by Ray Hudson
Surrey: The Conservative government, brought out all of the its Surrey candidates, along with the one from Delta, to announce the commitment of one-third funding (about $700 million) to build Surrey’s proposed Light Rail Transit project to Newton, Guildford and Langley.
The Group was led by Conservative big gun and former Minister of Trade, James Moore, who is not running in the current election. Moore proclaimed that the Conservatives now estimate the budget surplus to be in the range of $5 billion.
Making the announcement was the role for Dianne Watts, the former mayor and Conservative Candidate for South Surrey White Rock.
“As the former mayor, and one who has championed this project, it gives me immense joy to be here to make this announcement to you today, as well as the residents of Surrey and Langley and the communities south of the Fraser,” she said. “There are no better economic fundamentals, no better economic prospects, and no better place to be, and that ladies and gentlemen is the conservative record.”
She said it was more than moving people through the three transit corridors, around this region.
“It’s about shaping the city and it’s about preparing this region, south of the Fraser, for the growth that is coming.
“The government investments are helping to build stronger communities, reduce congestion and create jobs,” said incumbent Conservative candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells, Nina Grewal. “This announcement is an important milestone for our community, because once this new project is completed, it will greatly increase the capacity and efficiency of Surrey’s transportation network.” The line from Central City to Langley City will cut right across Fleetwood, following the Fraser Highway.
Surrey mayor Linda Hepner, who was on hand for the announcement, expressed her delight at the announcement. She felt confident that the province would come to the table with its one-third, but said that the next challenge would be finding a way, for the region to come up with the requisite one-third share.
Delta incumbent Conservative candidate, Kerry Lynn Findlay, endorsed the announcement saying that the construction would likely free up buses for reassignment to Delta, which was been not well served by transit.
Liberal candidate for Newton, Sukh Dhaliwal, dismissed the Conservative light rail funding announcement as “desperate.” He said it was an election tactic that doesn’t match the Conservative record.
“Two years after a City of Surrey 2013 funding request for the light rail transit (“LRT”) project was sent to Ottawa, there has been absolutely no response made until today’s desperate announcement,” Dhaliwal claimed, adding that in his view, it was electoral politics at its worst.
“As a result of the Liberal Party’s commitment of $20 billion for public transit, the Conservatives are now scrambling to make up for their inaction,” said Dhaliwal. “They have completely ignored Surrey since 2013, and there is no reason to believe this empty election promise.”
Dhaliwal said the Liberal Party will invest the $20 billion committed in consultation with municipalities, and will look to fund regional transit priorities across the country. The Surrey LRT line has been identified as Metro Vancouver’s number one transit priority, and the Liberal plan will be responsive to this designation.
“A similar scenario of Conservative empty politics happened this past summer, when the Public Safety Minister came to Surrey and stated that the promised 100 RCMP officers were already on the ground,” said Dhaliwal. “This was a complete lie, and a breach of the City of Surrey’s RCMP contract. The request was supposed to happen within 12 months, and now nearly two years later, Surrey’s streets are still awaiting the officers’ arrival.”
Another voice critical of both the transit funding and funding to strengthen the Surrey RCMP Detachment came from Garry Begg, a retired Inspector with the Surrey RCMP, now the NDP Candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells.
“Whether it’s deploying 100 RCMP officers in Surrey or funding transit, the Conservatives continue to drag their feet,” said Begg. “Surrey deserves more than just one-off, piecemeal transit funding.”
He added that the Conservative’s one-off plan for transit leaves the City of Surrey without stable, predictable funding for the ability to plan long term. He stated that an NDP government will invest $5.2 billion for transit and infrastructure in the Lower Mainland to allow cities like Surrey to plan the growth of their cities.
“The Conservatives don’t seem to recognize that Surrey is BC’s fastest growing city,” added Begg. “Surrey needs a real federal partner that will help the city grow. It’s time for change in Ottawa.”
Surrey, along with the rest of the country, goes to the polls on October 19.