There's an interesting article in the Vancouver Sun that reports on the four Surrey ridings, two of which were won by the Grewals in the last election.
Federal Liberals target Surrey
The party, which failed to win a single seat in B.C.'s second-largest city in the last election, is using head office staff
Lori Culbert, Vancouver Sun
The federal Liberals failed to win any of Surrey's four ridings in the last election, but the party is trying to turn that around with head office campaign staff and major organizational efforts targeting B.C.'s second-largest city.
"We've been really strategic in the kind of efforts we've put into ridings around B.C., and in areas like Surrey we're very much in the game," said Adam Johnson, a staff member with the Liberals' central B.C. campaign office, who is the Surrey campaign director.
A second staff member, local federal Liberal organizer Amar Bajwa, is in charge of the powerful Indo-Canadian vote in Surrey.
"We're trying to be as organized as we can. It really does come down to some of these swing ridings outside of the downtown core," said Johnson.
In 2004, the Tories won three of four Surrey ridings -- but overall lost votes to the NDP and Liberals compared to the 2000 election results. The fourth seat was won by popular independent Chuck Cadman, who had previously been a Tory.
The Liberals are working hard, as are the other parties, to change Surrey's political landscape, and made the city one of Prime Minister Paul Martin's first stops when he came to B.C. last week.
In Fleetwood-Port Kells, the Liberals hope former MLA Brenda Locke can unseat Tory incumbent Nina Grewal, who has not been high-profile in Ottawa and who is married to controversial former Tory MP Gurmant Grewal. The Liberals and New Democrats nearly tied in the riding in 2004, while the Tories took a seven-point lead.
Locke knows the tough fight she is facing, as Surrey voters turfed her out of Victoria earlier this year when they swung back to voting NDP in the provincial election.
Johnson maintained Locke's chances are good against NDP candidate Berry Bell, saying she is a "hard-working Surrey mom, and I think that will really resonate with a lot of people."
Perhaps the most exciting riding in Surrey will be the tight three-way-race in Newton-North Delta, where Tory incumbent Gurmant Grewal is not running after becoming embroiled in a scandal in which he claimed to tape Liberal officials offering him and his wife plum positions to leave the Conservatives.
Liberal candidate Sukh Dhaliwal, who lost the race in 2004 by just 520 votes, is running again against the NDP's Nancy Clegg and Tory Phil Eidsvik, who is not from the riding and has received some negative attention over his stand against native-only fisheries.
"[Dhaliwal is] getting a good response at the door in not only the Indo-Canadian community, but all communities," said Johnson, who is Industry Minister David Emerson's director of parliamentary affairs in Ottawa.
But the Liberals face greater challenges in Surrey's other two ridings: South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale, where Tory incumbent Russ Hiebert, who is running again, won easily with 43 per cent of the vote and in Surrey North, which Cadman -- who died earlier this year -- won in a landslide.
The NDP got the second-most votes in Surrey North in 2004, and this time have the highest-profile candidate -- former provincial health minister Penny Priddy. Cadman's widow is supporting Priddy, but Johnson argued Priddy will be forced to defend her record while she was a key member of B.C.'s unpopular NDP government.
Surjit Kooner, a teacher and the first Indo-Canadian Surrey school board trustee, is carrying the Liberal banner, while Dave Matta is running for the Tories.
The federal Liberals may have learned a lesson from the B.C. Liberals, who won all seven of Surrey's provincial ridings in 2001 but held only three after this year's election. Premier Gordon Campbell made a last-minute campaign promise to revamp Surrey's ailing hospital, but it was not enough to stop the protest vote from swinging to the NDP.
Dhaliwal said he's knocking on more doors and shaking more hands this election.
"I think I probably didn't reach enough people [in 2004], but now the majority of my time is going to talking to people," he said. "I'm making that extra effort."
Colin Metcalfe, who speaks for the Conservative party in B.C., argued that Eidsvik can beat Dhaliwal and predicted a Tory sweep in Surrey, where the candidates are "well-organized and well-funded" in this election.
"We are in the lead or in a close race in all of Surrey," Metcalfe said. "I know that the Liberals have said that they're targeting Surrey. We wish them well, but the reality is I would not want to be a federal Liberal running in this race in British Columbia."
Metcalfe said the NDP is polling strongly in B.C., and maintained that new support comes from Liberals -- which can only help the Tories.
"That is making B.C. a very interesting battleground politically."
- This story can be heard online after 10:30 a.m. today at www.vancouversun.com/readaloud.
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SURREY RIDING RESULTS, ELECTION 2004
South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale