In­ter­view: Am­rik Virk, MLA Sur­rey Tyne­head

Asian Journal - - Front Page - Ray Hud­son

As the Asian Jour­nal con­tin­ues its se­ries of speak­ing with the re­gion’s MLAs about the is­sues in their con­stituen­cies, Am­rik Virk, the MLA for Sur­rey Tyne­head talks about his rid­ing.

Ray Hud­son: Sev­eral of the MLAs I’ve spo­ken with have ex­pressed some con­cerns about crime in Sur­rey. You have a unique per­spec­tive com­ing from a long polic­ing back­ground. How do you view the is­sue at this time?

Am­rik Virk: Crime rates on the whole are at a four year low. There are ne­far­i­ous char­ac­ters that do bad things and are blips that we did ex­pe­ri­ence in the last year, and clearly there was a short­age of po­lice of­fi­cers which is now pretty much re­solved. There have been tremen­dous im­prove­ments, and I have on­go­ing meet­ings with the lo­cal po­lice chief and the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral’s of­fice. Oc­ca­sion­ally you see a spike, but I know, from my time on the street in Sur­rey that it’s gen­er­ally one or two in­di­vid­u­als. But over­all most crime types are much lower than when I po­liced Sur­rey. In the broader pic­ture, as the Min­is­ter of Tech­nol­ogy, In­no­va­tion and Ci­ti­zen Ser­vices, I’m in­volved in the $25 mil­lion pro­ject across the prov­ince to pro­vide ad­di­tional court­house fa­cil­i­ties, which will help al­le­vi­ate the prob­lem of trial de­lays. That’s some­thing a lot of peo­ple don’t know, if it’s not a bridge or a hos­pi­tal, it’s my min­istry that is the builder of those kinds of in­fra­struc­ture projects across the prov­ince. In Sur­rey there has been a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for the ex­pan­sion of the amount of room that the Crown Pros­e­cu­tor Ser­vice had avail­able to them as the Jus­tice Cam­pus has ex­panded into the for­mer City Hall com­plex. I’ve been through that build­ing and the reno- va­tion is al­low­ing the op­er­a­tions to be more in­te­grated and seam­less, which will re­sult in more ef­fi­ciency in the pros­e­cu­tions. That’s the sort of ren­o­va­tion that my min­istry has been in­volved in.

Ray Hud­son: Last year you said that many of your in­dus­trial con­stituents in Port Kells were ex­pect­ing an in­crease in busi­ness from LNG ac­tiv­i­ties, which have slowed con­sid­er­ably. The re­cent pro­vin­cial bud­get presents an op­ti­mistic pic­ture, so how does this trans­late to your rid­ing?

Am­rik Virk: It’s a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween the north and the lower main­land. They are so con­nected with each other. Many of the com­pa­nies in the Port Kells in­dus­trial area sup­ply a lot of the heavy en­gines, truck tires and other parts and prod­ucts that go north, so while there has been some slow­down in the com­modi­ties area, over­all we are do­ing pretty well as a prov­ince. Our fore­cast is the high­est in all of Canada. Last year alone there was al­most fifty thou­sand full time jobs cre­ated in BC. No other prov­ince can boast that. We’ve had al­most fifty thou­sand new peo­ple com­ing to BC, about thir­teen thou­sand of them from other provinces. We’re repa­tri­at­ing Bri­tish Columbians be­cause many that left have seen the op­por­tu­nity here, and are com­ing back. Still, we have to re­main pru­dent. BC re­mains very, very strong, but there’s an in­sta­bil­ity around the world that we have to deal with. With re­spect to Liq­ue­fied Nat­u­ral Gas (LNG), we still have a num­ber of pro­po­nents who have put about seven bil­lion dol­lars into BC to ex­plore for LNG. Those com­pa­nies are look­ing at a twenty-five to forty year win­dow rather than the cur­rent low price trends. I’m very op­ti­mistic that LNG op­por­tu­ni­ties will con­tinue to ex­ist and com­pa­nies will con­tinue to build on those and con­tinue to ex­pand job cre­ation in BC. I’m very bullish on it.

Ray Hud­son: You are the Min­is­ter for Tech­nol­ogy, In­no­va­tion and Ci­ti­zen Ser­vices, what can you tell us about de­vel­op­ments in the In­no­va­tion area, and par­tic­u­larly Sur­rey’s In­no­va­tion Boule­vard pro­ject?

Am­rik Virk: Re­cently we had the Tech Sum­mit in BC with thirty-six hun­dred peo­ple from all over the world, one hun­dred and forty-four of those were in­vestors. We show­cased BC’s Tech In­dus­try which, in­clud­ing that of Sur­rey, is the strong­est job cre­ator in the prov­ince, and grow­ing at dou­ble the rate of ev­ery­body else. A ma­jor part of that is the ‘cleantech’ sec­tor, which are com­pa­nies seek­ing to in­crease per­for­mance, pro­duc­tiv­ity and ef­fi­ciency by min­i­miz­ing neg­a­tive ef­fects on the en­vi­ron­ment. For ex­am­ple, we have the Fore­sight Cleantech Ac­cel­er­a­tor Cen­tre, in New­ton, where my min­istry has pro­vided the seed fund­ing. In fact, 10% of the prov­ince’s cleantech com­pa­nies are in New­ton. Fore­sight is one of four­teen cleantech ac­cel­er­a­tors we run across the prov­ince with seed fund­ing pro­vided by my min­istry. Their goal is to take cleantech com­pa­nies that are in the early stages, teach them busi­ness acu­men, teach them skills, in­tro­duce them to mar­kets and then cre­ate jobs. Jump­ing to Sur­rey’s Health In­no­va­tion Boule­vard, I was with Lark De­vel­op­ment’s Larry Fisher and Kirk Fisher as they opened up the se­cond health tech cen­tre build­ing (equipped with state of the art com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture and sys­tems). That’s Phase Two of eight build­ings with po­ten­tially 1.1 mil­lion square feet, to be built right next to the hos­pi­tal and will draw health tech­nol­ogy in the life sci­ences to Sur­rey. It will cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for health tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies and could cre­ate 5,600 jobs right here in the vicin­ity of Sur­rey Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal, so the fu­ture looks very bright. All of this is sup­ported by a highly ed­u­cated work­force, and with re­spect to in­creased fund­ing at the lo­cal cam­pus of Si­mon Fraser and Kwantlen Polytechnic univer­si­ties, that’s some­thing that I’m go­ing to push for, and I can tell you I’m hop­ing for some real pos­i­tive news in that re­spect so we’ll talk again in about eight months and I’ll have some good news I hope.

Ray Hud­son: I’d like to ask about the set­tle­ment of the Syr­ian refugees in the Tyne­head rid­ing. How are things go­ing with the on that is­sue?

Am­rik Virk: There was a lot of fear and trep­i­da­tion and ap­pre­hen­sion by some, but the good na­ture of Cana­di­ans, from the na­tional to the lo­cal level was so im­pres­sive. When we were at the Fleet­wood com­mu­nity meet­ing in Jan­uary, we saw hun­dreds of peo­ple who spoke up to ask how they could help. There was such an out­pour­ing of sup­port, such as from Tony Singh of Fruit­i­cana, who said he would pro­vide fresh, healthy food to th­ese peo­ple. There were condo own­ers who were of­fer­ing free hous­ing, and in­di­vid­u­als ask­ing how many they could take into their base­ment suites. I sug­gest that as our econ­omy con­tin­ues to grow we’re go­ing to need peo­ple to fill the jobs. Some of those in­di­vid­u­als are go­ing to come from wartorn ar­eas that need our help, like the Su­danese and Eritre­ans refugees we’ve taken, and the Chaldean Chris­tians that came from the north of Iraq, and we’re go­ing to con­tinue to open our arms and wel­come new­com­ers be­cause that’s what makes the strength of Canada.

Photo: Ray Hud­son

MLA Virk speak­ing to the Refugee In­for­ma­tion Fo­rum in Fleet­wood

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