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Riding profile: Surrey-Fleetwood pits three-term mayor against basketball-crazed incumbent

British Columbia NDP MLA Jagrup Brar applauds as then federal NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp speaks in Surrey, B.C., in this Oct. 16, 2011, file photo.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

In an interview, New Democrat Jagrup Brar has been politely trash talking Peter Fassbender, his Liberal rival to be Surrey-Fleetwood's next MLA. A reporter's question prompts a smile.

The query is whether Mr. Brar sees re-election as a "slam dunk."

The analogy resonates with Mr. Brar because it refers to basketball, a lifelong passion Mr. Brar says has forged his nature. Mr. Brar, born in India, was once a member of the Indian national hoops team.

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"We have to work very hard," he says, responding to the question. "I am a sports person. When you are in the match, you are in the match. You have to do the best you can."

From basketball, Mr. Brar says he learned to be a team player, to strive, and another lesson germane to his fight in Surrey-Fleetwood. "It is important to accept defeat in life because life is not full of victory," said Mr. Brar, a political rookie working as head of a federal employment program when he was first elected to the legislature in 2004.

Of course, Mr. Brar is hoping not to have to accept any kind of defeat on May 14.

Mr. Brar was first elected in Surrey-Panorama Ridge in 2004. His win was the beginning of a rebound for the NDP, previously reduced to two of 79 legislature seats in the 2001 election that ended a decade of NDP government. When boundaries were redrawn, Mr. Brar sought re-election in Surrey-Fleetwood, a riding in north-central Surrey created by redistribution from pieces of other ridings.

In 2009, Mr. Brar won the riding 50 per cent to 39 per cent over his Liberal rival. In 2013, however, he faces a higher-profile rival in Peter Fassbender, the three-term mayor of the City of Langley.

Mr. Fassbender has long been interested in provincial politics, but decided to run now with the encouragement of B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark among others. He could not run in Langley because Mary Polak, who has served as transportation minister, is running there.

Mr. Fassbender does not live in the riding, but is counting on his high regional profile to compensate. His profile on the City of Langley website lists past and present associations with about 30 committees and boards including the Fraser Health Municipal Advisory Council, the Mayor's Council on Regional Transportation, and Metro Vancouver Mayors Committee.

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"Let me tell you what I say at the door," the affable Mr. Fassbender said. "Take my track record and what I've done for Surrey, for south of the Fraser, for the province. Put it on a balance sheet on one side and look at what Mr. Brar has accomplished, not just being a member of the NDP and the opposition, but actually accomplished for the riding. I think that will speak for itself."

Mr. Brar has most recently been opposition critic for small business. In past, he has been critic for healthy living and sport as well as solicitor general critic, among other responsibilities. Responding to Mr. Fassbender, he quips that he welcomes the mayor to Surrey, and expects he will have to explain why he is jumping into the riding. "You can't take him lightly. He has the experience."

Mr. Brar does not live in Fleetwood either. He stayed in Panorama so his children could remain in familiar schools. He says going after Mr. Fassbender on residency is fair. Mr. Brar says he, at least, has lived in Surrey since moving there from Winnipeg in 1995.

He says he is confident but not cocky. Basketball explains the difference, he said. "Confidence , in a careful way, is a good thing, but you have to give your best performance. That's what we're doing here."


2013 Candidates

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  • Jagrup Brar, B.C. NDP (incumbent)
  • Tim Binnema, Green Party of B.C.
  • Peter Fassbender, B.C. Liberal
  • Murali Krishnan, B.C. Conservative

2009 election: NDP candidate Jagrup Brar won the riding with 50.15 per cent of the vote; Liberal candidate Jagmohan Singh came in second with 38.87 per cent; Green candidate Christin Geall was third with 6.35 per cent.

Population: 49,885

Average household income, before tax: $70,769 (B.C. average $67,675)

Source: Elections B.C. and B.C. Stats

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