SURREY — The Surrey Board of Trade is lobbying the provincial government to increase funding for transportation, health care, education and PST in next year's B.C. budget.
The members of the board spoke to the B.C. Liberal government's Standing Committee of Finance on Sept. 23 about their priorities, including improvements to public transit and medical care south of the Fraser River.
"Despite our population growth, the provincial government is not investing in this major economic centre," said SBoT CEO Anita Huberman. "With transportation, we're asking for a specific investment on light rail infrastructure to be able to move our people across the city."
While the expansion of Surrey Memorial Hospital and the development of the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre have helped local health care, the board claims that the current facilities can't meet the region's requirements. According to the SBoT, "Despite there being a million people in Surrey and the South Fraser, per capita funding for Fraser Health is still 50 per cent below funding levels of the rest of the province."
The board of trade has also challenged protential increases to the provincial sales tax, stating that economy will increase in a tougher fiscal environment if taxes remain the same.
"There are recommendations from the B.C. government's expert panel on tax that have not been fully implemented," said Huberman. "Their mandate was to implement specific administrative improvements to the PST and also review all small business taxes."
In regard to education, the board has asked for Kwantlen Polytechnic University's funding to be tripled, given that the post-secondary institution has received record enrolment for the current school year.
"The capital funding model that the B.C. government has for education funding does not meet the current needs and demands of our population," she said, noting that KPU and SFU Surrey combined can offer only 12.7 spots for every 100 potential students between the ages of 18 and 24 in the region.
As for where the provincial government could find the money to better support such issues, Huberman said there are numerous ways the ministry of finance can rearrange the budget.
"There are creative solutions in all of these things," she said, suggesting that a private-public partnership, for instance, could help fund education.
"It's about reallocating priorities within their budget: spending less on BC Ferries or other things that compromise the development of our work force."
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