A Citizen’s Perspective on How Surrey is Being Considered in Victoria

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by Gurminder S. Parihar

I write this column as a family man who has raised my children in Surrey, and as a small business owner who employs several Surrey residents.  I like to think that I balance both perspectives when I consider the kind of government I want to see in charge of BC.

Because of my training as a Chartered Professional Accountant, I always favour evidence, statistics and data over political slogans or exaggerated interpretations.  The way that I judge politicians is based on two fundamental principles: results and action.

It is through this lens that I want to examine how the BC government is doing when it comes to impacting the lives of Surrey citizens.

As a keen observer of global and national economic trends, the performance of the BC economy right now is exceptional.  Our province is poised to have the highest growth of any province in Canada over the next two years, and we have the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 5.8 per cent.

When I speak to friends and family that live in other parts of the country, I hear concern, particularly for the opportunities available for their children.  In BC, there is a diversified economy that provides choice for young people – whether they want to pursue a trade, or become involved in the province’s thriving tech sector, or even if they are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, BC’s economic climate is supporting growth across a number of sectors.

This is why I support well thought out policy making.  I am very fearful of decisions that are driven purely by the politics of candidates and parties desperate for power.  Our economic future requires management that considers every British Columbian, not just those that are being targeted for votes.

When I turn my focus specifically on Surrey, there are three issues that stand out as critical for me, and that seem to dominate the conversations I havewithlocal residents from all walks of life.

First is the safety of our streets.  Organized crime involved in the drug trade has become more brazen over the past 18 months, with violence now regularly infiltrating Surrey’s residential neighbourhoods. 

The $23 million invested by the Province to fight gang violence is a strong move to partner with the Surrey RCMP and the City of Surrey.  I also am encouraged by the fact that the BC government is putting money into local programs that are working with disaffected youth, and also targeting the proceeds of crime through civil forfeiture actions.

Secondly, with Surrey having the largest enrollment of students in BC, we desperately need extra class capacity.  Once again, the Province has just announced $74 million in new funding that will expand existing schools and build new ones to create 2,700 new student spaces.  This is a good start that will require continued funding to ensure that the need created by the steady flow of new Surrey families entering Surrey every month can be met.

Finally, as Surrey grows at the fastest rate of any municipality in BC (both in terms of population and economic activity), the need for an expansion to the transit system has never been more urgent.

Asthe City of Surrey pushes ahead with plans for Light Rail Transit (LRT), the recent infusion of money from the provincial and federal governments means that Surrey has willing partners ready at the table.  More specifically, the $740 million just announced last month will facilitate more transit capacity in terms of frequency of service, as well as help to get shovels in the ground tobegin LRT construction.

At the end of the day, I want to see tangible actions that tackle problems as they arise.  While a government cannot predict or account for everything, it must be able to respond appropriately and expediently.

Surrey has emerged as an economic engine for the province, and a national model for the trials and tribulations of communities experiencing rapid growth.  Within the next few decades, we are poised to lay claim to the title of BC’s largest city, surpassing Vancouver.

On this path forward, all I or any other resident can ask is for a provincial government that recognizes the importance of our city, and works hard to our address pressing issues as soon as they emerge.

At the moment, that’s exactly what I am seeing from the current administration.