UPDATED: Horgan says Surrey youth anti-gang program would get $500K annually from NDP government
SURREY — A New Democratic provincial government would provide $500,000 annually to help fund Surrey's anti-gang Wraparound program, opposition leader John Horgan announced today.
He staged a pre-election presser outside Fleetwood Park Secondary on Monday.
"We wanted to make sure we were in the heart of Surrey to make this commitment to the young people of this region," he told reporters.
"There has been a rash of shootings in Surrey, on average one a week for the past two years. The community has had enough, everybody has had enough, and the B.C. Liberals have been asleep at the switch."
Meantime, Amrik Virk, Liberal MLA for Tynehead, noted that gang violence knows no boundaries and accused Horgan of staging his press conference in this city to "poke Surrey residents in the eye" while failing to "run over" to Vancouver to do the same.
"I think they're being unfair to Surrey residents," Virk said of the NDP.
The Wraparound youth program is a joint initiative between the school district and RCMP to provide mentors for at-risk children, Horgan noted, "so they can be given role models to not get in to the pipeline that will take them in to the gang life, but get them on-track so they can have meaningful and productive lives in the community.
"The B.C. Liberals have ignored this program," Horgan said. "In fact they boosted it one time only at the height of the crisis a year ago and have neglected it ever since."
He said an NDP government would work to put kids on the "right track.
"I was on the wrong track when I was in high school and I was saved by teachers and mentors who stepped up for me," the NDP leader said.
Horgan said that last year 30 kids were on a wait list. "How do you deliver a program that's supposed to be designed to helping kids in a school district when you were going to say to half of them they have to wait until there's adequate funding? We want to stop that, we want to eliminate the wait list."
Horgan said program organizers currently have to apply annually through the provincial civil forfeiture program to get one-time grants. "We want to make it a secure, stable ongoing program," he said, adding that $500,000 annual contributions would keep it "stable and secure."
"That's the least I believe we can do to start our way out of the violence that we've seen in this community for so long. Citizens deserve to feel safe, kids deserve to have the opportunities they need to feel safe."
The provincial election is on May 9.
Meantime, Virk said it's "appropriate for the public to get a fulsome picture."
The Wraparound program, he said, has helped more than 500 students under his government's watch. He accused Horgan of pulling "numbers out of the air, pre-emptive of grants that are imminent" from the Liberal government.
"Mimicry is the best form of flattery," Virk said.
Virk said his government has spent $64 million annually on a "full suite" of anti-gang enforcement in B.C., featuring the Gang Exit Program and End Gang Life Program, which he said has to date reached 20,000 students.
He expressed pride that Wraparound is funded through the proceeds of property seized from gangsters.