Surrey is the ideal place for a mixed “at-large” and “ward system” of electing city councillors and the mayor. This is because of its distinctive town centres and its history of using both political systems in the past.
So what would this mixed system look like? The mayor and three city councillors can be elected at-large to represent the interests of the entire city. Furthermore, seven city councillors can be elected to represent the following town centres:
• Ward 1: Surrey City Centre
• Ward 2: Whalley
• Ward 3: Guildford
• Ward 4: Fleetwood
• Ward 5: Cloverdale
• Ward 6: Newton
• Ward 7: South Surrey
This would total 10 city councillors and the mayor for 11 voting members of Surrey council. This would provide Surrey with the same political representation as the City of Vancouver, which is more than appropriate considering Surrey’s growing size and stature.
So what are the benefits of a mixed system of local government? There are many! Residents would know who their city councillors is and who to turn to for help. If a resident did not like their local councillor they still have three other at-large councillors and the mayor to turn to. The ward councillors could focus on local issues in their town centre, while the at-large councillors could focus on major citywide issues. It's basicially political specialization at work. It's a better distribution of the political workload.
This mixed system would also be more democratic. Potential political candidates would not have to raise thousands of dollars to run a citywide campaign. Independents would have a good chance of getting elected. Most importantly, there would be equal representation from all parts of Surrey.
Every major city in Canada, including Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Calgary, has a ward system. Vancouver tried to get a ward system recently. Vancouver made a mistake of not offering a mixed at-large and ward system to its residents.
Surrey can make history in British Columbia and Canada by adopting a mixed at-large and ward system of local government.
Alex Sangha is a registered social worker in B.C.