Recently the City of Surrey unveiled its Poverty Reduction Strategy to tackle one of the most important social issues in the City. This strategy will not only include actions on a local level but will also cooperate with provincial and federal authorities to fight against poverty. The City of Surrey wants to not only improve access to job search and social services, but also wishes to do more in area of education and literacy. We recently asked Councillor Judy Villeneuve, President of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society and Chair of the Social Planning Committee, some questions regarding the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
What is the history behind the creation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy and how long has the City been working on it?
The City started working on the plan as “poverty reduction” was identified as the one of the major social issues in Surrey that Surrey’s Social Planning committee wanted to address as poverty affects individuals ability to become health, active members of communities. It also compliments the goals of our OCP, Plan for Social Well Being, and our Crime Reduction Strategy. The Vibrant Surrey Board had access to funding to work on this issue in 2010 and approached the city to work as a partner. We garnered further support through the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society and the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Community Task Force as a way of including the community in our endeavour to lay a framework to address this issue. The Social Planning Research Council of BC was hired to do an analysis of the 2006 census which provided the economic base of accurate information to move forward in presenting the number of people in our city living below the poverty line. We know have a database available through SPARC BC for the city and organizations to use in the future planning endeavours to target initiatives to break the cycle of poverty in people’s lives. The census information will also be updated with 2011 data.
Knowing that we have had challenges with the willingness of the BC government to allocate dollars for different projects, why should we expect them to cooperate now?
There has been plenty of talk about the BC government’s “Family First” agenda, their recent move to do 7 pilot projects in the province with targeted families living in poverty, there is a wide spread call amongst organizations in BC as well as the Surrey Board of Trade calling for the creation of a poverty reduction strategy, BC has one of the largest populations of children living in poverty, and there is an upcoming provincial election next spring, so I believe the time is right. We have our plan in place and the community on board, so we are the perfect target for some provincial funding investment.
When it comes to the creation of local economic development should we create more BIA’s and call on the business community to work with communities and City officials?
The Poverty Reduction Strategy recommendations can only move forward if business, politicians, community organizations, faith groups, unions, and individuals work together. The Plan is designed to let each group know what they can do and job creation is one of the keys to moving people out of poverty. Surrey has a strong base of business associations and more town centered BIAs are needed to focus on particular areas as the City is so large and transportation costs a major issue. Creating jobs close to home is a common goal.
Our Economic Development Plan is targets business enterprise and supports our educational institutions to develop a skills- based workforce.
The Federal government continues to cut funds for a number of services. Why we should expect them to adopt a national strategy to tackle the poverty issue?
I personally believe that the Federal government is moving in the wrong direction for Canada. Until we have a national housing strategy, childcare funding, and more incentives for building a strong workforce and middle class, Canada will not be able to compete in the global world. I think we need to change a government who is destroying the social, economic, and environmental foundation of our country. I believe many people across party lines feel this way too.
How does this plan intend to create /promote education and literacy initiatives?
The recommendations in this plan point out the important work that our School District, libraries, and post secondary institutions are doing in this area. It also points out that Surrey’s funding levels are half of what other cities receive for community funding programs and university seats. The City and Boards of Trade know literary and education are key components of breaking the cycle of poverty and will continue to work together advocating for a fair share of funding in these areas. Surrey is also hosting one of the largest refugee populations in Metro Vancouver and many new immigrants, so our move toward an inclusive and sustainable City is dependent on an educated and financially secure resident base.
Can you give us more informations about the implementation plans?
The last meeting of the Steering Committee on the Poverty Reduction Plan decided to produce an implementation plan by fall, which will give direction to all levels of government, community organizations, and faith groups to move forward on recommendations that they are able to implement in the short and long term. We will be considering adding people to the Vibrant Surrey Board and planning a forum next spring where people will be able to report back on their progress. This allows us to set benchmarks and record progress. I can assure you that the plan will not lay on a shelf but will make a positive difference in the City. The Plan to date does earmark what has been done in a successful way which will be used as examples of initiatives making a difference that can be developed further as well.
Election 2021: Meet the Surrey Centre candidates
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.
Top 5 Reasons Why Psychologists Should Be Covered Under MSP.
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.
2019 Surrey Report Card: Councillor Gives Mayor’s Team a D for Transit and F for Proposed Police Department
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.”
BC Libertarian Party Assembles to Drive Change
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.
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.
Mayor McCallum & City Council approve free parking on streets around Surrey Memorial Hospital and at City Hall Parkade
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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