COLUMN: A leap from Langley

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Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender is taking a leap into another pond, as he spends the next three months campaigning as the B.C. Liberal candidate in Surrey-Fleetwood.

It will be a steep learning curve for the Langley City mayor, who has never faced any serious opposition in his runs for councillor and mayor in Langley City in the past four municipal elections. He will be running in a seat comfortably won by Jagrup Brar of the NDP in 2009.

Brar was first elected in a byelection in Surrey-Panorama in 2004, won the seat again in 2005, and won his third election when he moved to the new Surrey-Fleetwood seat. His margin of victory in 2009 was just under 2,000 votes.

The Liberals are well behind in public opinion polls, and while that gap will likely narrow by election day, the Liberals have little chance of winning power again, with the Conservatives running candidates in most B.C. ridings and splitting the vote in ridings where the Liberals won by narrow margins.

Given all that, Surrey-Fleetwood is likely to stay NDP. But it will be interesting to see how many votes Fassbender will gain for the Liberals. In the 2009 election, Brar gained 8,852 votes, while Liberal candidate Jagmohan Singh took 6,860 votes.

Christin Geall of the Greens took 1,120 votes and Chamkaur Sandhu of the Conservatives got 818 votes in the 2009 election.

Fassbender is almost unknown in Surrey-Fleetwood, other than as a regional spokesman on transportation and policing. Of the few Surrey-Fleetwood voters who have heard of him, most likely associate him with tax increases, such as the two-cent additional levy on gas that TransLink put in place last year. Recently, TransLink has talked about vehicle levies and a regional sales tax. None of these issues are vote-getters.

He is running in a riding that is very dependent on the Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1, and will have to defend bridge tolls.

I think the main reason he is running is to give the party a boost provincially, rather than to win the seat in Fleetwood. His candidacy is a shot in the arm for the beleaguered Liberals.

It’s not clear why Fassbender decided to run in Surrey-Fleetwood. If he was itching to run in a Surrey seat, either Surrey-Panorama (where Liberal Sukh Dhaliwal had to withdraw as a candidate due to an issue with income tax involving one of his companies) or Surrey-Tynehead would be better choices. Both are currently held by Liberal MLAs.

In Surrey-Tynehead, popular MLA Dave Hayer would have been more than happy to assist a new candidate and would have provided welcome introductions to supporters and potential supporters. In Panorama, Stephanie Cadieux, who is moving to the Surrey-Cloverdale riding, could have done the same thing.

Fassbender will certainly raise his profile in Surrey and may well have some influence on B.C. Liberal policies on transit and transportation, but it seems very unlikely that he will be a Surrey MLA on May 15.

He will continue to head up the City of Langley as mayor.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.


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