Surrey State of the City Address looks at a post-pandemic future

Mayor Doug McCallum discussed upcoming initiatives and programs passed by the council

Doug McCallum’s 2021 Virtual State of the City Address. (Youtube/ screenshot)

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum virtually delivered the annual State of the City Address on May 18 through Facebook and YouTube Live.

“Despite the events of 2020, Surrey has not only withstood the strain of COVID, but has become stronger and more resilient because of it,” said McCallum.

The mayor said 16 new capital projects had been funded, including the Newton Community Centre, the First Nations Carving Centre at Elgin Heritage Park, and an Athletics Centre in Bear Creek Park.

“These facilities, like the new community centre in Newton, have been long overdue, and council is changing that,” said McCallum. “As a city, our residents and businesses have been resilient in these unprecedented times, and now is the time to push forward and invest in much needed services for our residents, while creating jobs and helping our local economy.”

Heritage BC provided a $400,000 grant to build the Carving Centre, and the project is guided by ongoing communication with the Katzie, Kwantlen, and Semiahmoo Nations. The centre is planning to open in 2022.

For 2021 and beyond, the city will see numerous infrastructure projects such as the 84 Avenue connector that will connect King George Boulevard with 140 Street, the King George Bailey bridge replacement, the widening of 32 Avenue and upgrades to the Colebrook Dykes.

McCallum updated the public about the municipal police force transition along with the capital and infrastructure projects, which he hopes to begin by the end of this year.

Surrey Police Chief Norm Lipinski has created a senior leadership team and is currently looking for people to join. Currently, the force is working on their badge, which has been given Royal approval, and the design for their vehicles. McCallum said unveiling would be done in the near future.

McCallum said the city did not take on any additional debt last year and has held property tax at 2.9 per cent for the third year in a row. Surrey City Councillor Brenda Locke said she feels it is “disingenuous” of him to say the city is holding taxes at 2.9 per cent without mentioning the capital parcel tax to be imposed on Surrey residents.

McCallum also addressed numerous green initiatives in his speech that were undertaken since his time in office and what he plans for the next few years.

Since November 2018, Surrey has planted over 23,500 trees and increased the fines for illegally cutting trees ranging from $500 to $20,000.

The council is committed to a 10-year investment of $131 million for the city’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, a team whose goal is to preserve Surrey’s natural habitats for the future.

In November, there will be a new ban on plastic bags and foam containers to help reduce the use of single-use items.

Surrey will also add another 40 Level 2 public charging stations for electric vehicles, and three fast-charging stations at 12 city facilities over the next five years.

Regarding public transit, the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain Extension project is still underway, and the council recently finished the partnership agreements.

“The progress that we have made through the pandemic is indicative of Surrey’s resilience and proof that we are moving, at a great pace, in the right direction. People are coming to Surrey, big companies are relocating here, and I am not the least bit surprised,” McCallum said.