Delta North: Strong and Steady
The Riding seems to be quite healthy, with it’s strong industrial base on Annacis Island, a strong commercial component along the Scott Road Corridor, and a large residential component. The population 51,300 is quite diverse, and includes the largest percentage of people of South Asian origin, over the other Liberal-held ridings in the south Fraser. Perched on the western boundary of Surrey, the community is stable. Ray Hudson spoke with MLA Scott Hamilton, asking about the economic climate in North Delta.
Scott Hamilton: The riding is quite healthy, but it’s how you manage the growth in Delta that is important. People I talk to are more concerned with getting home from work, not sitting in traffic, that’s a big issue. Once home from work they concern themselves with getting their kids to the hockey rink, soccer pitch, the softball field or the ballet class. We truly are a bedroom community in every sense of the word, but we have to manage ourselves next to the giants just on the north side of the river, and the east side of Scott Road. In housing, we are seeing affordability issues arising in the community, and people are talking to me about the cost of housing. It is spilling into North Delta now, as it is starting to become ‘discovered.’ It’s funny, as I was talking about managing growth, my youngest daughter works for a company called Fifth Avenue Homes, “specializing in Designer Homes for young families.” saying that she was thinking about getting into the market by buying a townhouse. She came right out and asked me if my government was going to impact the market at all, because she didn’t want to find herself in that unenviable position of owning an asset that’s worth less than what she paid for it. We certainly recall the eighties when people were walking away from their homes, so that’s another interesting perspective. One can end up messing with the market just by saying the wrong word, so we have to be careful how we manage that. Delta is going through a lot of in-fill growth, which is a local issue and doesn’t directly affect the Provincial government. But I hear about it a lot, and it does speak to the strength of the economy in the whole area. There’s not a lot of new growth where it didn’t exist before.
Ray Hudson: There seems to be much more traffic on the roads around the riding.
Scott Hamilton: One of the big issues that’s come up in recent weeks concerns the traffic issues on Annacis Island. There has been a considerable influx of more ‘rat-runners’ trying to find a shortcut around the lines approaching the Alex Fraser bridge during the afternoon rush hour. And traffic is like water, it will seek the path of least resistance. If people can shave five minutes off their commute by cutting around a few corners, and making the odd illegal left-hand turn, they’re going to do it. I’ve been involved with the Corporation of Delta in trying to deal with the issue by engaging the Ministry of Transportation and we’re still exploring our options for opportunities to try and get traffic flowing better. It’s adversely affecting the people that work on the island. Also with transportation, I’ve been working on the George Massey Tunnel replacement. The federal budget is coming down in a week, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed. I know that the appropriate counterparts in the transportation ministries in Ottawa and Victoria have been talking. The Minister of Transportation has been keenly involved in the project as it has gone forward and has made some pretty significant announcements. I know there are still some detractors but the new crossing represents a vital key component of the transportation infrastructure for the region. I’ve also got a mayor (in Delta) who’s lined up against just about every other mayor in the region, in her support for this bridge, and I’ve had her over to Victoria to meet with the Transportation staff, and reiterating her support. The tunnel is almost sixty years old and it’s past its best-before date. There are a lot of issues associated with a bridge, but it’s the best option. Ray Hudson: That raises the issue of Road Pricing.
Scott Hamilton: We have to talk about tolling, of course, in the context of regional pricing, and the only fair way to go. When you wind up with a new Pattullo and the tunnel replacement, the Alex Fraser bridge, which is at capacity now, becomes the only Fraser crossing that isn’t tolled. My dad had an expression about trying to shove ten pounds of meat into a five-pound bag, and I find that kind of appropriate in this case.
Ray Hudson: For the people on the north side, that dollar doesn’t go very far toward maintaining their bridges either.
Scott Hamilton: Precisely. I find that living south of the Fraser River, people have more need to travel to the north, than people living north have to come to the south, so I really don’t see a downside to regional tolling. But it’s all up for discussion and we’re going to be taking the collective temperature of everyone and making a yes or no decision on regional pricing, as well as all our tolling options as we go forward.
Ray Hudson: What about the overpass to remove the light at the 72nd intersection. Last year you outlined the cost-sharing program of $30 million to reconfigure the intersection and lose the light. What’s going on with that project?
Scott Hamilton: MK Delta Lands floated a proposal for the land they bought at the foot of 72nd on the southeast corner with highway 91. $20 million was already on the table from the province and the feds, plus $10 million from the MK Delta Lands project. Delta council chose, in discussion with the developer, some time ago, to put that project on hold. We’ve had a federal election since then and that $10 million has disappeared. MK Delta Lands has moved it’s project north to River Road and South Fraser Perimeter Road to land they own there. The new plan is for the land to be developed for warehousing and logistics use, and they would wind up gifting the property at 72nd to Delta to form part of the Burns Bog Conservatory. So that’s where the money went. It doesn’t mean I don’t continue to talk to people about the intersection, but it will be tougher to do now with the way things have rolled out.
Ray Hudson: Delta Hospital still seems to be the little hospital that could. What has been going on there?
Scott Hamilton: Hospitals are regional facilities and you need to put your money where you‘ll get the most bang for the buck. There’s been a huge investment in the Delta Hospital by the Elizabeth and Peter Toigo family, as they acquired the naming rights to the new laboratory facility, which will be a centre of excellence for laboratory work. I also think they’re getting a new building to house their CT Scanner. The hospital to me is a lot more now than it was in 2001, before it was threatened to be closed. I’ve also been dealing with some groups, concerned about acute care, and I’m pleased that I was successful in getting the extension in the hours and helping them get the observation beds they wanted so they could perform minor surgery after hours, and if necessary keep someone overnight rather than sending them to Richmond. There’s also the discussion that we must have when it comes to hospital care for long-term care. In terms of using money to the best advantage if we put money into long-term care, we can have four subsidized beds at $200 to $300 a day in a long term care facility like Deltaview Private hospital. The patient will likely get better, more and better specialized care, and for the price of one acute care bed at $1,500 per day. We’re always trying to find the right balance, but notwithstanding the limited number of dollars that we have, we’ve injected more money into health care in the last few years. At 42% of our provincial budget, it’s record-setting, and it’s massive.
Scott Hamilton, MLA Delta North