This feature was part of our July 22 “A Salute to Construction in Our Community” special section. Click here to see the full edition.
Schools, towers, houses, a hospital, a bridge, roads, and expanding the SkyTrain line.
If they’re not already being built here in Surrey, they soon will be. And Minister of Labour Harry Bains says that means good-paying construction jobs are to be had in this booming city.
The province’s gross investment in construction projects for Surrey in the 2020/2021 fiscal year – that’s including work on transit, capital and rehabilitation projects – is $102,943,178.
“As they say our future lives in Surrey and I firmly believe in that and construction is going to play a big part in our economic restart and they are good-paying jobs,” says Bains, NDP MLA for Surrey-Newton.
Construction was declared an essential service after the pandemic hit 16 months ago. The Pattullo Bridge replacement, expected to be opened in 2024, is underway, while the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain is in the wings and a second hospital for Surrey, situated in Cloverdale, is set to be built and will mean “hundreds if not thousands of jobs, good paying construction jobs,” Bains said.
“When investors are looking at investing in Surrey and British Columbia they know that there is skilled labour available to them and they would be able to complete their projects knowing that the labour is available and that they will be successful in achieving in a timely fashion,” he said.
But the challenge, he added, is “when you look at all of those activities, especially in construction, in Surrey there is going to be an issue of labour shortage and skill shortage.”
That’s why the province is working to ensure there are enough workers. Initiatives like the Community Benefit Agreement look to get local people working and benefiting from their own tax dollars, as well as setting up training programs for today and to build a needed pool of skilled labour for tomorrow.
Bains noted the provincial government has signed agreements to that end with the federal government, securing $2.5 billion over the next six years through the Workforce Development Agreement and the Labour Market Development to provide training and skills upgrades in the trades. It also added $90 million in funding to the ITA (Industry Training Association), he said, which is a government agency focused on skilled trades training.
“When you look at that and put Surrey in that picture, Surrey is going to be the largest city soon, and we need infrastructure.”
He pointed out that the 2021 provincial budget added $3 billion to the $21 billion already earmarked for funding for infrastructure, and this includes schools.
“We are committed to eliminate those portables and schools are being built right now at a record pace, and in record numbers, so we can get all those students out of portables and into a real classroom,” Bains said.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum remarked in May that the city will be needing more townhouses, and soon, to accommodate what he says will be a post-pandemic wave of immigration coming into this city.
Bains noted Surrey is already experiencing a record number of housing starts.
“You see the buildings cropping up everywhere, the tall buildings, single family homes,” he said. “The government recognizes Surrey is the fastest growing and we need housing as a part of the attraction.”