B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson has fired back at criticisms levelled at her recently-tabled three-year budget by B.C. Liberal MLAs representing South Surrey and White Rock.
Rejecting claims from Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux and Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford that the Surrey and White Rock area is being short-changed by the NDP government, particularly with regard to investment in a new Surrey hospital and cancer centre in Cloverdale, the extension of SkyTrain to Langley and funding for schools and mental health services, Robinson said she is “disappointed” by their remarks.
She understands the role of opposition critics, she said — “I’ve been in opposition myself.”
“But they’re not being truthful,” she charged. “I want to reassure voters that building a new Surrey hospital is in the budget.”
Cadieux told Peace Arch News last week that “They (the provincial government) don’t have money in the budget, except notionally, for the Surrey hospital that they’ve promised.”
But, Robinson said, the government’s commitment of $1.66 billion to the project is genuine, not theoretical.
“They’re saying it isn’t in the budget, but I notice that even one of their colleagues has said that the $1.66 billion is not enough for the hospital — they’re contradicting themselves, which shows how they’re all over the place.”
Robinson said an apparent discrepancy regarding the hospital picked up in the criticisms – the budget said it will be open for patients in the summer of 2027, and also that it will be completed in 2028 – is a misinterpretation of phases of construction.
“It’s not accurate,” she said. “Completion means that the landscaping and every last detail of construction is done. But occupancy is a year ahead of that – as soon as it’s feasible for patients to be in there. Surrey deserves to have a (functioning) hospital as soon as possible.”
Robinson noted that planning for the SkyTrain extension from Surrey to Langley is also among the $7.8 billion the province is allocating to transportation and infrastructure over the three years of the budget.
“The funding will include making the business case for the SkyTrain – you have to get that, because it’s the responsible thing to do,” Robinson said. “(The project) also has to have input from the Mayors’ Council and the federal government. Many of the details will come through the business case.
“Five years ago, we had nothing – it’s exciting for Surrey and we should be thrilled that we’re at this point. Surrey has been ignored for many years, but now we’re investing in transit.”
In terms of school funding, she said, the provincial government is “trying to make up for lost time,” due to underfunding by the previous BC Liberal government.
While Cadieux charged last week that the NDP had “abandoned its commitment to eliminate portable classrooms,” Robinson noted “this last year is the first year Surrey (school district) did not have have to buy portables — which is the first time in a very a very long time.”
“Nobody says we’re there yet,” Robinson added. “There’s still a ton of investment that has to be made, but we’re getting there.”
Although the NDP budget has earmarked a half-billion dollars to focus on mental health and addiction services over the next three years, Halford – opposition critic for mental health and addictions – said last week the budget does not allocate enough this year for “affordable access to counselling and psychiatric services.”
But Robinson said the province is continuing to invest in mental health care; pointing to a new investment of some half a billion dollars into a “co-ordinated and integrated” program for child and youth mental health support, which will include the hiring of 350 new full-time workers.
“These aren’t ‘affordable services’, these are free services,” she said.
“Our focus for the Surrey area right now is on the new hospital, schools and transit, but there’s a lot of investment coming south of the Fraser and Surrey will be included in that.”