Wait for Surrey South byelection hurting constituents, candidate claims

Some 97,000 people have been left without representation, Elenore Sturko says

Surrey RCMP Sgt. Elenore Sturko, who put her law-enforcement career on hold to be the BC Liberals candidate for the Surrey South seat vacated by Stephanie Cadieux, says it’s time for the provincial government to call a byelection. (Contributed photo)

Surrey RCMP Sgt. Elenore Sturko, who put her law-enforcement career on hold to be the BC Liberals candidate for the Surrey South seat vacated by Stephanie Cadieux, says it’s time for the provincial government to call a byelection. (Contributed photo)

Announced BC Liberal candidate Elenore Sturko thinks it’s about time the NDP government got down to calling a byelection for the Surrey South riding.

Under provincial law, the government has six months in which to call a byelection after an MLA’s seat becomes vacant due to resignation, retirement or incapacity.

In this instance it’s the resignation of former BC Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux – who left at the end of April to take a federal post as Canada’s first Chief Accessibility Officer – that created the vacancy.

New BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon announced Sturko’s candidacy for the party on May 5, but since then, there has been no mention of a byelection date and no formal announcement of any other candidates for the Surrey South riding.

On Wednesday (June 29) Elections BC communications director Andrew Watson confirmed the government has until Oct. 28 to call the byelection.

READ ALSO: Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux resigns seat to become Canada’s first Chief Accessibility Officer

READ ALSO: Yet-to-be-scheduled Surrey South byelection must happen by Oct. 28

Word of a date is still to be received, he said, but the agency is ready to swing into action to organize it once that date is set.

But Sturko commented Wednesday that the riding has waited long enough.

It’s not simply a question of deciding her political future, Sturko told Peace Arch News (she has taken an unpaid leave of absence from her career as an RCMP sergeant to campaign for the seat).

The longer it takes for a byelection, the longer residents in the riding are without representation, she said.

“Since Stephanie resigned it’s been 62 days – and that’s 97,000 people without representation for that length of time,” she said. “That’s a lot of people.”

There’s a lot more to the job of MLA than representing constituents in Victoria, she noted.

“People often think about the work that’s done when the legislature is in session, but there’s lots of work for MLAs that goes on in their constituency offices.

“There’s advice in dealing with government programs; advocacy in things like health care. Some of Stephanie’s constituents needed help when a seniors’ facility closed, for instance. That kind of work, that kind of need in the community, never stops. “

Even though she has no official mandate, Sturko said, she has already been receiving emails and in-person requests from people in the riding needing assistance in negotiating ongoing challenges.

And she’s been happy to reach out to representatives of adjacent ridings who could be of help, she said.

“I’m doing my best to pass on concerns,” she added.

“Whether I’m elected or not, I’ve always enjoyed helping people. I do engage with Trevor Halford in Surrey-White Rock and I’ve engaged with Shirley Bond (Prince George MLA, opposition critic for seniors’ services, long-term care and health) where they can offer assistance.”

To this point, neither the NDP nor the BC Green Party have announced a candidate for the riding.

Stefan Jonsson, communications director for the BC Green Party, however, said a candidate has been chosen for Surrey South and will be announced “as soon as possible.”

A media representative for the NDP contacted by PAN said selecting a candidate for the riding is “in the works,” but no final confirmation is ready. The last candidate to stand for the party in the riding, in the 2020 election, was Dr. Pauline Greaves.

“I’ve been campaigning alone, meeting constituents and business people,” Sturko said.

“Right now, it’s to my advantage. It’s good for me, but who it’s not good for is the constituents.”

Sturko said she recognizes it’s not easy to enter a byelection campaign – the costs are high, parties may have trouble finding candidates, and potential candidates may have trouble re-arranging their careers to accommodate a run at office.

“These are issues we should not have to pass on to the public,” she said.

The decision of NDP Premier John Horgan this week not to stand for office in the next B.C. election may also have had some impact on that party’s plans and election strategies, she speculated.

“But a leadership race shouldn’t matter to the people of Surrey South,” she said.

“In the meantime, we need to get down to business.”



alex.browne@peacearchnews.com

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