The BC Liberals say Surrey residents have been “duped” by the BC NDP due to the fact there is no money in the 2020 budget for a new hospital in Cloverdale, but a Surrey NDP MLA says there’s good reason.
On Monday, the BC Liberal Caucus tweeted a 12-second clip of Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh. The tweet stated Singh “confirms there is no money in the NDP’s budget for a second Surrey Hospital. Surrey, you have been duped.”
In the short clip, Singh said “this process would have been much more quicker” and it “would have been in the budget, but unfortunately, this is not what the previous government thought.”
🚨 BREAKING: Surrey NDP MLA @RachnaSinghNDP confirms there is no money in the NDP’s budget for a second Surrey Hospital.
— BC Liberal Caucus (@BCLiberalCaucus) February 25, 2020
Singh’s comments were made during the budget debate on Monday afternoon when she was highlighting parts of the budget and some of the NDP’s announcements over the past year, including the new hospital near 55th Avenue and 180th Street, which was announced in December of 2019.
As she was speaking, someone could be heard talking in the background.
“I see my colleague talking about the Surrey hospital, but he should remember that it was their government that sold the land that we had allocated for the Surrey hospital,” said Singh, referring to land near Highway 10 and 152nd Street.
“If we still had that land, Mr. Speaker, this process would have been much more quicker… the Surrey hospital would have been in the budget today.
“But unfortunately, this is not what the previous government thought. Their minister of Citizen Services, I don’t know what he was thinking when he decided to sell off that land. but we made the commitment to people of Surrey that we will build the hospital.”
Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims told the Now-Leader Tuesday afternoon that the reason the hospital isn’t in the 2020 budget because the business plan isn’t yet complete.
Sims said the business plan is expected by the end of the year. The final cost is expected to be between $1 billion and $2 billion.
She said money for capital projects “sits in different buckets,” so the funding is “sitting in the bucket that saves capital plans for the next five years.” Money, Sims said, was taken out of that and put into the operating funds last year to do the concept and business plans.
“The business plan will be finished by the end of this year. It does take that long because it is a $1- to $2-billion project.”
Sims said after the plan is done, it will go to tender to be awarded to a company or group of companies, “then you have specific dollars that are then transferred from the capital fund over into the operating budget.”
However, Surrey-Cloverdale Liberal MLA Marvin Hunt said the NDP isn’t doing “normal budgeting.”
“There’s not even a provision,” he said. “In Surrey, when we were planning to do a project and it was in a timeframe, we would start to put in a block, a position-holder, in the capital budget to say… we’re going to put that in our budget two years from now because we won’t be ready to actually do that for two years because we’ve got to go through this, that, and the other thing.”
Hunt said $1 billion to $2 billion “is a huge gap.”
“It’s not in their budget because they haven’t given it a number because they’re not going to give it a number until it comes to the next election,” he said. “That means, if it’s not in the three-year (budget), it’s not in the five-year, that means they have no intention of building it until after the next election.”
In response to the Liberal caucus’ tweets, the BC New Democrat Caucus sent out a release stating that “Andrew Wilkinson’s land sale shows he would cancel (the) second Surrey hospital.” Wilkinson was the Minister of Citizens Services at the time.
— Jinny Sims (@jinnysims) February 25, 2020
Sims is also quoted in the release adding that “Wilkinson’s 2014 decision to sell a site designated for a second Surrey hospital shows that he can’t be trusted to finish the second hospital that John Horgan has started in Surrey.
In the 1990s, premier Mike Harcourt’s NDP provincial government bought some property at 5750 Panorama Drive, near 152nd Street and Highway 10, as a potential site for a new hospital. In subsequent years Liberal premier Gordon Campbell staged a press conference on that property and declared, “We will be building a hospital here.”
The land, at the corner of Highway 10 and 152nd Street, had been earmarked for health care development under the Surrey Official Community Plan’s South Newton Neighbourhood Concept Plan.
This, of course, did not happen. The Liberals sold the Panorama property for $20,516,000 in March 2014.
– With files from Tom Zytaruk, Malin Jordan