05/07/2014 12:58 EDT | Updated 07/06/2014 05:59 EDT

Let's Shake Up Civic Elections, Starting With Surrey


Now that the civic election is coming up, I would like to propose electoral reform of local government for all big cities in British Columbia, especially my hometown of Surrey.

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 use of both political systems in the past.

In an "at-large" voting system, the citizens elect candidates to represent them citywide. In a "ward system," the citizens elect candidates to represent various neighbourhoods.

So what would this mixed system look like? The mayor and three city councillors could be elected at-large to represent the interests of the entire city. Seven city councillors could 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 make a total of 10 city councillors, and with the mayor there would be 11 voting members of Surrey City Council. This would provide Surrey with the same political representation as 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? Residents would know who their city councillors are, and who to turn to for help. If a resident didn't like their local councillor they would 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 basically political specialization at work and 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 the city.

Do you think each neighbourhood having an elected member on city council is important in local government?

To support Alex Sangha's social justice speaking tour and find out how to get a copy of his third social discussion book, Catalyst, check out his fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.