Members of the Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force brainstorm ideas during a meeting last week.

Members of the Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force brainstorm ideas during a meeting last week.

Group aims to make poverty on the Peninsula an election issue

Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force will host an all-candidates meeting April 25.

Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force intends to make poverty a topic of discussion for the next provincial election.

PH2H started brainstorming Friday on how it could raise awareness leading up to voting day, May 9.

PH2H member Joan McMurtry, former minister of First United Church, said the election “would be a good chance for us to raise awareness about who actually lives in this constituency.”

McMurtry told PH2H members that she was reading an analysis of the Surrey-White Rock constituency and it said the area favours Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties because they both “cater to the wealthy and their policies support wealthy and it’s wealthy that live in our area.”

“It just annoyed me when it suggested that we only vote for self-interest. Secondly, it’s just not true that everyone here is wealthy,” McMurtry said at the meeting.

McMurtry pitched the idea of PH2H forming a side committee that would create an awareness campaign for the Surrey-South and Surrey-White Rock constituencies.

“Who are the low income? Who are the homeless? Who are people struggling to find housing? I’m willing to do the work around that and think of ways to raise awareness,” McMurtry said.

PH2H member Pat Petrala said she would join the awareness committee.

Petrala referenced the latest property assessment, which was mailed to property owners at the beginning of the month. She said she’s been hearing “angst” from homeowners because their property value was raised beyond the $1.2 million eligibility for the provincial homeowner grant. (Petrala made the comments before the provincial government announced Tuesday that it would raise the homeowner grant threshold to $1.6 million.)

The struggle, she said, will be for homeowners who rely on a fixed income.

“They’re going to have to sell their house and there’s no place to go. I don’t know what the numbers are in terms of property-tax deferrals at the municipal level. How many seniors are deferring their property taxes?” she said.

Homeowners who qualify for the grant get a $570 annual credit against their property taxes if under the age of 65, or $845 for seniors.

In an email sent to PH2H members Tuesday, chairman Neil Fernyhough confirmed the task force will host an all-candidates meeting April 25 at Gracepoint Church. Nominated candidates from both Surrey-South and Surrey-White Rock are to be invited.

At last week’s meeting, Fernyhough was requested to invite the Semiahmoo Seniors Planning Table and the South Surrey/White Rock Child and Youth Committee to co-sponsor the event. He said wrote to both chairs and formally invited them to do so.

Fernyhough said he will monitor nominations and invite candidates as they are named.