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Surrey mayor slams B.C. budget

Brenda Locke finds the provincial budget, unveiled Thursday, to be ‘surprisingly disappointing’
Brenda Locke says there is little in the provincial budget for Surrey. She’s pictured here speaking to media at the official opening of Habitat @ 81st in Surrey on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (Photo: Anna Burns)

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke says the provincial government’s 2024 budget unveiled Thursday “really lacks any good news for Surrey” and is “surprisingly disappointing.”

“It sure isn’t going to alleviate any of the problems we have right now, with health care,” she told the Now-Leader. “There was a hope there would be some significant investment in schools in Surrey and there certainly isn’t.

“There was a hope there would be significant investment – the minister actually said that there would be another tower for SMH, it’s nowhere in the budget, nowhere that I saw in the budget and then the other thing is the affordability issue, which is of a very big concern to me, was TransLink and TransLink mayors had asked for additional funding to support transit in B.C., or transit in Metro and there is nothing in TransLink that I can see.”

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She declined to give the NDP budget a letter grade, though.

“Oh, I don’t want to do that,” she replied. “I’m just extraordinarily disappointed as this province has been saying build, build, build. I have been saying loud and clear we need infrastructure and we are not getting it so how on earth do they expect us to build without transit, without health care and without schools. It’s pretty challenging.”

She said she’s “sure” these grievances with the budget will be expressed by other city governments.

“I’m sure that most of the Metro [Vancouver] mayors, I didn’t see anybody seeing anything that I would say was great for them,” she added. “Certainly for me, it’s disappointing. It’s surprisingly disappointing.”

Page 40 of the 170-page budget and fiscal plan document indicates $2.9 billion for the new hospital and integrated cancer centre in Cloverdale as an example of “health sector capital investments” in Budget 2024 and page 42 sets out in the transportation capital plan $4 billion to build the Surrey/Langley SkyTrain project. It also cites as an example of K-12 capital investments in the budget $44 million for the new Snokomish Elementary school in Surrey.

To this, Locke said while she acknowledges and welcomes the funding for the new hospital and SkyTrain extension these won’t be completed for at least another four years, and “one new elementary school will not make a dent in reducing the hundreds of portables at our already overcrowded public schools.

“We’re glad to get an extra school, but one? One? How’s that supposed to help us? It’s not. One school won’t dent it.”

Locke also noted that the budget document mentions the Pattullo Bridge replacement. “That one’s almost done.”

Moreover, she observed, the NDP included that the BC Housing Commission is investing $50 million through its ARH program and other contributions partnering with Habitat Housing Society to develop 100 units of affordable rental housing for families and youth at 81 Avenue and King George Boulevard. “It doesn’t even say the development was expected to be developed in 2023,” Locke said with astonishment. “Yeah, it was.”

“They put that in there. The thing is built, it’s occupied. What are they talking about?”

Meantime, the City of Surrey has until May 15 under the Community Charter Act to approve and finalize its own 2024 general budget.

READ ALSO: Surrey plans 12,000-seat stadium, mayor says ‘groundwork already begun’

The Surrey Board of Trade also weighed in on the provincial budget.

“The Surrey Board of Trade is pleased to hear about the increased threshold for the Employer Health Tax, and that the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain and the SFU Medical School projects were specifically mentioned in the budget,” Anita Huberman, CEO of the board, stated in a press release.

“We are disappointed that a tax review was not mentioned, and that Surrey will not receive capital investments in Budget 2024 for more health care services at the second hospital in Surrey or for schools,” Huberman added. “There was no indication of further funds committed if the Surrey policing transition is to continue. Funding for Bus Rapid Transit projects or other transit improvements connecting Surrey all together were also omitted from this budget.”

A press release from the ministry of finance, as to be expected, sang the budget’s praises, describing it as “taking action for people, families in B.C.” and taking on the “big challenges people are facing today by helping with everyday costs, delivering more homes faster, strengthening health care and services, and building a stronger, cleaner economy.”

But the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) in a press release maintains that “while there are some commendable measures, the overall budget lacks sufficient focus on fiscal discipline and policies to get provincial prosperity growing again.”

“We do not agree the government should be running large operating deficits when the economy is near full capacity and people are struggling to pay the bills because of inflation,” stated Ken Peacock, BCBC’s chief economist.

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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