New Party Hopes to Capitalize on Surrey’s Changing Political Landscape

The Independent Surrey Voters Association is fielding five candidates for Surrey City Council this election

Campaigning for the 2018 Surrey municipal election is well underway and a new political party, the Independent Surrey Voters Association, has thrown their hat into the ring. This party includes members of the Surrey community from varied backgrounds and professions ranging from realtors to TransLink workers and anti-bullying advocates.

The party didn’t put forward a mayoral candidate in the already heavily contested six-person race, but they are hopeful that their diverse slate of candidates and their knowledge of the public’s grievances will give them an edge in the election for city council.

“We don’t care [which party] the mayor comes from. That’s the reason we didn’t choose a mayor,” says Saira Aujla, a candidate for the Independent Surrey Voters Association. “If any one of [them] are elected and the five of us are elected, we can oppose them. If there are some things the public doesn’t want, we are public’s voice. If public doesn’t want it, we should not have it.”

Aujla is already familiar with Surrey politics. A former radio and television host and current realtor, she ran as an independent candidate in the 2014 municipal election and as a B.C. Green Party candidate in the 2017 provincial election. This year, Aujla joined the Surrey Community Alliance party, but had to leave when the party was dissolved following the resignation of its president, Doug Elford.

“[Elford] left us with nowhere to go,” says Aujla. “Then I had a chat at home with my girls and I told them what was happening, and they told me, ‘You are strong enough. You don’t need to move anywhere. Stay here. Make your own team.’”

Aujla assembled her team of five council candidates which includes herself, Asad Syed, Bernie Sheppard, Derek Zabel, and Nasima Nastoh. The party is running on a platform of increasing affordable housing and decreasing homelessness and crime.

“We don’t have enough low-income houses,” says Aujla. “If you’re not making $100,000, how can you afford [housing]? You [can’t afford] … to live in a basement because your basement rent has gone from $500 to $800 now. At the end of the day, you’re going to be on the streets because you can’t afford rent.”

In addition to creating more low-income housing in the city, the Independent Surrey Voters Association also wants to invest in free after-school arts and sports programs to assist parents and protect children from turning to a life of crime.

With seven parties and nearly four dozen candidates running for just eight seats on Surrey City Council this year, being elected will be a challenge. Notably, just a year ago, seeing any party other than Surrey First winning seats was highly unlikely.

The Surrey First party has held municipal power for over a decade, winning every seat in the past two elections. However, with current mayor Linda Hepner not seeking re-election and prominent, long-serving city councillors leaving to join other political parties, this election is likely to result in a major shake-up.

Jacinta Danso-Dapaah, the financial manager for the Independent Surrey Voters Association’s campaign, believes that Surrey is currently “needing a change.”

“Our team has just gone door-knocking over the last one or two [days] and they’ve had very positive feedback,” says Danso-Dapaah. “This team just needs to demonstrate to Surrey what type of change they’re bringing; what they are going to be doing differently from what they already have.”

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