lack of transit are some of the biggest issues they'll have to deal with.

Development is also a hot button issue in White Rock, where many residents have rallied against new highrise projects in the community.

Coun. Grant Meyer is running against former Surrey city councillor Judy Higginbotham, former BCGEU President Darryl Walker, Gary Wolgemuth, Tom Bryant and Mike Pearce.


That's it for us! Municipal affairs reporter Justin McElroy will be doing an AMA on RedditTwitter and Instagram on Friday from 12 to 1 p.m. Please fill out this short survey on the Metro Matters newsletter and let us know how we're doing! Get the latest headlines at cbc.ca/bcvotes2018.

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