WITH only days to go before the November 15 election, Surrey First mayoral candidate Linda Hepner said this election “definitely feels different” with plenty of substantive issues in front of Surrey voters.
“I’m really pleased to be running on our record and this election is really a vote on how people think we’ve done, and whether our city should continue to move forward,” said Hepner. “Our team is the only one that offers a coalition of councillors with first-hand experience at City Hall, and being able to run on our record is definitely one of the campaign highs for me, along with Dianne Watts’ endorsement, and the thought we put into our detailed platform. I’ve also enjoyed the chance to talk to our Surrey residents about their priorities and what they want for our city in the years ahead. Another high point for me was hearing that people feel that our city has changed for the better and how the Surrey ‘brand’ is more positive today than it was in 2005 when we got elected. That means a lot and it’s something I’m really proud of.”
Commenting on the campaign’s “lows”, Hepner said she was disappointed that a major issue like public safety and policing became so politicized, when it should have been one of those issues “everyone gets behind” and works to improve.
“Everyone who is running wants a safe city, we all do. So, I was concerned when I saw candidates trying to use it as a way to scare people, or trash our city,” said Hepner. “It’s an important issue, and there’s certainly a perception issue we have to deal with, but turning it into something purely for political gain doesn’t sit well with me. I also take offense to people maligning our city and all of the tremendous improvements we’ve made and seen over the past nine years. When I spoke with voters, they didn’t like it when people tried to run down their community, and I agree with them. It doesn’t mean you ignore important issues, but putting down our city to make political points goes too far in my opinion.”
Hepner said another campaign low was the vandalism of campaign signs that seemed targeted against South Asian candidates, regardless of their political affiliation.
“I can’t think of a more multicultural community than ours,” said Hepner. “We speak more than 90 languages here in Surrey and when I heard about signs being vandalized based on someone’s name, I was seriously upset because that’s not the Surrey I know, or the city I want us to be. We’re better than that, and I see the positive side of our city every day where people work and play and live together in a city they are proud of. In some ways I feel sorry for the kind of people who do that sort of thing because they are so out of step with today’s Surrey.”
Other campaign highs included the increased voter turnout during the advance polls, Surrey First’s endorsement from the city’s fire fighters, and the increased interest in the Surrey election campaign by media across the Lower Mainland.
“Coverage of this election has been everywhere, and I think it says something not just about the race, but also about the way Surrey is seen today. We’re no longer Vancouver’s bedroom community,” said Hepner. “Our citizens and the media look at Surrey very differently today than a decade ago, and that’s a good feeling for someone who wants to be mayor.”
Hepner said she certainly felt the power of social media during this election, saying it plays a big role in engaging people, and was definitely another campaign high.
“We all know that social media is important, but even more so during an election,” noted Hepner. “Whether it’s an audience tweeting out during a candidate debate, or creating an ongoing discussion over a press release or announcement, social media is instant, so there’s no waiting to see if you’ve hit a home run or struck out. The feedback is in real time, and that’s good for both candidates and voters alike.”
Hepner added that she hopes another election highlight will be voter turnout on Saturday.
“Local government is the level of government closest to voters,” explained Hepner. “We’re the people who pick up your trash, build your pools and rec centres, and provide the day-to-day services you and your family count on. So, I’m hoping we’ll see more people voting on Saturday. There’s a lot at stake and some really clear differences between the candidates. This election, there’s definitely some big decisions to be made. Our city is at a crossroads, and on Saturday we get to decide together what our future will look like over the next four years.”