The pandemic is no excuse for holding off on local infrastructure projects such as refortifying White Rock’s iconic pier and constructing a 24 Avenue interchange off of Highway 99, South Surrey-White Rock Conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay said Thursday (Sept. 10).
“One of the criticisms I had even before COVID hit was that the infrastructure programs simply don’t roll out fast enough, they’re not agile enough,” Findlay said during a digital business roundtable hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade.
Describing such programs as seemingly “mired in bureaucracy and red tape,” Findlay said funding is available, can be targeted and can be released, “even in times of COVID.”
“I think this is one way to stimulate, it’s also a job creator. We need to have the infrastructure in place to get us, goods and services where we need to go.”
The roundtable, which also included Cloverdale-Langley City Conservative MP Tamara Jansen, was the latest in SBOT’s digital townhall series.
Impacts to small business was another key focus of the discussion, with both MPs emphasizing the need to support local business as the economy reopens.
“We have different protocols, we have to do things differently, but we do want to see our small business community recover, and recover well,” Findlay said. “We’ve lost a few already. I’m very concerned about those that are trying to open up again who are really struggling – and some are struggling more than others.”
Jansen agreed the reopening has “been a real challenge,” with many business owners wondering “what are the assurances that we won’t be closed down again?”
Pointing to this week’s amended order issued by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to close nightclubs and banquet halls – intended, Henry said Tuesday (Sept. 8), to “take away that late-night temptation people have, when we know there’s been mixing (of social groups) going on and transmission is happening in these venues” – Jansen said there are concerns about “shutting down an entire set of businesses based on some bad actors.”
She said a recent prediction that 60 per cent of restaurants may not open again come November is “a very scary thing,” and that she has been using social media posts to encourage people to support them.
Overcoming fear “is going to be a real challenge,” she said.
“A lot of our messaging right now has been about cases rising – it creates a lot of fear,” she explained.
Jansen shared statistics including on the national job situation during the pandemic, comparing August numbers to those seen in February.
“It’s a bit of a scary number there,” she said of a one-million-plus drop in full-time jobs.
COVID-19 “has hit us very, very hard” financially, she added, describing a deficit comparable to what happened in the Second World War.
“We have borrowed as if we were in a war – and we were not in a very good position when we started out,” she said. “We need to make sure we’re not going to find ourselves in a jam.”
Asked how for their perspective on B.C. job losses, Findlay said B.C. “in some ways” seems to be doing better than other areas.
“I worry when I see increased closures… and we seem to be sliding backwards,” she said.
Jansen added there is a “definite need” to support industries such as tourism and food service.
As for when government supports run out, Findlay said “we must get back to a place where these subsidies don’t exist.”
“We have to, or we will collapse as an economy.”
To watch the full townhall meeting, visit businessinsurrey.com/events/recent_speakers