Bruce Ralston – New Democratic Party of BC

1. Why do you think you would be the best choice to represent the voters in Surrey-Whalley?

As the MLA in Surrey Whalley for the past 12 years I am a strong advocate for residents and businesses in the area. I served on Surrey City Council from 1988 to 1993, and always advocated for services and city centre development in north Surrey. I have lived in north Surrey since 1987, where I ran my own business. All three of my children attended public school and were actively involved in minor sports in Surrey.

As an advocate for north Surrey for more 30 years, I have always worked toward the development of North Surrey as a prosperous, dynamic city centre. I will continue to make sure that our growing city and its needs are fairly considered in decisions made by the provincial government.

2. What do you think are the strengths and challenges of Surrey City Centre? What would your role be in building on the strengths? How would you address the challenges?

I support the development of a strong, vibrant, and prosperous city centre in the riding. Increasingly, Surrey City Centre will grow to rival Vancouver as a major urban centre within the region. This has to be achieved by ensuring our community is well represented at all levels of government, and the assets that we have to offer are recognized.

I will continue to advocate for further public investment in the city centre to promote further private sector investment and development.

Long range planning I was involved with in my time on the city council has resulted in civic investments, including the library and city hall. Supported by the private and public sectors in an emerging cluster of financial institutions, including Community Savings, Coast Capital Savings, Westminster Savings, and Vancity, as well as a health research cluster near the expanded Surrey Memorial Hospital are keys to the successful continuation of the area as a strong, vibrant, and desirable city centre. Skytrain is an important element of that success, and the continued improvement of public transit must be kept on the agenda.

As a desirable and affordable community, we’re seeing rapid growth, which brings with it challenges to meet the needs of a diverse population. We need to see continued investment in the public services residents depend on – schools, transportation, and health care services – including mental health.

As the MLA for Surrey Whalley for the past 12 years, I have worked to facilitate communication between businesses, non profit service providers, faith groups, and public service providers to work together to develop solutions that work for residents and businesses in a thriving community. The five-point plan Surrey’s NDP MLAs first proposed in 2014 support local community solutions include: increased policing, creation of a community court, regulation of recovery homes, development of a mental health action plan and increased support for non-profit and supportive housing. I will continue to pursue cross-government support for that work.

3. A variety of housing is needed: affordable housing for youth, families and seniors, supportive housing for those requiring help with addiction and mental illness and transitional housing for those moving from the streets into permanent housing. What do you see as the role of the provincial government in housing and what would you advocate for if elected to office?

The BC NDP released a comprehensive platform addressing these and other housing issues.

We will crack down on the cheaters who are distorting BC’s housing market. We will work with all levels of government, First Nations and the not-for-profit and private sectors, to secure land and build needed housing.

We will build 114,000 affordable rental, non profit, co-op and owner-purchase housing units through partnerships over ten years. These homes will be a mix of housing for students, singles, seniors, and families and will range from supported social housing to quality, market rental housing.

In urban and suburban centers, we’ll build near transit hubs. And, we’ll use public land to build housing that British Columbians can afford.

We will provide a refundable renter’s rebate of $400 dollars per rental household in BC each year. We will also tighten the rules that protect good landlords and tenants, and provide the necessary resources for the Residential Tenancy Branch to do its job and resolve disputes fairly and in a timely way. And, we will provide local governments the tools they are asking for to zone areas for rental housing, and tax short-stay home rentals that take properties out of the rental pool.

4. What do you see as the priority for health investment funding in Surrey and why?

We need to make health care accessible. The NDP plan for community health centres focuses on making sure British Columbians have access to health care when and where they need it.

In addition, the NDP is committed to:

• Investing in new hospitals and care facilities in communities across BC, plus home care and quality long-term care for BC seniors.
• Investing in more paramedics, so that no one is left waiting for an ambulance in their time of
critical need.
• Implementing province-wide coordination to manage and actively monitor wait lists and speed up service delivery
• Fund UBC’s Therapeutics Initiative properly to keep drug costs down and patients safe.
• Work with the federal government to create a national pharmacare program and bulk
purchasing of medication to keep costs low.

In Surrey specifically, I would like to see cooperation in building on the strengths of SFU’s public health program, and take advantage of access to the biggest and most active emergency department in the province, Surrey Memorial Hospital, to train health care professionals, including doctors, nurses, and health science professionals.

5. Multiple levels of Government have recently committed funds to address emerging health issues like the recent rise in opioid deaths. However, drug, alcohol and mental health issues have been plaguing our community for years with limited relief for the businesses and residents who deal daily with the behaviour of these vulnerable people. What solutions would you try to introduce that would address the needs of the whole community?

There is no single solution to the challenges resulting from years of fragmented mental health and addictions system, but the NDP has a plan to address some structural issue to give us a fighting chance.

An NDP government would bring mental health and addictions into one ministry that serves all ages, improving access, investing in early prevention and providing opportunities for intervention before problems get worse.

We will recognize the hard work of community-based and not-for-profit services in improving the lives of those with mental health and addictions and expand support for these services.

We will provide access to a wide range of evidence-based and regulated treatment, including licensing our current recovery house system, enhancing supports post-detox, and improving access to harm reduction options that save lives.

On the enforcement side, the NDP is committed to providing more support to police efforts to disrupt the supply chain through measures to break up the major drug rings and send the perpetrators to trial, and we will push for increased penalties for drug dealers who knowingly distribute death-dealing drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil.

6. Given that Surrey is the largest school district in BC and continues to experience strong growth, what is your commitment to seeing that Surrey’s students get their fair share? Does your party commit to an increased capital budget for K-12 schools to address the overcrowding in Surrey Schools?

The NDP will fund classroom essentials and playgrounds, so parents can focus on their child’s success,
not on selling cookies. Parents want a public school system they can depend on. A BC NDP
government would deliver stability and proper funding. Christy Clark had to be forced by the Supreme Court to restore classroom conditions for our children. That’s wrong. We’d ensure kids have the supports they need to thrive.

We will provide $30 million per year to our school system to ensure that kids have the school supplies that they need to succeed. Playgrounds are part of our schools and a healthy childhood. Parents
have enough to do without being asked to become full time fundraisers for basic school equipment. A BC NDP government will create an ongoing capital fund for school playgrounds.

We will work with school districts to successfully implement BC’s new school curriculum and provide new technology, lab equipment, learning material and professional development support for teachers.

After 16 years of BC Liberal neglect, it is time to examine our school funding formula to ensure it meets the needs of children and communities. A BC NDP government is committed to a comprehensive
review of BC’s current K-12 funding formula to move BC’s school system to a better, stable and sustainable model for investing in education.

Christy Clark’s current per-pupil funding model doesn’t work for the differing costs of education in BC’s rural, suburban and inner city schools.

7. Currently, funding for portables at local elementary and secondary schools comes out of operations budgets thus cutting into day-to-day needs of the students. Will you and your party address this inequity?

Christy Clark and the BC Liberals have chosen to leave our kids in low-quality portables and buildings that are unsafe. We’ll invest in schools, so our kids are safe and comfortable while they learn.

We will replace Surrey portables with real classrooms, building new schools in BC’s fastest growing region.

8. While there has been additional funding for SFU to build their new building, the demand for post-secondary seats South of the Fraser greatly exceeds the supply. How will you address this?

We will create a competitive, merit-based graduate scholarship program designed to attract and retain the best graduate students, based on hard work and talent.

We will begin by investing $50 million over two years to create a new graduate scholarship fund.

We will invest $100 million to expand technology-related post-secondary programs and invest in information and communications, digital media and entertainment, life sciences and health, clean-tech, IT and engineering and more.

We will partner with universities throughout BC to build technology and innovation centres in key areas of BC’s economy.

9. Transportation is a big problem in Surrey. Please identify what you think are the three biggest transportation issues in Surrey and how do you (and your party) plan to address these issues?

Congestion, public transit that just doesn’t meet our needs, and the cost of tolls.

The NDP transportation plan includes addresses all those issues. We are committed to:

• Funding the mayors’ plan with 40 per cent of provincial funding for all projects
• Immediately getting to work on the Pattullo Bridge replacement
• Committing $300 million per year over 10 years to relieve congestion in the Lower Mainland with a capital infrastructure plan
• Working with Metro Vancouver mayors on implementing their 10-year vision for transit and transportation.
• Removing the tolls on the Port Mann Bridge

10. Creating jobs close to home is key to Surrey’s success. What initiatives do you think will help create jobs and prepare workers (not just youth but the current workforce) for jobs of the future?

The BC NDP has a comprehensive jobs strategy, because we know that people are working hard, but it’s tougher to get ahead. Good jobs are hard to find. Too many people are struggling to make ends‑meet, working at part-time, low-wage jobs that don’t pay enough.

It’s time to put people first by building an economy with good jobs that pay better and last, and that includes creating good jobs in the tech and film industry, small business, retail, and the the resources and agriculture sectors.

Together, we can invest in education to ensure young people have the skills they need to have great careers, and we have the skilled workforce businesses need.

We can invest in transportation infrastructure and clean energy projects that create good paying jobs in communities across the province.

11. Surrey is a diverse community in age and ethnic make-up. If elected, what do you plan to do to engage and remain connected to your constituency?

In my 12 years as the MLA for Surrey Whalley I have been very actively engaged and connected to the community, and I will continue to do that.

I have had the opportunity to meet with many business people in Surrey through my regular participation at Surrey BIA and Surrey BOT meetings and events. I’ve met with business owners and toured many businesses in the community. Each one of those visits – whether it is to a small retail shop operated by recent immigrants to our city, a medium-sized tech venture, or a large manufacturing based business – gives me insights into and optimism about the potential we have here in Surrey Whalley.

As the Official Opposition critic on Multiculturalism for the past several years, a focus of my work has been to meet with and get to know the issues important to the many diverse cultural communities that call BC home – and many of those communities have strong ties to Surrey.

I will continue to accept as many invitations as possible to events and gatherings in the community, and will continue to seek out opportunities to meet with my Whalley neighbours – whether it’s through my annual community picnics, holiday open houses or just generally being out and about.

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