Vaccine rollout, supporting local businesses and pandemic fatigue were among the topics discussed at a virtual COVID-19 town hall, hosted by the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce.
The hour-long Zoom webinar, hosted by chamber executive director Ritu Khanna, featured a number of panelists – Fraser Health’s Cathy Wiebe, MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay (South Surrey-White Rock), Surrey Couns. Linda Annis and Allison Patton, White Rock Coun. David Chesney, MLA Stephanie Cadieux (Surrey South) and WorkSafeBC’s Chris Back – and served as a way to update the community on a number of topics, business-related and otherwise.
Friday’s COVID-19 webinar was the 10th hosted by the chamber since last March.
Wiebe kicked off the discussion by saying while “there is a lot of optimism… about a vaccine” there is fatigue and frustration setting in as we near the one-year mark of lock-downs and varying levels of health-related restrictions. She made note of new variant strains of COVID-19 that have been found in the community, and also pointed out that COVID-19 cases in the health region are still high overall and “we need to turn the trend” down.
The South Surrey COVID-19 testing facility – located at the park and ride on King George Boulevard – was also briefly discussed, with Wiebe noting it “has a lot of capacity” for testing and that there are no delays.
Other highlights of the session included Annis noting that the City of Surrey had reopened both the Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre and Clayton Heights Library – “I know that will make a lot of residents very happy,” she said – while Patton followed by promoting some of the city’s economic and job numbers.
Business growth in the city was similar in 2020 to 2019, she said, adding that the Campbell Heights industrial district in particular has seen an eight per-cent boost in businesses operating there now compared to 2019.
Findlay provided viewers of the webinar with a federal jobs update – touching on the emergency rent and wage subsidies – while also being critical of some aspects of the Liberal Party of Canada’s CERB program as well as the fact that rent subsidies were issued to landlords rather than tenants.
Both Findlay and Cadieux also called for the Washington side of Peace Arch Park to be closed.
Chesney, meanwhile, noted that the City of White Rock has recently seen two major events – the Sea Festival and the Tour de White Rock – cancelled for 2021. He expressed optimism that the city would not have to re-implement waterfront restrictions, as it did last year.
“Hopefully as we get closer and closer to better weather, we’re praying to the heavens that we don’t have to bring back the blue fencing and close off the parking lots and the promenade.”