Whal­ley: Strongly and Pos­i­tively In For­ward Mo­tion

Con­stituency Con­cerns: Bruce Ral­ston, MLA Sur­rey-Whal­ley

Asian Journal - - News - Ray Hud­son

The down­town core of the city of Sur­rey has been grow­ing dra­mat­i­cally since the con­struc­tion of the Cen­tral City Tower, the re­fit of the mall, Sur­rey’s new Main Li­brary, the state of the art City Hall, and now the 3 Civic Plaza. The district has ex­ploded with de­vel­op­ment that shows no in­di­ca­tion of slow­ing down any­time soon.

Bruce Ral­ston: Even from the time I was with the coun­cil decades ago now, I’ve al­ways been com­mit­ted to build­ing a gen­uine metropoli­tan city cen­tre in Sur­rey and it seems to be fi­nally tak­ing off. It’s good news. The mix is strongly res­i­den­tial, so I hope for more high-rise of­fice space to truly di­ver­sify the down­town core. With the growth of that comes other spinoffs in­clud­ing the ex­pan­sion of SFU Sur­rey, which I’ve strongly ad­vo­cated for. The govern­ment made some com­mit­ments that they haven’t quite fol­lowed through on, in terms of more stu­dent spa­ces at SFU. Still the stu­dent in­flu­ence creates more de­mand for stu­dent hous­ing, as well as for ser­vices like restau­rants and all kinds of retail op­por­tu­ni­ties. I think the lower main­land has a two-pronged metropoli­tan cen­tre with the down­town core in Van­cou­ver and in the de­vel­op­ing down­town core in Sur­rey, for this side of the Fraser River and the val­ley. In­creas­ingly I find that peo­ple don’t feel the need, or don’t want to go to down­town Van­cou­ver. They want those ser­vices here in Sur­rey. There’s much more on the so­cial side that needs to be built in the down­town core, such as more per­for­mance spa­ces, but with the new city li­brary, the city hall, some of the down­town res­i­den­tial, and the changes at City Cen­tre Mall, the core has re­ally done well. West­min­ster Sav­ings and Credit Union has said they’re mov­ing their head­quar­ters to the city cen­tre, and there’s the new tower at 3 Civic Plaza, where KPU will put its busi­ness stud­ies. There’s more ex­pan­sion of SFU and its Pub­lic Health depart­ment in con­junc­tion with the Tech­nol­ogy Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion. The ex­pan­sion of the hos­pi­tal is good and the city has a plan (In­no­va­tion Boule­vard) to build and at­tract med­i­cal re­search and an­cil­lary ser­vices that are part of the health con­stel­la­tion. Th­ese are all good things. The city cen­tre is chang­ing and that’s what I’ve worked for, as have many oth­ers over the last sev­eral decades.

Ray Hud­son: Have the de­mo­graph­ics of the rid­ing been chang­ing at all?

Bruce Ral­ston: On the sta­tis­tics side, av­er­age house­hold in­comes are a lit­tle bit below av­er­age in Whal­ley. The av­er­age tends to go up as you head south. The high rise tow­ers have a new de­mo­graphic of peo­ple and are shift­ing what Whal­ley looks like.

Ray Hud­son: What’s the topic of dis­cus­sion on the street or when some­one comes into your of­fice?

Bruce Ral­ston: Some of the de­vel­op­ment has cre­ated is­sues with some hous­ing ad­vo­cates con­cerned about the home­less and af­ford­able hous­ing in the area. Tra­di­tion­ally, the north part of Sur­rey has seen rents of the lower end of mar­ket rents, and some of the pres­sures are driv­ing rents up, so that’s one is­sue. As a re­sult of that there are some com­plaints about land­lords who don’t pro­vide clean or safe hous­ing. I hear reg­u­larly about the un­reg­u­lated, so-called, re­cov­ery houses which are not pro­vid­ing any re­cov­ery or ther­apy, but are a ve­hi­cle for the land­lord to take wel­fare rent cheques from peo­ple, while they over-house and un­der-ser­vice them. One chronic con­cern that is oc­cur­ring in other parts of Sur­rey, and that con­cerns me, be­cause I’m a Sur­rey MLA, is the over-crowd­ing of schools and in­ad­e­quate fund­ing of the Sur­rey pub­lic school sys­tem. In Cloverdale, Guild­ford and south Sur­rey, we re­cently met with the Par­ent Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee and the Su­per­in­ten­dent of Sur­rey Schools, about the un­der­fund­ing on the cap­i­tal side to Sur­rey, the fastest grow­ing, and the largest pub­lic school sys­tem in the prov­ince. An­other is­sue is Worksafe BC, and the changes that the govern­ment has made to it. Peo­ple are get­ting in­creas­ingly des­per­ate about their abil­ity to be com­pen­sated by Worksafe, so those are tough cases to deal with. More re­cently the change im­pacted the dis­abled and their bus pass ar­range­ments. A promised in­crease in dis­abil­ity rates was off­set by changes that any­one want­ing a bus pass would have to pay $52 a month to get one. Much of the in­crease in pay­ments, to most peo­ple’s great dis­ap­point­ment and anger, evap­o­rated once the ad­di­tional cost of the bus pass was tacked-on.

Ray Hud­son: One of the main is­sues of con­cern to your col­leagues Sue Ham­mell and Harry Bains, has been the pub­lic shoot-outs.

Bruce Ral­ston: The re­cent spate of shoot­ings has re­ally raised anx­i­ety in Sur­rey. I raised it in the leg­is­la­ture in the fall call­ing for an emer­gency de­bate of the leg­is­la­ture on crime and safety in Sur­rey. We’ve also sought and tried to get a briefing from the Chief of Po­lice, Bill Fordy. He has re­fused to meet with us. He’s met with the min­is­ter, and the city coun­cil of Sur­rey, and al­though he has met with us in the past, he now claims he doesn’t have au­thor­ity to meet with us and brief us. We are to rely on pub­lic brief­ings. I must say I’m sur­prised.

Ray Hud­son: In­no­va­tion Boule­vard is in your neigh­bour­hood, and seems to be catch­ing ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion and ex­cite­ment with this on-go­ing ini­tia­tive in the city.

Bruce Ral­ston: I’ve met with SFU and the Tech­nol­ogy Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion and a few peo­ple in­volved di­rectly in some of the com­pa­nies. I think it’s an as­pi­ra­tional idea and needs to be filled out, but I think it’s an im­por­tant first step, but there’s much more that can be done to build a re­ally vi­brant, ef­fec­tive clus­ter.

Ray Hud­son: Any Fi­nal com­ments?

Bruce Ral­ston: I’ve been in­ter­ested lately, in the de­ci­sion of the fed­eral govern­ment to wel­come refugees to BC. A lot of those peo­ple will come to Sur­rey, be­cause of the com­mu­ni­ties that are al­ready here and be­cause the cost of hous­ing in Van­cou­ver and Burn­aby is pro­hib­i­tive. I’ve been pretty im­pressed with the way peo­ple have stepped up to help with that. There’s a strong com­mu­nity spirit in Whal­ley, whether it’s the fire ser­vice, the Whal­ley lit­tle league, the Down­town Sur­rey Busi­ness Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, lots of or­ga­ni­za­tions that hold the City Cen­tre and Whal­ley first, and do great work. I also meet reg­u­larly with the Whal­ley Ser­vice Providers, which in­cludes the lo­cal po­lice and lo­cal ser­vice providers, so I’m al­ways pleased to be work­ing with all of them to build a stronger safer, more pros­per­ous com­mu­nity.

Photo: Ray Hud­son

Bruce Ralt­son, MLA Sur­rey-Whal­ley

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