MLA for Surrey-Newton
THE city of Surrey has many things to be proud of as the fastest growing metropolis in Canada. I have seen this city grow by leaps and bounds every year and salute its citizens. With the new year comes an opportunity to reflect on what’s working, and what can be improved upon.
As an example of how Surrey welcomes people from all over the world to become part of its community, I was recently invited to attend a function organized by the local Filipino community. I was truly amazed at how every different ethnic community was made to feel part of that event. It is this spirit of inclusion that makes Surrey such a wonderful place to live.
I have seen and been part of many cross-cultural events and initiatives in Surrey that bring cultures together, sometimes in times of need to raise aid for good causes, and often to simply celebrate each other’s important events, whether it be Christmas, Diwali, Vaisakhi, Eid or Lunar New Year.
IN order to continue to make the city of Surrey great we need to make it an easier place to get around with a more efficient transit system; we need to ensure we have better schools for our children, better health care and senior care; and we need to ensure Surrey is a good place to do business.
But over the years, the B.C. Liberal government has shown it isn’t up to the challenges facing our city.
Public transportation infrastructure in Surrey is one example. Under the Liberals, commuters living south of the Fraser River are already subjected to punishing tolls if they use the new Port Mann Bridge. Despite the $3 billion structure being brand new, it has already had more than its share of problems.
The Liberals made their decision years ago that commuters in Surrey, Langley and other communities south of the Fraser River would pay the price for decades to get this bridge built and didn’t properly explore all the options when they made this deal. Although there is a reduced rapid bus system on the new Port Mann bridge, a lack of foresight means Surrey commuters can’t actually use it because no provision has been made for a bus stop in the city.
The B.C. Liberals are breaking their promise to provide commuters with a practical non-tolled route over the Fraser River, forcing Surrey residents to drive further and creating increased congestion in Delta in order to access a free alternative. The Alex Fraser Bridge is hardly a realistic alternative for many commuters from Surrey.
ANOTHER issue that is affecting Surrey residents is our education system, which is struggling to meet the increasing demands. The population of Surrey increased by more than 18 per cent between 2006 and 2011, and the number of students in the district increased by more than 2,700. But during that time the Liberal government failed to make any significant capital investments in the school district until recently.
It is about time the Liberal government started listening to parents, educators and communities who are concerned about overcrowded schools and students going to classes in portables, many of which have no washroom facilities.
The B.C. Liberal government’s short-sighted decision to burden schools with cuts and downloaded costs while providing only marginal increases in funding from per-pupil grants are not enough to mitigate massive cuts to the Surrey school system. It’s time for the government to start working with districts to ensure our children get the world-class education they deserve.
WE also need a better way of making sure our senior citizens are cared for and provided with help and any home care services they need. They deserve dignity and respect for their hard work in building our province and leaving a legacy.
Seniors want to remain independent, living in their homes as long as possible, and we know that home care saves taxpayers’ money, but the Liberals have not done nearly enough to ensure that our parents and grandparents get the support they deserve.
Many seniors live in manufactured homes, and provisions need to be made so they are not affected and displaced by changes in land use. This is an issue the Liberals have still not addressed.
BUSINESS is a vital component in Surrey’s growth. One example of how provincial government policy can impact local businesses is the case of Teal Jones Group, a local sawmill and lumber manufacturing company that employs local workers at two large mills in Surrey. Teal Jones was denied the opportunity to buy raw logs for processing in 2011. The forestry minister at the time overruled a decision by the Timber Export Advisory Committee (TEAC) to allow the company to buy the raw logs, and the new forestry minister has continued to overrule the committee dozens of times.
Companies like Teal Jones need logs for their manufacturing operations in B.C. and had offered fair market value for the logs. Teal Jones said they would have added shifts had they access to wood. Yet the minister overruled TEAC and allowed these logs to be exported instead. More than 40 per cent of the coastal harvest was exported and mills are shutting down and idling for lack of access to B.C. logs, leaving local sawmill workers unemployed.
OF COURSE we can’t forget we are still paying the HST, introduced by the Liberals without warning right after the last election. They’ve squandered their entire last term in office on this unfair tax, and we will still be paying it well into the new year when they finally rescind it on April 1.
Restaurants and bars in Surrey have seen their customers scale back on spending due to this unpopular tax. As Surrey is in such close proximity to the U.S. border, any time shoppers make a choice to shop elsewhere local traders lose and less money enters the local economy.
SURREY is a vibrant multicultural city that is poised to thrive thanks to a growing, hard-working community, a strong business sector and a progressive municipal government. The work of local politicians of all stripes, including B.C. New Democrats, independents and B.C. Liberals, have all contributed to our spectacular growth.
As we move forward towards a provincial election I want to acknowledge retiring Surrey MLAs Kevin Falcon and Dave Hayer. I wish them well and thank them for their hard work over the last few years.
Along with my B.C. New Democrat colleagues from Surrey – Jagrup Brar, Sue Hammell and Bruce Ralston – I will endeavour to continue working for and on behalf of Surrey residents as we continue to bring your voice to Victoria on various issues and for the interests of all residents regardless of their political beliefs.
With an election only a few months away, B.C.’s New Democrats know British Columbians deserve better. It’s time for a change to a new government with new priorities. B.C.’s New Democrats are offering change for the better, one practical step at a time.