The Surrey Board of Trade presented to the BC Government’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to provide input on next year’s provincial budget.
“By 2041 Surrey’s population will grow by 50%, from 500,000 to 750,000, and we will add 150,000 new jobs. The rapid and sustained growth of Surrey and the south of the Fraser region is unique in BC, and it brings a number of challenges,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade.
Priority topics in the SBOT’s presentation included Education, Essential Skills, Human Capital Investments, Health Care, Transportation (Light Rail Transit), Social Service Infrastructure and Arts-Culture Investments.
Investment in Education is necessary to develop an agile workforce that will be competitive against global market forces. Huberman asked the committee to “Imagine a preschool classroom in Surrey, where 4-year-olds are getting ready for story-time. Then, cross the globe to an office in Bangalore, capital of India’s burgeoning high-tech industry, where engineers are designing a gas turbine system.” Global competition from India and elsewhere, advancing technologies and changing demographics are convincing more and more employers, business associations like the Surrey Board of Trade and corporate philanthropists to invest in classrooms and advocate for improvements in performance – starting with our youngest learners. The return on that effort, as we see it – in what is normally called early childhood development, is to develop the workforce that we need to maintain an edge on innovation. The Surrey Board of Trade urges the provincial government to continue their investments in early childhood education.
Continuing with educational priorities, Essential Skills – those soft or job-ready skills necessary for success in the workplace – is a priority for SBOT business members. The cost of training ill-prepared workers is high when, with investments in the educational curriculum increased, the overall benefit to BC’s economy would be substantial. Business is advocating for both education standards and accountability for results to improve the competitiveness of the workforce and for individuals to achieve financial success.
With a rapidly growing population in Surrey, it makes little financial sense to send students on to post-secondary education elsewhere due to lack of spaces locally. Investment in Surrey’s human capital is necessary and the Surrey Board of Trade recommended a need to focus on key “leverage points” where politically feasible investments of money and political capital can yield large changes in educational quality as well as access to education in Surrey.
The Surrey Board of Trade asked the provincial government to engage in a study on the health care infrastructure needs in Surrey as it relates to population needs. Healthy workers are productive and ensuring their access to needed care in a timely manner is necessary for economic success of Surrey’s businesses and industries.
Critical to Surrey’s economy is a comprehensive transportation plan that includes fair road pricing policy for the Lower Mainland and allows for the equitable funding of transportation infrastructure and transit services. The Surrey Board of Trade urged the Province to ensure that light rail is the preferred option for Surrey, not the substantially more expensive Skytrain. The Surrey Board of Trade asked the Province to make funding for Surrey’s LRT project a top priority in the budget.
Additional budgetary concerns were also part of the Surrey Board of Trade’s presentation due to their impact on businesses. Social housing and social services in Surrey are currently insufficient for Surrey’s needs. Resources need to be allocated to support the good work of Surrey’s not-for-profit service providers who are stretched thin to address Surrey’s homelessness, low income (at 15.5%, 2011 NHS), newcomers and refugees, and more.Those experiencing social challenges such as homelessness and drug addictions directly impact businesses that also bear the costs of related crime. The Surrey Board of Tradesuggests that this is an area in which the Ministry can be leaders through a community consultation process on how best to resource our services.
Finally, the Surrey Board of Trade asked the BC Government to invest in arts and culture. Surrey and the Surrey Board of Trade are committed to supporting and growing a creative economy.The Surrey Board of Trade commits to continuing our work in advocating for, and working toward, a positive fiscal outcome for Surrey.