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Surrey North New Democratic Party candidate, Jasbir Sandhu, gives directions to a nearby polling station to a voter at his campaign headquarters in Surrey, British Columbia, Monday, May 2, 2011.

Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

Surrey-North, largely represented by conservative-leaning MPs with the surname of Cadman since 1997, was a beachhead for Jack Layton as the federal election began.

The NDP Leader began the B.C. phase of his national campaign here, declaring his New Democrats the key rivals to the Conservatives for B.C. seats, and staking a claim on this riding that his party lost by 3 per cent in 2008.

That aggressive challenge seemed to have paid off on election night, with the NDP scoring well in two of four area seats in this bustling, rapidly growing city - set to become the most populous in B.C. within 30 years.

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Incumbent Dona Cadman fell to the New Democrat's Jasbir Sandhu, a program co-ordinator with the Justice Institute of British Columbia, which provides training to police officers, firefighters and paramedics, among others.

Ms. Cadman is the widow of Chuck Cadman, who represented the riding from 1997 to his death in 2005 as a Reformer, member of the Canadian Alliance and Independent. New Democrat Penny Priddy, a family friend of the Cadmans, held the riding from 2006 until 2008.

In Newton-North Delta, Liberal Sukh Dhaliwal, first elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2008 with a 2,493-vote lead over his nearest rival, a Conservative, lost against New Democrat Jinny Sims, former head of the B.C. Teachers Federation, a powerful springboard for her jump into politics.

Two other seats in the city remained in Tory control. Russ Hiebert won a fourth term in South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale. And Fleetwood-Port Kells remained with Nina Grewal, heading into her fourth term.

But the New Democrats were surging in the two ridings they targeted, after being shut out of Surrey in 2008. That year, the four seats in the city all went Tory or Liberal.

Mr. Layton seemed optimistic about doing better this time. On the second day of the campaign, he was in Surrey North, telling a rally that New Democrats were first or second runner-ups to Conservatives in two-thirds of B.C. ridings - basically marginalizing the Liberals.

"Spread the word that here in British Columbia, only New Democrats can defeat Conservatives," said Mr. Layton, making his first of several visits to Surrey ridings.

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In Surrey North, Ms. Cadman has been dogged by suggestions she is a low-profile MP, evasive in dealings with the public and the media. "What I've heard on the doorstep is Dona Cadman is not accessible and she's not our voice in Ottawa," said her NDP challenger Mr. Sandhu.

Ms. Cadman, in a statement, said consultation is more important than forcefully expressing her views. "I am the only politician I know that gets flack for listening instead of talking," she said.

Her stand on the controversial harmonized sales tax has also caused problems for her. After telling the Surrey Now newspaper that she guessed 85 per cent of her constituents opposed the HST, Ms. Cadman abstained from the vote in Parliament, allowing the tax to proceed. During the campaign, she said a vote against the tax would have been akin to poking her party in the eye.

The NDP has hammered the Tories on the HST, suggesting they were complicit with the provincial Liberal government in imposing it on British Columbians.

Ms. Cadman has noted that British Columbians will have their say on the tax through the planned summer referendum on the tax.

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