Premier John Horgan says with today’s COVID-19 crisis it “seems like an eternity” since he was invited three weeks ago to speak in Surrey about the provincial budget.
He spoke at a Surrey Board of Trade luncheon Tuesday on what effect the 2020 B.C. budget will have on Surrey’s businesses and economy.
Besides the pandemic, he noted, B.C. has also been dealing with oil price fluctuations, market volatility, forest fires.
“Obviously these are significant challenges,” Horgan said. “All governments can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
The premier noted that since B.C. does considerable trade with China, it has been preparing for the COVID-19 crisis since January.
Tuesday’s event was held, at Northview Golf and Country Club, despite provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry advising the public on Monday concerning COVID-19 that as for community events – particularly gatherings in closed spaces, where meals are shared – people should “consider having alternatives to those types of environments right now, particularly if they’re being attended by people who are elderly, who are more likely to have severe illness or complications from this virus.”
Henry said it’s important we all try to “put some distance between us, even in small events, in business meetings, look at how we can do these things virtually.”
Concerns about COVID-19 prompted the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce to reschedule its Campbell Heights Business Growth and Opportunities event. The March 10 presentation was set to be held at Starline Windows – a Business of the Year Award winner at the chamber’s 21st Annual Business Excellence Awards – and feature Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum.
Horgan’s audience of roughly 200 Tuesday gave him a standing ovation as he approached the podium. He received a second standing ovation when he finished speaking, and a third after taking questions.
The premier spoke about affordability, “a vague and nebulous” concept. When he was 10, he recalled, a bottle of pop was 10 cents, “and that wasn’t affordable to me.”
But if housing is unaffordable, he said, people will think twice before settling in and investing here. Horgan said that’s why his government took steps to “cool off” the housing market.
“It’s about making sure you get the balance right,” he said. “We let the air out a little bit.”
On health care, Horgan said, his government has set up urgent primary care centres across the province, and “the first one was right here in Surrey.”
Horgan also spoke about the new hospital for Surrey, to be built in Cloverdale.
“It’s in the capital budget,” he stressed.
“If we put people at the centre of our equations, all of us benefit,” he said.
On the bridge to replace the Pattullo Bridge, Horgan reconfirmed it will be four lanes, not six as critics have called for.
“It’s going to be four lanes with an ability to get up to six,” he said.
Horgan noted the Pattullo Bridge, as is, is “ridiculously scary” to cross.
“The first order of business is to stop it from falling into the river,” he said.
On the City of Surrey replacing the Surrey RCMP to set up it’s own police force, Horgan said it was ultimately Surrey council’s decision “and we will back that up.
“We had to listen to what they had to say,” he said.
Meantime, Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman told the Now-Leader on Tuesday morning that the 11th Annual Surrey Women in Business Awards on Thursday, at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel, will also go ahead.
“We have a huge women’s event also on Thursday and we’re still proceeding with it,” she said. “We did a risk assessment with the Sheraton and put some measures in place which includes disinfectant, you know, those dispensary at each of the entry way to the ballroom, in the foyer. And we have a special way that we’re going to be announcing today to network and to greet each other instead of shaking hands.
Everybody literally rubbing elbows at the Surrey Board of Trade luncheon in Cloverdale, waiting for Premier John Horgan to speak. Oh wait, I think I just saw a hug. #SurreyBC
— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) March 10, 2020
“We’re trying to mitigate but we’re proceeding with the two big events we have this week,” Huberman said. “It’s spring break the next two weeks so we have a minimal, a minimal number of events in the next two weeks.”
As for the Horgan event on Tuesday, she said the board “talked to Northview golf yesterday, did the risk assessment same with the disinfectant at each of the entry ways in the foyer and to the ballroom at Northview.”
Meantime, about 20 members of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign staked out the entrance of the golf course, waving placards to let Horgan know they’re still “in the game.”
“We’re not going to do anything other than be visible, and peaceful, and law-abiding,” said Paul Daynes, a strategist for the campaign. “We’re in the game – this is just the start, we’re switching to an activist mode.”
“This is one of the things we were urged to do by our volunteers,” Daynes said.
Horgan did not take questions from the media on the way out, saying he had a plane to catch.
“Sorry man,” he shrugged.
– With a file by Tracy Holmes