The NDP made gains in the important Metro Vancouver battleground of Surrey on Saturday night, holding on to the six seats they won in the last election and possibly stealing one from the Liberals.
However, the final outcome won’t be known for weeks because many contests were within 1,500 votes, and more than 68,000 mail-in ballots remained to be counted across the city’s nine ridings.
Mail-in and other absentee ballots will not be tallied until at least 13 days after election day and the final count usually takes three days. The process will likely take longer this election because of the high volume of mail-in ballots.
Both party leaders visited Surrey during the campaign, with the NDP’s John Horgan promising to help pay for the second phase of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain line and reiterating his commitment to building a new hospital in the growing city. Liberal Andrew Wilkinson focused on a referendum on the city’s plans for a municipal police department and public safety.
Horgan spent some of his time in the riding with Mike Starchuk in Surrey-Cloverdale, and it seems to have paid off. Starchuk, a former one-term Surrey city councillor and retired firefighter, was ahead by just over 2,200 votes, which could mean a steal for the NDP.
“It’s very nice to be able to welcome another member from Surrey into the legislature. Mike Starchuk did an amazing job in Cloverdale,” said Garry Begg, who was ahead in his riding of Surrey-Guildford by more than 3,300 votes. “So, he’s an addition to our team south of the Fraser, and I think it speaks to the dynamic nature of the City of Surrey.”
Starchuk could not be reached for comment.
The Liberal incumbent, Marvin Hunt, spent 23 years as a city councillor before stepping down in early 2014, almost a year after he was elected as the MLA for Surrey-Panorama.
“Well, for tonight, the results are disappointing, obviously. But, you know, this is life. Politics is a most interesting process,” Hunt said. “But, by the same token, we’ve had 10,000 mail-in ballots that have been asked for — we don’t know how many have been returned — so, still you’ve got a huge pile of votes to be counted and we’ll just have to see where it all falls.”
Surrey South, a Liberal stronghold, also saw a surprisingly close race. Incumbent Stephanie Cadieux, who is hoping for a fourth term as MLA, leading by just over 1,200 votes after Saturday’s initial count. More than 12,700 mail-in ballots were issued for the riding.
Cadieux faced competition from NDP candidate Pauline Greaves, a Langara College instructor who has run unsuccessfully for municipal council in Surrey.
“I’m sitting here with her family and we’re very excited, and we’re just waiting for the results. It looks like we’re going to have to wait for two weeks,” said Tom Ewasiuk, Greaves’ campaign manager.
Two experienced politicians duked it out in Surrey-Panorama. The NDP’s Jinny Sims is a former president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and was a New Democrat MP, and turned the riding from Liberal in 2017. To try and win it back, the Liberals put forward Dr. Gulzar Cheema, a former MLA in both Manitoba and B.C. Sims was leading by just over 1,400 votes after Saturday’s count but there were more than 8,000 mail-in ballots issued in the riding.
“Now we just have to wait for the mail-in ballots to be counted, but until then I’m really happy that we have the seats we have and we will be forming government,” said Sims.
Asked if she thought the absentee votes would make a difference, Sims said she finds that once a trend is set, it takes a lot to change it.
“But, at the same time, as my dad used to say, ‘Never second guess the voter.’ So, I’ll have to wait until all that gets determined,” she said.
In Surrey-White Rock, a safe Liberal seat for decades, Trevor Halford edged out the NDP’s Bryn Smith by 729 votes. There are, however, more than 11,000 mail-in packages issued in the riding.
The NDP’s Rachna Singh seems headed to a second term in Surrey-Green Timbers, where she was ahead of Liberal Dilraj Atwal by about 1,100 votes. That riding had 4,084 mail-in ballots issued. In Surrey-Newton, Harry Bains was ahead by just over 3,000 votes.
Four other NDP ridings will likely remain orange: Surrey-Guildford (Garry Begg), Surrey-Fleetwood (Jagrup Brar), Surrey-Whalley (Bruce Ralston), and Surrey-Newton (Harry Bains).