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A new national social inclusion and social mobility charter for Canada

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has an amazing opportunity to leave his mark on Canada just like his father who ushered in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Perhaps our new Prime Minister can introduce a new national “Social Inclusion and Social Mobility Charter” to ensure that everyone in Canada whether rich or poor has the services and supports they need to reach their potential.

Who knows how many Nobel Prize winners could never reach their potential in Canada because they were hungry or homeless? This is a huge waste of our human resources. We need to tap into the greatness of all our citizens and watch the country flourish.

So how can the government increase social inclusion and social mobility?

This got me thinking about the great American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, who developed the concept of the “hierarchy of needs.” This theory stated that humans need to have their basic physiological needs met such as food, water, sleep, and sex before progressing onto more advanced levels of human development such as safety which includes personal, financial, and health security; love and belonging which includes friendship, family, and intimacy; esteem which includes self-esteem and self-confidence, and finally self-actualization which is where creativity and problem solving take hold.

Interestingly, Maslow published his theory in 1943 shortly after WWII and was the descendant of Jewish immigrants from Russia. Who better to describe what humans need to survive and function and develop to their fullest ability than someone connected to the horrors of war in his homeland and coming from a community devastated by the holocaust.

So how can we apply Maslow’s ideas to social inclusion and social mobility?

Well, the Canadian government can develop and fund strong national programs to ensure everyone has their basic needs met in order for them to progress to higher levels of development, achievement, and innovation.

A new collective social contract and understanding that it’s in the national interest for all levels of government to invest in its citizens for the greater good would need to become a top priority.

So what are some ideas and who will pay for them?

Nutrition – Millions of children, youth, and families live in poverty and cannot afford nutritious meals. The government can legislate that all grocery stores and farmers markets have to donate their unused food to breakfast clubs, hot lunch programs, community kitchens, and food banks in their local neighbourhood. Non-profit organizations can partner with culinary schools to prepare and deliver the meals.

Education – Post-secondary education is one of the best predictors of improved social outcomes. Unfortunately, many bright students cannot afford to do graduate studies or research due to the high burden of student debt and basic living costs. The government can peg the cost of post-secondary education to a percentage of a family’s income. This would make it affordable for everyone. Families that earn less money would pay less and families that earn more would pay more. However, the percentage would remain the same for everyone. This would be truly progressive and increase opportunities for all. Families experiencing undue hardship could apply for an education grant.

Day Care – The shortage and cost of day care is a huge issue throughout Canada. Most parents need day care because they are going to work or school. The government can develop incentives, therefore, for employers and educational institutions to develop day care centres at worksites and include day care subsidy as an employee benefit.

Health – Our health care system is falling apart due to increased pressures and lack of funding. I support new and innovative approaches to deliver health care such as through increased public and non-profit and technological sectors. In terms of funding, it makes sense that a universal health care “insurance” program have “premiums” like all insurance programs. I would peg these premiums to the rate of inflation with premium assistance for the poor. The government can also expand health care services to include dental, vision, and professional social work, psychological, and clinical counselling to support the mental health and wellness of the nation.

Recreation – Children and youth need to engage in fitness and sports at an early age to stay healthy, develop social skills, and learn to work as part of a team. Many families cannot afford to send their children to baseball, soccer, hockey, or swimming teams in their community. A national athletic program has to be developed to nurture athletics in youth. Funding for this program can be obtained by introducing a junk food tax and increasing taxes on all private corporations who would directly benefit from an expansion of the national sports and athletics program such as sports clothing, sports drinks, sports shoes, and other similar corporations.

There are many other ideas such as investing in the arts and culture, libraries and schools, developing mentorship and youth programs, safeguarding our natural environment, and introducing a guaranteed annual income for the needy. The ideas are endless.

Let’s just hope that our new Prime Minister will make social inclusion and social mobility a reality for those that are currently neglected and not a priority for our political class.

Alex Sangha is an award winning author and social worker based in Surrey.  He completed a Masters in Public Administration and Public Policy from the Department of Government at the London School of Economics.  For more information on Alex check out his author blog at alexsangha.com

Politics

Election 2021: Meet the Surrey Centre candidates

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On Sept. 20, 2021, voters across Canada will head to the polls to select the candidate to represent their riding in Ottawa. Surrey Centre is one of 3 federal electoral districts that cover the city of Surrey.

The candidates for Surrey Centre have been confirmed. Here is an overview of who is running, the issues that are most important to them, and what party they represent. 

Liberal: Randeep Singh Sarai (Incumbent)

Randeep Sarai has been the Liberal MP for Surrey Centre since 2015. He won his seat again in 2019 with 37.4% of the vote.

Sarai was a lawyer and real estate developer before representing Surrey Centre as the MP. He lives in Surrey with his wife and three children.

Issues that he is committed to include making Surrey the most transit-friendly metropolitan city in Canada with less traffic congestion, as well as making it a low-crime area to live in.

NDP: Sonia Andhi

Sonia Andhi has been a long-time Surrey resident and raised her three adult children here. For the past 30 years, she has remained an active part of community initiatives. She is fluent in Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu.

Andhi has worked as a social worker and family counsellor, working with Surrey students, from children to teenagers, to support them in challenges including poverty, depression, anxiety, and gang involvement. She founded the Shakti Society and Shakti Awards to address issues of family violence and empowerment of women.

Andhi is committed to issues surrounding universal healthcare, as well as updating policies within the Surrey School Board to focus on child development and family enhancement.

Conservative: Tina Bains

Tina Bains has lived in Surrey for 29 years, after relocating here from Montreal. She came in third in the 2019 federal election and remains committed to the community.

With an undergraduate degree in political science and a master’s degree in history, she has focused her career in community and public service roles. She previously worked in law enforcement and as an advisor in the Ministry of Regional Economic and Skills Development.

Bains is committed to rebuilding main streets across Canada to support small businesses. This includes reforming the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to make loan programs accessible to small businesses.

People’s Party of Canada: Joe Kennedy

Joining the ballot card recently is Joe Kennedy. At the time of publication, there was no additional information about Kennedy and his experience on his website

Green: Felix Kongyuy

Felix Kongyuy lives in Surrey with his family and has long been involved in community building.

He is the founder of Baobab Inclusive Empowerment Society which serves children, at-risk youth, women, families, persons with disabilities, and newcomers to Canada. He has also been on advisory boards addressing social justice, racism, small business needs, immigrant challenges, the housing shortage, and much more.

Additionally, Kongyuy is a co-founder of Global Peace Alliance. He has also led and designed programs for Indigenous, Christian and spiritual groups in BC. He wants to bring a positive change to Surrey Centre.

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Top 5 Reasons Why Psychologists Should Be Covered Under MSP.

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Recently, Premier John Horgan expressed that he would be willing to consider including psychologists under our BC medical services plan coverage. This would mean that those seeking mental health supports would have an easier time accessing those services, regardless of their extended health benefits or ability to pay.

COVID-19 has put British Columbians under enormous stress and now anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts are at an all-time high. The Premier’s willingness to consider including psychologists under MSP is an important step towards treating mental health like any other medical issue. Here’s why it matters:

1. It takes a team

Successful medical treatment requires a team of professionals working together including nurses, physicians, pharmacists and specialist healthcare providers. The same is true for successful mental and behavioral health. Now is the time to ensure that British Columbians have all qualified professionals available to be a part of their healthcare team—including psychologists. This will not only improve our overarching standard of health care, but it will improve lives for many individuals as well.

2. Family doctors need support

By integrating psychologists into MSP (or the APP) we can get care for people sooner, treating matters as they arise and not waiting until people are in crisis. Not only is this better for patients but it also benefits family doctors, who are currently bearing the burden of providing the vast majority of mental health and behavioural health services in this province. By being able to refer patients to psychologists, general practitioners will have more hours available, reducing waitlists.

3. Therapy is medicine too

While therapy has long taken a backseat in the medical field it is finally gaining the respect and recognition it deserves. People’s mental health is equally as important as their physical health to their overall well-being. Psychologists are an important part of BC’s mental health care system and the work they do should be covered for those that require their medical expertise in our province. 

4. Not having coverage costs taxpayers money

Investing in people’s mental health before there’s a crisis saves money in the long run. When people have a mental health event, they are more likely to harm themselves or others which puts a much greater strain on our MSP budget than the initial investment would be to protect their mental health. We see this extra money spent on emergency room visits, hospitalizations, prescription medicines and increased sick leave, much of which could be avoided with psychologist coverage.

5. It creates a healthier community

Having access to more psychological services under MSP is a great benefit for everyone living in British Columbia. People who are mentally well have more capacity to contribute to creating safer, happier communities. Increased access to mental health services will result in much-improved quality of life for all British Columbians. 

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2019 Surrey Report Card: Councillor Gives Mayor’s Team a D for Transit and F for Proposed Police Department

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More and more of us in Surrey believe our city is headed in the wrong direction: Councillor Linda Annis

Surrey, BC: In her 2019 report card for city hall, Councillor Linda Annis has given Mayor Doug McCallum and his four Safe Surrey councillors a D when it comes to transit and an “F” for the proposed Surrey Police Department.

“The mayor said he could get Skytrain from Surrey city centre to Langley for the $1.65 billion that had been allocated to LRT, but that turned out to be completely untrue and wasn’t even close to reality,” said Annis. “Instead, we’re getting only four stations and everything stops at 164th, with no new funding for at least the next 10 years. That means no significant transit improvements for neighbourhoods such as Newton, Cloverdale, Clayton, Campbell Heights and South Surrey. Frankly, when it comes to transit the mayor and his Safe Surrey councillors haven’t delivered as our city continues to grow. As a result, we’ll continue to be a city that spends more time in our cars than people living in Vancouver or other Lower Mainland cities.”

Annis said that while there’s growing disappointment about transit, she believes the proposed Surrey Police Department is the single biggest city hall failure in 2019.

“I think the idea of the SPD and the way the mayor is dealing with it deserves a failing grade,” said Annis. “There’s nothing about the transition report that gives anyone any confidence that we’re spending money wisely, or even solving a policing or public safety problem. The mayor and his four councillors have ignored the community, ignored taxpayers, and are trying to ram through the SPD at any cost. You only have to look at the new city budget to see that the transition to the SPD is swallowing up every available dollar, which means no new police, no new firefighters, and no new rinks, parks or community centres. Meanwhile, we’re continuing to grow, but cutting back on police and firefighters. Frankly, taxpayers are getting shortchanged. It just doesn’t make any sense, and, if the SPD is actually created, it will have fewer officers than our current Surrey RCMP detachment. It’s a financial nightmare and there are no answers from the mayor and his team. As a result, I think by any measure the proposed SPD plan deserves an F.”

Annis added that when it comes to housing affordability in Surrey, new city taxes and charges to developers that are passed on to home buyers only work to make Surrey less affordable. Consequently, when it comes to affordability, Annis gives city hall a D in her 2019 report card.

“Politicians talk a good game when it comes to affordability, but increased city taxes and the growing number of charges from Surrey city hall to local developers are simply being passed on to people looking to buy a home,” noted Annis. “Here in Surrey, those taxes and extra costs are nothing more than a cash grab to help fund the transition to the SPD. In the end, taxpayers and new home buyers pay the costs, and affordability goes out the window.”

Outlining her priorities for 2020, Annis said ethics, better transit, public safety, smart development, youth at risk and new schools are among her top priorities. Over the coming year, Annis said she will be advocating for:

  • Hiring the promised ethics commissioner for the City of Surrey
  • Complete transparency around the proposed SPD and its costs, with a public referendum that gives taxpayers the final say
  • More and better transit for Surrey neighbourhoods
  • Smart development that ensures Surrey is creating a community where people can work, live and play, with less commuting to jobs outside of Surrey
  • Zero tolerance for school portables, with the City being more proactive with the Province and school board
  • More transitional housing for the homeless

“Our community is continuing to grow and we’ve got tremendous potential, but we have to make better decisions about our future and make sure we’re getting it right, particularly when it comes to transit, policing and development,” explained Annis. “I’ve always believed that the mayor and council are elected to listen to our voters and taxpayers. That transparency is key, but we’re seeing less and less public input, engagement or consultation and that’s no way to build a better city. I’m hoping that in 2020 we’ll see politicians at city hall listen more and talk less, ensuring Surrey residents always have the final say about their future.”

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BC Libertarian Party Assembles to Drive Change

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Dustin Murray walked into his first BC Libertarian party meeting hoping to meet like minded thinkers for change in the province, but walked out as the parties Surrey-Delta-Langley treasurer. The party met Sunday afternoon to discuss and approve the party bylaws, as well as elect three new members for the Surrey Delta Langley location.

The president, and vice president were both filled by two elected party members. Alex Joel filled the position as president and Jesse Batsford filled the position of vice president. But once the position of treasurer was open, the last member of the party present declined the offer allowing Dustin Murray to step in and hold the position.

“I can’t sit around and do nothing, so I’m here to do something,” said Murray.

Once the member of the party voted Murray as treasurer, Murray finally handed in his application to be a formal member of the BC Libertarian Party, along with his five dollar application fee. Dr. Kenneth Van Dewark, who hold the regional caucus chair and lead the meeting, traded Murrays application with the parties treasurer paperwork which Murray swiftly signed at the bottom.

(L) Dustin Murray – Treasurer, Don Wilson – Party leader, Alex Joel – president and Jesse Batsford – vice president

(L) Dustin Murray – Treasurer, Alex Joel – president and Jesse Batsford – vice president

Murray’s role as treasurer is purely ceremonial for the party but Murray said he is still looking forward to create action in little ways for his family and himself. Murray is one of a handful of new members that joined Sunday afternoon. While the party has been around since 1986, the party has only seen a significant growth within the past two years.

“I would say, it (BC Libertarian Party) was more of a book club then a viable political option,” said Dr. Van Dewark. “But I think the situation in BC is, it’s become such that people are hungry for an alternative and the party has become a vehicle for that.”

According to party leader Don Wilson the party has grown for its advocacy on lower taxes, more choice and freedom alternatives. “Free market economics, classical liberal ideas, the protection of property rights and free speech, that’s our focus,” said Wilson.

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Mayor McCallum & City Council approve free parking on streets around Surrey Memorial Hospital and at City Hall Parkade

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Surrey, BC – Surrey City Council unanimously approved two hour free parking for on-street parking around Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) and at the City Hall Parkade.

“I firmly believed that people visiting their loved ones at Surrey Memorial Hospital should not pay for parking, nor should our citizens have to pay to park their vehicles when conducting business at their “house,” which is City Hall,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “This was a promise that my team and I campaigned on and we have taken immediate action to deliver on it.”

With Council’s decision tonight, the 103 on-street pay parking spaces around SMH and up to 165 spaces for the public at the City Hall Parkade are free of charge for the first two hours for visitors. The two hour time limit has been implemented in order to ensure that the spots are being utilized as intended and discourage external users, such as park-and-ride, from occupying the stalls for an extended length of time. The full corporate report can be viewed here.

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