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

I would be a fresh voice of bold change for Surrey-Whalley. After 16 years of BC Liberal government, social problems including homelessness and the opioid crisis have escalated, traffic is worse and our schools are bursting at the seams. And after 16 years in opposition, the BC NDP have continually failed to articulate a vision for change that resonates with British Columbians. The status quo bickering between the two parties has not helped either as they refuse to cooperate on any issue for political reasons.

Myself and my team at the BC Greens can offer the citizens of Surrey-Whalley new alternatives to solving the major urban issues of the day. We place education and life-long learning as our top priority, and preparing people of all ages for the new 21st century economy. We are not funded by corporations or unions, and are therefore not under their influence in anyway – we are funded by, and will work for, the individuals in our ridings.

  1.  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?

The strengths of Surrey City Centre are it’s vibrant it’s growing urban centre with the new library, city hall and SFU campus.  For those living near Skytrain and work downtown or other parts of Metro Vancouver, Surrey offers a more affordable place to raise a family or buy a home for the first time.

 Challenges include affordability for the many renters in the area and single parent families. The number of homeless has risen in the past year, as has the rates of poverty, particularly for children and youth. It is now estimated the 71,000 people in Surrey live on or below the poverty line. Surrey also has the second highest rate of fentanyl overdoses in the BC, many occurring in the city centre. 

I would love to see Central Surrey become an even more attractive alternative place for people to live and put down roots. This will require better transit to areas outside of the main core, as well as cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. We need to encourage more businesses to come into the area including restaurants, cafes and theatres to make living here even more attractive to younger working people. We need to combine density with green spaces and places to get outside where people feel safe and refreshed.

  1.  A variety of housing is needed: affordable housing for youth, families and seniors, supportive housing for those requiring help with addition 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 Greens have a comprehensive plan to address the housing affordability crisis in urban areas in BC, including communities like Surrey-Whalley. Lack of affordable housing hits hardest on the working poor, welfare recipients, students and seniors. While curbing real estate speculation through the implementation of a province-wide foreign buyers tax, a progressive property transfer tax, and a progressive property tax system, we would work with financial institutions to protect recent home buyers negatively affected by market cooling initiatives.  

While these issues are important, the heart of the problem lies in the lack of supply of affordable housing and rental housing, as well as precarious employment situations for many, especially millennials, that disqualifies them from qualifying for conventional mortgages. BC Greens would invest up to $750 million to build 4,000 new rental units in BC per year. And we would work with federal and local governments to make land available for the construction of new affordable housing. And we would protect existing social housing and reduce operating costs by investing $100 million per year in retrofits and renovations of older units.  

BC Greens would protect tenants from unfair rent increases and rennovictions, and work with BC Housing to enable the inclusion of private rental properties in its directly managed portfolio of rental accommodation.

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

The priority for healthcare funding in Surrey must be in the areas of mental health and addictions. With rising fentanyl overdoses and homelessness, the status quo of patchwork health services mixed with police services, is not working. We would focus on prevention, harm reduction and recovery.

Early intervention is key to solving the problem in the long run, but people currently addicted need to be treated as having a health crisis, not a criminal one, and addicts need to be treated with dignity and offered treatment, not punishment. Central Surrey needs at least one safe injection site and widespread naloxone training to prevent more unnecessary and cruel deaths.

Investments also must be made to modernize  and create efficiencies in our healthcare system that feature an emphasis on general prevention and primary care to avert crises down the road. We desperately need more family doctors, as well as an integrated system of interprofessionals such as physiotherapists  and dieticians, to reduce the need for people to see a general practitioner.

  1.  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?

The whole community must come together to deal with this crisis. Mental health and addictions have many root causes and solutions must be approached from many different angles.

  1. Care and treatment of those in crisis (as stated above) so they do not just land up on the street immediately after recovering from an overdose.
  2. Prevention and education for youth that includes access to mental health services from a young age, as well as general quality early childhood education.
  3. Legalization of cannabis to discourage small time drug dealers from breaking into the drug market.
  4. Community-based solutions including community policing and neighbourhood response teams. Police should be concentrating on tackling serious crime, rather than having to substitute for social workers and mental health outreach workers.
  5. Enhance the coordination of initiatives targeting gangs and organized crime.
  1.  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 BC Greens view quality education and fair access to life long learning as our top priority.

Education is a key factor in determining health outcomes, improving income potential and becoming more engaged in civic life.

Surrey schools are notoriously overcrowded. This was the situation when I was in the system in the 1970s, and has only worsened over time. Many young families and immigrants are attracted to the areas as housing is more affordable than many other places in Metro Vancouver, but classroom spaces have never been able to keep up to population growth.

The BC Greens platform includes a commitment to review the current funding model for the K-12 education system with a view to ensuring equitable access for all students. This will address targeting funding to schools with the greatest need and increasing local autonomy regarding funding priorities and distribution. This would include Surrey. Current funding is based on a per-student allocation and does not account for differing needs of students or locations. 

City planners also must be better regulated to plan for creating more classroom spaces when they approve more building permits for developers (as well as hospitals and transportation infrastructure).

  1.  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?

This particular issue is not addressed in the BC Greens platform, however, I am certain we would fight to change this. Operating budgets and infrastructure budgets should be separate. Students suffer from prolonged classes in portables, so this needs to be addressed as a core issue in increasing the equitability of the quality of education for all students, regardless of school or neighbourhood. 

  1.  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?

The BC Greens would establish a task force to study the entire system of post-secondary education in BC to assess how we can better prepare students for the new economy and to a create more spaces and opportunities.

The task force will examine questions such as:

  • Why do students need four years of university to earn a bachelor’s degree? Can the same degree of proficiency be accomplished in two or three years, depending on the field?
  • How can we better support the diverse interests and talents of students?
  • How can we expand students’ minds and experience? For example, should each bachelor’s degree candidate spend two out of four years as an intern or apprentice with a potential employer? This approach could result in doubling college capacity, thus allowing colleges to double their enrollment.
  • Can make better use of technology to offer students more access to online learning?
  1.  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?

#1   Not enough transit into neighbourhoods and connections to downtown

 We fully support the recommendations in the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation 10 Year Plan. We would commit to matching the federal government’s commitment to fund public transit in Metro Vancouver. We would also work to find matching funding to replace the Pattullo Bridge with one that includes transit priorities and bike lanes. 

BC Greens would invest $25 million per year to address frequency of service and affordable fairs. We would work with local governments to address funding for community and regional transportation infrastructure, including Handydart, and will examine tools such as mobility pricing to manage congestion and generate funds for transportation upgrades.

#2  Lack of safe and convenient cycling and walking infrastructure

Again, we support the Mayors’ Council on creating more mode share options including cycling and walking through the planning and implementation of a cycling network of separated bike lanes and sidewalks and crosswalks around schools and other main community gathering places. This will include bikes on buses and the LRT and safe bike parking at Skytrain stations.

#3  Air quality from too many cars on the road

Despite massive investments in transit and cycling/walking infrastructure, use of the single occupancy vehicle will likely remain the transportation choice for many people for years to come. In order to reduce the amount of pollution and costs of gas to power these vehicles, we need to greatly enhance incentives for people to purchase low emission and electric vehicles. The costs are already falling and battery efficiencies are greatly improving, but we need to inject more effort into encouraging (maybe mandating?) people to switch to these types of vehicles. And the province needs to work with local governments to create the infrastructure to support them including creating a network of charging stations in public places and at people’s residences.

  1.  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 Green Party platform focuses on plans to achieve financial sustainability for all British Columbians by ensuring people have the knowledge, skills and abilities to be successful in the 21st century economy. We also focus on ways to stimulate innovation in small to medium sized businesses, as we as public institutions and Crown corporations.

For residents of Surrey-Whalley, the key is creating well-paying, full time jobs close to home, not minimum wage, part time or contract. Income security is a key driver in maintaining the health of an individual and a community.

The clean technology sector is one area we would particularly focus on, but we also need to offer re-training programs to employ more people in this sector. Services in another area – healthcare and education are two growing sectors, as well as construction and building retrofits.

There also is a lot more government can be doing to promote entrepreneurship, leadership and skills development along with post-secondary institutions such as SFU and Kwantlen.

The other factor in keeping people living well in Surrey is to greatly improve transportation options so that they can commute to where their jobs are, and still live in Surrey. 

  1.  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? 

Surrey’s diversity is one of its strengths. We should embrace and celebrate this, not try and work around it. We need more funding for ESL classes, diversity training for teachers and more inclusive community centre programs.

As the MLA for Surrey-Whalley, I would spend as much time as I could reaching out to the diverse communities within the riding by attending different events and services hosted by the different groups, speaking at schools, and listening as best I can to their concerns, issues and ideas.