Bryn Smith, BC NDP candidate, Surrey-White Rock
1) The City of Surrey’s decision to transition to a municipal police force has raised concerns among constituents over costs and transparency. How would you address these? Is a public referendum the answer?
A: I’ve heard from and responded to a great deal of messages from residents concerned about the transition, and I appreciate their need for safety in our community. The Police Act is clear – any municipality with over 5000 residents has the ultimate responsibility for decisions on policing. In provincial government, our interest is in ensuring the safety of the public, and the NDP continues to make decisions with this in mind.
I understand the temptation to go along with the BC Liberal referendum ‘plan’. But they simply aren’t being clear about what that referendum would mean, when they would hold one, or what authority it would have. Andrew Wilkinson won’t say whether a referendum would be binding or not, saying it still “has to be determined.” That’s a lot weaker than what the Liberals have said and continue to say on the subject, and the result is a situation that would be more uncertain under the BC Liberals, not less.
We’re committed here at the NDP to public safety. We’ll always make sure the province holds up its end of the bargain.
2) Covid-19 has exposed some cracks in the system with regard to seniors health – particularly those in long-term care. What approach would you favour in dealing with this?
A: I’ve said throughout this campaign that the BC Liberals don’t respect us and our needs in Surrey-White Rock. The crises they left in long-term care are a perfect example. They privatized and cut care-giver hours in our seniors’ homes, and let for-profit homes pocket the money that should’ve been spent on our elders. All these effects were felt painfully during COVID-19, and especially in this riding.
The NDP has been, and continues to work to solve the problems the Liberals left from their time in office. We’re hiring 7000 new health care workers, building more long-term care homes and bringing private facilities to heel with new transparency laws.
I’ve seen a gap exists between the old and the young in this riding. We face similar issues due to the BC Liberals – drastic cuts to both education and long-term care, the loneliness prevalent in both our cohorts, and property values pricing us both out of our homes and the housing market. I believe this gap needs to be bridged in this riding, and that people my age begin to recognize the value and experience our elders have. I would work to bring us closer as MLA of Surrey-White Rock, and create opportunities for us all to learn from one another.
3) What is the best path to take in helping B.C. and the Semiahmoo Peninsula in its economic recovery, and for supporting business during, and after, the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: We’ve implemented measures to keep people safe and get them the help they need. For us, that’s crucial to rebuilding a local economy. People have to be confident they won’t fall ill, and have to have the money in their pocket to spend.
Our economic recovery plan, Stronger BC, will invest in jobs and skills training, a 15% refundable tax credit on new payroll to encourage rehiring, and $300 million in grants for small and medium sized businesses. We’re also stimulating the economy on the demand side of the curve, with stimulus cheques that put money in people’s pockets and ignite demand.
We can’t just build a bailout that works for the rich. In other parts of the country and the world, we’ve seen inequality go up during COVID-19, not down. The NDP’s recovery will build a better province for everyone, not just those at the top.
4) What would you like to see done to improve educational facilities, and to address ongoing school overcrowding, in the riding?
A: Earl Marriott Secondary and Semiahmoo Secondary were systematically overcrowded by the BC Liberals, in spite of this riding being one of their most reliable voting blocs. The neglect of our schools says everything about how much they ‘care’ for us here in Surrey-White Rock. We needed the Grandview Heights Secondary School 15 years ago. The Liberals knew that as well as we did, yet the land remained totally empty.
Our standards, and our priorities are different. The NDP put shovels in the ground, and construction is underway at Grandview Heights. We’re putting $403 million into improving our schools and building new ones. This plan will pull 8900 students out of portables and back into classrooms. Class sizes are the lowest they’ve been in the last decade. I’m proud to run for a party that puts people first, and will make sure our kids receive the school experiences they deserve.
• ALSO RUNNING IN SURREY-WHITE ROCK
5) What is/are the most pressing environmental concern(s) for residents in the riding and how would it/they be best addressed?
A: I see the potential for climate change to hit us hard, especially here in Surrey-White Rock. In the long term, rising sea levels threaten White Rock and Crescent Beach. Forest fires will create more smog like we saw just last month, and air quality will degrade. We’ll also start to feel the effects of climate change that will come to other parts of the world, and our dependence on ‘just-in-time’ delivery throughout our supply chains will begin to backfire.
The NDP recognizes the seriousness of this crisis. We’ve pledged to create a path to carbon neutrality, and ban single-use plastics. We’ll also create a Watershed Security Fund that will create jobs restoring our waterways and watersheds, bringing in Indigenous, local, and regional initiatives. We’re also stepping up to protect old-growth forests and forcing polluters to pay for cleanup of abandoned industrial projects.
This issue touches me very personally as a young person. I couldn’t sit idly by as the world begins to warp under the strain of increased ecological damage. This is the beginning of our efforts to fight climate change, not the end, and I will make climate change my cause while in office.
6) Strata dwellers in B.C. saw a sharp rise in their insurance rates over a single year, with Metro Vancouver residents seeing an average increase of more than 50 per cent. Has the current government done enough to address this issue. If not, what other steps should be taken?
A: I’ve talked to numerous condo owners and strata dwellers who have felt the pain of rate increases. Unfortunately, this is yet another consequence of the for-profit mentality, with insurance companies passing the buck on to their customers during COVID-19. As a housing activist with ACORN, I’ve also heard from renters who are facing similar attempts from their landlords to push the costs of rising insurance on to their tenants.
The NDP has already started work to try and lower these fees in a few different ways. We’re closing loopholes in strata insurance, and giving the BC Financial Services Authority free reign to investigate insurance costs. Moreover, if these costs don’t correct by the end of next year, we’ll bring in a public insurance option for strata insurance.
7) Transportation continues to be a concern for local commuters. What can and should be done at a provincial level to help relieve gridlock?
A: Our riding is extremely car-dependent, and that simply won’t bring about a sustainable future. That’s why we’re committing to new measures to increase public transportation and expand active transportation. The NDP will complete the Skytrain line to Langley, and add new rail and rapid bus lines. Our goal with CleanBC is to double trips taken via walking and biking by 2030, and we’ll work closely with both Surrey and White Rock to make this possible on our streets.
8) What is/are the most pressing health care concern(s) for residents in the riding and how would it/they be best addressed?
A: Residents in our ridings depend on our care homes, long-term care, and Peace Arch Hospital to protect us and keep us safe. The new Surrey hospital will help ease the burden on Peace Arch, and it will have a regional cancer centre. We’ve purchased a new site, and if re-elected, shovels will hit the dirt.
The last time the BC Liberals were in office, this simply wasn’t the case. They sold the land for what would’ve been a new hospital to a Liberal donor for a $3 million discount from its valuation. The disrespect was blatant, and I see no reason to think something similar wouldn’t happen again.
We have a plan to reduce wait times for surgeries and other procedures as well. And we can back that up with the things we’ve done to expand access to healthcare. When the BC Liberals were in office, there was 1 (one) MRI machine operating 24/7. Since the NDP took office, there are now ten, with plans to bring in even more. We’ll also be putting up more Urgent Primary Care Centres, two of which will be in Surrey.
9) Would you support a cap on the percentage increase in rent/lease rates that commercial landlords in B.C. could impose upon tenants in a single year? Why or why not?
A: We’re stepping up to protect our businesses from being priced out during the pandemic. Many small businesses I loved have closed due to such rent increases. John Horgan and Carole James were among the first to petition the federal government when it became clear that much-needed federal aid wasn’t getting to enough of our businesses, and we’ve worked with other provinces on this file as well.
As a result, we have a new federal commercial rent subsidy that’ll cover up to 65% of eligible expenses. This will go straight to the tenants, not the landlords. While we don’t have plans to cap these rate increases, we will continue to monitor the issue of affordability and are prepared to take action as needed.