Social Policy

Team Mandate

To address the following issues and others as they impact Surrey’s quality of life.

  • Children, youth and families
  • Education, in general
  • Diversity
  • Integration of marginalized peoples
  • Homelessness
  • Poverty
  • Heath care
  • Recommend action/policy to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce
  • Make submissions to appropriate government representatives

The mandate for the Social Policy Team was modified when the Workplace Development Team was developed to ensure clarity of purpose.

For more information or to join, contact Anne Peterson.


Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade is the Co-Chair of Surrey’s Local Immigration Partnership Table with City of Surrey Councillor Judy Villeneuve. Given that over half of Surrey’s population has a mother tongue other than English and that we are the #1 destination for refugees in BC, having the Surrey Board of Trade as an active part of our immigrant human capital strategy is essential. Please find an overview of our work from 2014-2016, and our strategy from 2016-2019. I thought this may be useful to you.

1. Surrey Immigrant Integration Strategy 2016-2019
The Strategy has been presented to and adopted by City Council on May 30 2016. The three year Strategy has five Strategic Directions: Accessible Services, Engaged Community, Meaningful Employment, Thriving Youth, and Sustainable Leadership.
Surrey Immigrant Integration Strategy 2016-2019

2. Surrey Local Immigration Partnership Progress Report 2014-2016
The Surrey LIP Progress Report was released in June 2016 and provides an overview of the Surrey LIP activities from its 2014 inception to April 2016 and the release    of the Strategy and Action Plan. The Report includes a section, which describes how LIP goals and objectives are achieved through its activities. Surrey Local Immigration Partnership Progress Report 2014-2016

3. South Asian Health Report
FHA_SouthAsianHealthReport_FINAL_20160606-1 – FULL REPORT
FHA_SouthAsianHealthReport_Summary_20160607-1– EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Recent Presentations

April 22, 2016 – Childcare for Workers Dialogue

160422 Ivanova Childcare Presentation

160422 FROUWS SFU Childcare Presentation

160422 Gill-Badesha Childcare Taskforce presentation


The issue: Minimum Wage in British Columbia – updated in 2015

What it’s about: In 2010 the Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT) passed a policy statement on the provincial government’s planned series of increases to minimum wage. In brief, the Surrey Board of Trade supported the staggered increase to allow the BC minimum wage to be more reflective of the cost of living in B.C., and to catch up to


other provinces in Canada, as BC had the lowest minimum wage at the time.

In March 2015 the BC government decided to tie increases in the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). As of September 15, 2015 the BC minimum wage will increase, in accordance with the 2014 CPI of approximately 2% from $10.25 to $10.45 per hour.

The Surrey Board of Trade has engaged our members and the volunteer members of our Finance and Taxation and Social Policy Advocacy Teams to understand their concerns with the new policy and the impacts it may have on our members and the business community at large.

The Surrey Board of Trade membership expressed several concerns in connection with the policy of tying minimum wage increases to the CPI, including the following:

  1. The minimum wage may not meet our current cost of living standards, leading to increased poverty that escalates health care costs and social spending;
  2. Recent changes in Alberta and in Washington State minimum wage policies may create upward pressure on the B.C. wage policy;
  3. It may be better to eliminate minimum wage and adjust education and social welfare programs to accommodate long-term low-wage employees; and
  4. Instead of addressing low wages in isolation, all the programs that assist low wage and under-employed individuals should be addressed to improve job opportunities.

Recommendation: Keeping those concerns in mind, the Surrey Board of Trade supports the decision of the British Columbia government to tie the minimum wage level to the Consumer Price Index. The measured increase should provide a small improvement to low wage employees’ living standards without causing a dramatic impact on SME employers.

The issue: Economic Benefits of Universal Pharmacare for businesses

What it’s about: Drug coverage in Canada is provided through an incomplete patchwork of private and public programs that varies across provinces. This fragmented system reduces access to medicines, diminishes drug purchasing power, duplicates administrative costs, and isolates pharmaceutical management from the


management of medical and hospital care. It is needlessly costing Canadian businesses billions of dollars every year.

Inefficiencies of fragmented coverage

The fragmented nature of drug coverage in Canada costs businesses, taxpayers, and patients billions of dollars every year. First, lack of coverage means that many Canadians cannot afford to fill necessary prescriptions.

A 2015 Angus Reid Institute poll found 29% of British Columbia households reported they did not take medicines as directed because of cost.[1] This occurs because British Columbia’s PharmaCare system provides benefits after patients have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on medicines. This costs everyone because it results in worst health for patients and increased use of tax-financed medical and hospital care.

Fragmentation also means higher drug costs. Overall, Canadians spend 40% more on pharmaceuticals than the average of 14 comparable countries that offer universal, comprehensive drug coverage, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Sweden, and New Zealand. Thus, Canada is spending $10-billion per year more than it would if it had a universal drug plan like those found in many comparable countries.

Heavy burden on business

The burden of Canada’s incomplete and inefficient system of public drug coverage falls heavily on businesses, especially the small and medium sized enterprises who comprise the backbone of Canada’s economy. With rising costs of medications, many businesses are seeing their bottom lines erode and some find they simply cannot afford to provide insurance plans for their employees.

Small businesses are least likely to offer drug coverage and few entrepreneurs and independent contractors are covered by any drug benefit plan. This harms the efficiency of our economy because many Canadians are forced to choose where to work based access to insurance rather than aptitude and passion.

Money spent on private drug plans is not being spent well. Private sector analysts estimate that up to $5 billion spent by Canadian employers on private drug benefits is wasted because private drug plans are not well positioned to manage drug pricing or the prescribing and dispensing decisions of health professionals.[2]

Dangers of a mandatory insurance system

As provincial health ministers hold discussions with their Federal counterpart, businesses are concerned of any additional costs to their employees, their insurance plans, and their bottom line. The biggest concern is that governments are considering making private drug coverage mandatory, as was done in Quebec in 1997.

The Quebec policy requires that all eligible employees be enrolled in a private drug plan. Rather than increase efficiencies, the policy further fragmented the system and generated the highest per capita costs in Canada.[3]

For 22 years prior to mandatory private drug insurance in Quebec, per capita spending on prescription drugs in was approximately equal in Quebec and the rest of Canada. In the 19 years since their policy change, costs in Quebec have far outgrown the rest of Canada. Private employers and households in Quebec now spend $200 per capita more on pharmaceuticals than employers and households in the rests of Canada.

In British Columbia, a Quebec-style system would cost employers and households an additional $920 million annually if costs rose here as they did in Quebec.

Economies of a single-payer system

There is a better option. A universal, comprehensive public drug plan that was consistent throughout BC and across Canada would be a wise investment for BC’s economic prosperity. Research has shown that such a plan would reduce employer-sponsored drug costs in Canada by up to $10.2 billion per year – a $570 million annual savings for businesses in British Columbia alone.[4] This would boost Canada’s labour market competitiveness.

A universal pharmaceutical program would be economically viable not only by taking advantage of the power of a single purchaser, but through the following:

  • Reduction of administration costs for businesses and unions
  • Elimination of the need for tax subsidies to encourage employer funded benefit packages
  • Decreased direct emergency and acute care medical costs due to inappropriate or underuse of drug therapies
  • Reduction of other health service costs

Because of these increased efficiencies, a universal pharmacare program would increase government costs by only $3.4 billion, $2.4 billion of which could be financed by the reduced cost of private drug benefits for public sector employees. The 2015 Angus Reid Institute poll found that most taxpayers would support such a program, even if it required modest increase in taxes.[5]

Moving forward

As British Columbia joins health ministers across the country to discuss how best to control the costs of pharmaceuticals through bulk purchasing agreements and other strategies, caution is advised when choosing a program of delivery. It is tempting, and usually preferable to choose private suppliers over a provincially run program; however, in terms of cost effectiveness, the best strategy is one where pharmaceuticals are added to the universal health coverage of our medicare system.

Recommendation: That the Provincial Government:

  1. Work with the Federal Government to develop a universal pharmaceutical program that will engender cost savings through bulk purchasing agreements and other cost-sharing strategies
  2. Avoid off-loading costs of providing pharmaceutical coverage onto businesses through private insurance schemes per Quebec model

[1] 2015 Angus Reid. Prescription drug access and affordability an issue for nearly a quarter of all Canadian households.
[2] 2014 Drug Trend Report. Express Scripts Canada. 2015. research/drug-trend-reports
[3] 2015, Mar-Andre Gagnon. Quebec-Style Pharmacare Program Won’t Work for the Rest of Canada.
[4] Morgan, SG, et al. Estimated cost of universal public coverage of prescription drugs in Canada. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2015. DOI:10.1503/cmaj.141564. Draft.
[5] 2015 Angus Reid. Prescription drug access and affordability an issue for nearly a quarter of all Canadian households.

The issue: Affordable Housing and a Fluid Labour Market

What it’s about: Affordable housing choices are required in British Columbia in order to be economically competitive by attracting and keeping skilled workers. Housing choices that work best are those that meet the needs of various income levels and are located within a reasonable distance from employers. However, with the


withdrawal of Federal tax incentives 20-30 years ago, and the current pressures on market housing that have been well-documented in the media, housing choices are limited and largely unaffordable for today’s employee. In order to ensure that the most basic of needs, a home, does not become a barrier for skilled labour in BC, there needs to be a variety of income-sensitive strategies to encourage innovation in the housing sector.

In a study done by Vancity[1], the cost of housing was determined to inhibit young workers from coming or staying in the greater Vancouver region. Similar studies have pointed out that the rise of real estate values is greatly outpacing incomes and the gap is growing. Very few workers receive salary increases of 10-20% per year. In fact, Vancity’s findings are that salary growth is slowing with the past five years averaging 1.3%. This, they claim, is why Millenials are exiting the Lower Mainland labour market for greener pastures where employment and housing opportunities co-exist.

Renting is often seen as an affordable alternative to house a workforce, particularly temporary or contract employees, near employment. However, with a BC average rental rate of 1.2%[2], a decrease from 2014 and the Lower Mainland rate approaching 0, the pressure on existing rental stock is inhibiting in-migration of Canadian skilled labour, particularly where they are needed the most by BC employers.

From October 2014 to October 2015, only 1,900 purpose built rentals units were constructed throughout BC (CMHC). These are either new or renovated units returned to the market. Rents are rising in response to market pressure on average of 3.7% compared to 2.4% from the previous year. As mentioned, salaries have not.

Vancity’s analysis of salaries that provide insufficient incomes for purchasing, may be enough for rental units – if available: mid-level managers, and senior administrators, computer programmers, and technicians, registered nurses and social workers, researchers, counselors, food industry workers, and contractors. The list of skilled workers unable to purchase in Metro Vancouver is long. This improves outside urban areas and into the farther regions of the province, but employment opportunities diminish.

Simply, relying on developers to provide a variety of housing stock, including purpose-built rentals, to meet differing levels of income has failed. The current stock of purpose-built rentals are aging, and not replaced by strata-based condominiums (most are not permitted to be rentals by strata councils). Co-ops and other subsidized housing arrangements are also aging and the agreements are coming to a close.

The Center for Housing Policy[3] collated a number of studies that demonstrate clearly the connection between the development of low- to mid-level income housing units and employment. They concluded that not only are employers able to attract the best and the brightest, there are spill-over benefits for the local economy.

The solution is for the Province of British Columbia to work with Federal and Local colleagues and find ways to create incentives and opportunities to save and increase the current rental stock, protect and expand co-op and co-housing units, and encourage innovation through reviewing relevant legislation that controls row housing and strata by-laws. British Columbia is doing well economically; however, to continue to do so, we need to ensure that a lack of housing for skilled labour does not become a barrier to future economic growth.

Recommendation: That the Provincial Government:

  1. Work with the Federal Government to ensure infrastructure support includes tax incentives for purpose built rental housing units, in particular larger family-friendly 2 and 3 bedroom units
  2. Review the Strata Property Act, particularly Part 8, for opportunities of freeing up currently vacant condo properties as rental units[4]
  3. Work with local governments to provide incentives for innovative development designs that provide housing units for mid-range income levels near centres of employment and transit hubs

[1] Vancity, May 2015. Help wanted: salaries, affordability and the exodus of labour from Metro Vancouver. Accessed March 2016, AboutVancity/News/ MediaReleases/Archives/ MediaReleases2015/JobsStudy_ May20_2015/
[2] CMHC, Fall 2015. Rental market report – British Columbia Highlights.
[3] 2011, Center for Housing Policy, The role of Affordable Housing in Creating Jobs and Stimulating Local Economic Development: A Review of the Literature.
[4] document/ID/freeside/98043_00

The Issue: Social Policy Framework for Healthier Communities

What it’s about: Social Policy is about what makes a province or a community the kind of place where people want to live. It is about the things that affect the quality of day-to-day life. How do we come together to meet human needs like housing, education, health, safety and caring for children? A social policy is the course of action a


government takes in relation to the health and well being of its businesses and residents. This is a provincial issue that affects business in British Columbia and has implications in our workplaces and has a general application to the economic public welfare.

A Social Policy Framework to build Healthier Communities in British Columbia will provide a road map or blueprint, providing structure around ideas and directions. Policy frameworks are tools that can guide decision making, set future direction, identify important connections and support the alignment of policies and practices both inside and outside an organization.

There are many individuals, community organizations and government ministries doing good work related to the health and well being of British Columbian’s. The provincial government plays a vital role in bringing British Columbian’s together to develop an overarching framework that is broad enough to deal with our most pressing social challenges that affect and connect to workplaces and business growth and sustainability.

The economic prosperity of British Columbia relies on people who are thriving and able to contribute to their communities with good functioning home support – employees are more productive, more engaged at work, reduced distraction that may relate to workplace accidents. Strong social structures that include early education, affordable housing, reduced crime, food security, employment and timely health care are necessary for a vital and competitive province. Many of these structures are linked and a social policy framework can identify these connections, align policies and practices and potentially save the provincial government money.

Long term planning along with innovative thinking can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of services. We all benefit when citizens, government and businesses come together to agree on a vision in which all British Columbian’s can participate in and contribute to a vibrant province.

Who would need to be involved in the development of a Social Policy Framework for Healthier Communities?

Finding ways to dialogue and engage social ministries including Health, Education Children and Family Development, Social Development and Social Innovation, Justice, Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Aboriginal Relations, municipalities, community foundations, business, boards of trade/chambers of commerce would help the government in planning and providing input through consultation together.

What’s in it for government?
A review of various major government initiatives over the years indicate that government could get better outcomes for the money, if a guiding framework of ideas, goals and expectations were at the heart of decision making. Priorities would be set and mechanisms developed to drive integrated approaches to complex issues. Senior executives would be measured on their capacities to manage horizontally across ministries as well as vertically within their own ministry.

What’s in it for municipalities?

Social issues are very evident at the community level but municipalities have neither the resources nor the mandate for managing these. Local politicians are supportive of an overarching framework (2014 UBCM Resolution on Social Policy Framework passed) that would clearly set out roles, goals and priorities at a provincial level and focus resources more effectively on complex issues. Municipalities could have greater capacity for service planning and management but at the least they want a coherent understanding about what the support systems are supposed to be in accomplishing a process to review results on a regular basis.

What’s in it for the community social-benefit sector?

The role of the sector in communities would be clarified and the work they accomplish, better understood. The framework would likely lead to some rationalizing of services which should be based on a community plan developed by each community.

What’s in it for British Columbia’s citizens?

People would be able to find services when they need them. The day to day life of BC’s workers improves when we can access the right services at the right time.

Social Policy Framework

It is a not a budget document and does not commit government to any budget numbers. It is a plan at the highest level, but is not the annual ministry service plan or work plan. It is a high level document for 10 or 20 years. To manage the framework, commitment and support at the highest level is needed. Coordinating mechanisms in government and some capacity for community planning will be required. A system wide steering committee representing various sectors including unions might be a valuable construct. The goal is to see a drive towards more cost-effective and earlier interventions and greater attention to the social determinants of heath in priority setting.

Every British Columbian depends on social services, health care, justice and education services. Our communities are partners in the delivery of many of these services and are facing increasingly complex social challenges requiring coordination between multiple social ministries of government, municipalities and the community agencies and organizations that deliver services to the public.

Recommendation: That the Provincial Government begin a consultation with British Columbians to initiate the development of a Social Policy Framework that will set out key policy directions, values, priorities, roles and expectations, and guide the creation of public policy to meet our social needs now and into the future.

The issue: Evaluation of Family Day Alignment with the Rest of Canada

What it’s about: The Surrey Board of Trade requests that the BC Provincial Government evaluate the effectiveness of the current Family Day date (2nd Monday of February) in achieving the desired outcome of more family time. The Surrey Board of Trade strongly supports the goal of quality family togetherness and believes this


could be achieved more effectively if the statutory holiday is moved to the 3rd Monday in February to be in alignment with the rest of Canada.The reason for the request is that business members have brought it to SBOT’s attention that their employees are working (at double-time) on the statutory holiday to accommodate clients and other business connections in other provinces, particularly Alberta and Ontario. Further, these same employees are then “idling” on the 3rd Monday of February when their business connections are enjoying a statutory holiday. The review is necessary to ensure that business productivity and economic activity is not adversely affected to achieve a desired goal of quality family time. Background:
In 2012, a two-week consultation process was held in order to determine if British Columbians preferred the holiday to fall on the second or third Monday in February. An informal, on line poll received 31,146 responses with 58% (18,202) choosing the second Monday, 30% (9,436) choosing the third Monday, and 3,508 (11%) had no preference. The choice of the second Monday was made in conjunction with the Tourism Industry to boost their mid-February sales. Currently, advocates for continuing with the second Monday cite the poll and the need to ensure a balance between BC’s and Alberta’s holidays so that BC’s resorts are not overcrowded and forced to turn business away.


BC’s trade partners include those provinces that celebrate Family Day on the third Monday:  Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and PEI. Further, Canada’s largest trading partner, the USA, holds their February holiday on the third Monday. As our members have informed us, this misalignment of holidays has financially impacted their businesses due to:

  • Having staff work on BC Family Day at overtime rates in order to be available to their customers in other jurisdictions
  • Having staff work a full day with minimal workloads due to the Family Day in other jurisdictions
  • Goods being shipped to and from BC can expect to be delayed at least two days. To clarify, shipping via trucking, air and private business.
  • Stock markets are closed in America and Ontario preventing trading and other business to be done

To put the economic impact in context, the following indicate revenues generated by both tourism and inter-provincial trade. These are the baselines from which a more formal evaluation of impacts can be drawn.

  • BC is home to 86 ski areas, which generate approximately 6.4 million skier visits and $600 million in annual revenue. Preliminary results from an analysis conducted by Destination BC and BC Stats, based on the 2012-13 ski season, indicate that BC ski resorts generate Incremental Visitor Spending of $878 million per year. Total visitor spending during the ski season totals $1.48 billion annually.[1]
  • Interprovincial trade accounts for 44% of BC’s total complement of trading partners. The sale of good and services from BC to interprovincial partners in 2013 generated $37 billion. Two thirds of all interprovincial exports are services, which are defined as the action of helping or doing work for someone. The loss of one day’s trading may be up to $101 million.


The purpose of Family Day is to foster well-being through a day dedicated to celebrating families. Young people at university, parents travelling for work, fly in–fly out workers, and even extended family living in other areas of the country. Families trying to accommodate work needs with family plans experience frustration and disappointment due to the conflicting dates.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to be off on the BC statutory holiday. Many companies that have interprovincial or national clients, or are themselves a national corporation must remain open on Family Day: e.g., stock brokers and financial advisors, retail and professional services, and construction and trucking).

A few examples of employee stresses due to this holiday

  • High stress levels on Stat and “light duty” work on the following Monday
  • Child Care:  Difficulty scheduling and added expense
  • Poor work place morale as staff has been required to work while their friends and family have the day off
  • Unable to complete required tasks in a timely manner due to business closures in other jurisdictions

There is no impediment to changing from 2nd to 3rd Monday as the Family Act does not designate a date in law; it simply requires the Lieutenant Governor to prescribe a day in February to be observed.

Federally, provinces can set statutory holidays independently.

Comparison with other jurisdictions:

Seven provinces have a mid-February holiday; six on the third Monday. In 2016, the dates are:

Family Day – BC Monday, February 8 BC
Islander Day Monday, February 15 PEI
Louis Riel Day Monday, February 15 MB
Heritage Day Monday, February 15 NS
President’s Day Monday, February 15 USA
Family Day Monday, February 15 AB, SK, ON

Recommendation: The Surrey Board of Trade request that the BC Provincial Government evaluates the effectiveness of the current Family Day date (2nd Monday of February) in achieving the desired outcome of more family time.

[1] Canada West Ski Areas Association, revenue from the Ski industry contributes $1.48 billion

The issue: 2016 Childcare Advocacy

What it’s about: The Surrey Board of Trade has established a policy to advocate for a national childcare program. However, there are opportunities for the BC government to assist employees gain access to affordable child care. The following recommendations are similar to the 2014 federal recommendations.

  1. That the BC government, in alignment with its Families Agenda document, investigate the overall financial savings to the provincial economy if it increases investment in secure, comprehensive child care facilities and spaces that are consistently accessible and consistently affordable with a low flat rate, such as the $10 per day recommendation
  2. To assist families out of poverty and increase employment opportunity by coordinating child care access and affordability with those programs that help parents / guardians overcome barriers to employment


Since BC published its Families First Agenda for BC in 2012, families and employers anticipated support for childcare access and affordability. Recent study findings suggest that rather than improving, accessibility is decreasing while fees are increasing challenging those most in need of assistance in gaining full employment.

In 2014, Surrey Board of Trade successfully raised the issue and gained national support at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to request that the federal government

  1. Work with the provinces and territories to fully examine the potential impact on productivity and the Canadian GDP of a countrywide system of Child care with possible implications for child care rates and spaces
  2. The findings and policy recommendations associated with the aforementioned study should be delimited by, and respect, provincial jurisdictional limitations as well as fiscal considerations, associated with the implementation of child care policy.

The Surrey Board of Trade used the work of Dr. Paul Kershaw who found that work-life conflicts of parents raising young children is actually costly for employers with resulting higher absenteeism rates, greater turnover, and increased use of employer funded extended health benefits. Further, the cost to BC business community, according to Kershaw, is over $600 million annually and over $4 billion for Canadian businesses. These costs are exasperated by the costs to the Canadian health care system of over $2.5 billion and child welfare of over $1.2 billion. Inadequate child care is too costly to ignore.


Finding adequate, safe care for children in one of the fastest growing cities in BC continues to be a major challenge for Surrey’s employees. Most care is a patchwork that provides insufficient early childhood education stimulus or simply warehouses children in a neighbour’s basement. The stress and challenge of childcare concerns do have a profound impact on an employee’s morale, productivity and ability to be fully employed.

According to First Call’s 2015 report card, BC’s rate of child poverty remains consistently higher than the national average, increasing dramatically for children of recent immigrants, aboriginal identity, female lone-parent families, racialized families, or with a disability. Child poverty is a misnomer of family poverty as children do not choose poverty but are in families experiencing under employment or unemployment.

Access to safe affordable child care is seen as a primary support mechanism to raise families out of poverty as it would allow single parents an opportunity to find and keep a job, give immigrant families opportunities to attend integration support programs, and address other barriers that families experience.

However, in BC as of 2012, only 18% of children under 12 had access to a regulated child care space, which is less than the Canadian average of 20.5%. Unregulated care arrangements include family members through to neighbourhood small care-givers, with no standards for safety or quality.

Using First Call’s most recent figures, BC invested $398 / year for regulated spaces, which is substantially less than the Canadian average of $838 / year (including Quebec; without Quebec, the average is $436). Further, BC’s investment decreased by $16 million between 2011 and 2012. As a result, parent fees are higher on average across all age groups in Canada. Fees are a major barrier to employment even with subsidies that may be available to parents/guardians that apply — although acceptance criteria is unclear.


The following highlights were compiled by the Surrey Child Care Task Force, of which Surrey Board of Trade is a member.

Population Growth

  • Surrey has BC’s largest child population and highest birth rate
  • School District 36 is the largest district in BC with approximately 70,000 students
  • Over 35,000 children are 0-5 years old in Surrey, equal in number to the 3rd largest school district in BC
  • Over 41,000 children are 6-12 years old

Labour Force participation

  • 1976: under 40% of mothers with children under 16 were in the paid labour force
  • In 2012: over 73% of mothers are in paid labour force and is continuing to climb
  • The rate for mothers with a child under 3 years has increased from 28% to almost 70% in the same time period

Child poverty (2013)

  • BC Child Poverty: 20.4% (after tax)
  • Depth of poverty has increased – average gap $11,000 below the Low Income Measure
  • 31.8% of poor children live in families with at lest one adult working full-time

Child Care in Surrey

  • Only 12.4 spaces for every 100 children aged 0-12 years, which is the second worst ration in Lower Mainland
  • BC averages 24 spaces for every 100 children
  • After school care and under 3 years old care is in serious deficit
  • Very few facilities serve more than one age group
  • 93% of available childcare is commercial
  • Child care fees as high as $1850 per month for under 3 and up to $1550 for over 3 care, and is the second largest expense in a family’s budget


  1. That the BC government, in alignment with its Families Agenda document, increase investment in secure, comprehensive childcare facilities and spaces that are accessible and affordable
  2. To assist families out of poverty and increase employment and skill building opportunities by coordinating childcare access and affordability with those programs that help parents / guardians overcome barriers to employment

The issue: Business and Health Care

What it’s about: The Social Policy team members began to research the perceived differences between per capita funding of Fraser Health Authority (the largest of the five provincial health authorities) in comparison with Vancouver Coastal. This led to the determination of four key priorities identified by Surrey Board of Trade members


that challenge workplace productivity:  access to primary care workers (e.g., family doctors, health clinics); mental illness and health; elder care; and, community and workplace wellness. In order to take action, more information was required.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Over the past year, the Surrey Board of Trade held four Surrey Leadership Dialogues on Business and Healthcare with panelists presenting on primary care, workplace mental health, senior caregiver impacts, and opportunities for wellness programs. Further, SBOT teamed with several 4th year Kwantlen Polytechnic Nursing students who developed and implemented a survey of SBOT membership and interviewed a number of members.

The result: Dialogue findings and research results are incorporated in a report that will be presented to the SBOT Board Directors early in 2016 with recommendations for further action.

The issue: Economic Benefits of Universal Pharmacare for Business

What it’s about: Delivery of drug coverage varies greatly throughout Canada and is fragmented. According to Morgan & Martin (2015), this fragmentation is unnecessarily costing the country, insurance companies, unions, businesses, and patients billions of dollars annually. Further, many businesses, especially the small and medium sized


enterprises who comprise the backbone of Canada’s economy, simply cannot afford to provide insurance plans for their employees as they cannot cover their portion of the financial arrangement. The inconsistency and costs of employees accessing appropriate drug therapy coverage directly impacts business’s bottom-line.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Surrey Board of Trade worked with UBC Economist Steve Morgan to develop a strong resolution for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to advocate for the Federal government to consider the development of a national drug program. Based on economics alone, Dr Morgan’s team found that by leveraging the power of national purchasing, the reduction to drug costs would be very significant and it would help businesses, especially small operations, reduce their portion of benefit costs; or, conversely, would provide the opportunity to use that space in the insurance packages for other desired benefits.

A detailed resolution outlining the economics of a national purchasing program was presented at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM in October 2015.

The result: Although there was strong support for the resolution, the 2/3 vote needed was not achieved. However, with the Federal government election in October 2015, there is an opportunity that the newly elected government will consider the economic savings of a national pharmaceutical program. The Surrey Board of Trade will continue to advocate to help alleviate costs on our business members.

The issue: New schools needed for Surrey

What it’s about: Surrey, along with many communities in the South Fraser region, has been dramatically under-resourced in terms of elementary and secondary school facilities. The school district was forced to use a disproportionate number of student portable classrooms this negatively impacted the school district’s budget, as these


$100 thousand portables were not considered capital facilities and were therefore the responsibility of the school district to provide. As well, most of these portables were without bathroom facilities and were not as conducive to learning as main building classrooms.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Over the last decade the Surrey Board of Trade has been lobbying the provincial government to readress the facilities imbalance in Surrey vis-a-vis the rest of the province, by releasing a position paper in partnership with the School District, the PACs, and the Post-Secondary institutions in 2011.

The result: An announcement in February 2013 said a new Secondary School will be built in the North Clayton area of Surrey. The school, to be built on property purchased that month, is expected to begin construction early 2014 with possible completion in the Spring of 2016.

The issue: Post-Secondary Funding


What it’s about: It is imperative that the level of access to post-secondary education in Surrey and the South Fraser region be brought up to the level provided to the rest of B.C. The Surrey Board of Trade recognizes the current challenge of funding this initiative in light of fiscal restraint measures required to help balance the provincial



There are 940,000 people in Surrey and the South Fraser region, the largest and fastest-growing region of BC. We produce 22% of BC’s high school graduates. However, Surrey students have much less access to post-secondary institutions than students in the rest of BC.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Simon Fraser University-Surrey together offer only 12.7 post-secondary spaces for every hundred 18-24 year olds in the region. The rest of B.C. receives almost four times that level of access, with 48.7 spaces for every hundred of these young adults.

The region’s historically low levels of access to local post-secondary spaces – degrees, diplomas, and trades certifications – has led to an environment where many students commute north of the Fraser River for their post-secondary education. But the distance to these facilities and the cost of this commute is a significant barrier. The lack of educational opportunities close to home makes access to post-secondary education particularly difficult for lower-income families.

As a result of the limited number of post-secondary spaces available in our region, more and more students are being turned away from the region’s post-secondary institutions. This is a concern to the Surrey Board of Trade.

Simon Fraser University has had to raise its admissions criteria. For 2012, only applicants who had a high school GPA of 80% or higher can be admitted. Kwantlen Polytechnic University, while in theory an open-access institution, has long waits to enter various programs and has raised some program admissions criteria.

B.C.’s Labour Market Outlook for 2010 to 2020 estimates that 78% of the expected employment openings will require a university degree or some post-secondary education (including trades).

In 2011, only 62% of Surrey’s workforce had any post-secondary education, compared to 71% in the rest of Metro Vancouver. Further education for a greater proportion of recent high school graduates and for the current workforce is of paramount importance for the people of Surrey and for Surrey’s economic and social development.

What the Surrey Board of Trade wants: The Surrey Board of Trade urges the Provincial Government to phase in a tripling of the number of post-secondary student spaces per resident in the South Fraser region from 2014 thru 2025.

Without this action, B.C.’s most populous and fastest growing region may not be capable of harnessing its potential to become a social and economic powerhouse.
With this action, Surrey and the South Fraser region – and the province – will reap many social and economic benefits.

The result: Ongoing advocacy.

The issue: Poverty Reduction Policy for both federal and provincial application.

What it’s about: Poverty increases healthcare costs, policing burdens and diminished educational outcomes. This in turn depresses productivity, labour force flexibility, and economic expansion. This really comes at a huge cost to taxpayers.


The Surrey Board of Trade has already recognized through previous position papers that homelessness and a lack of accessible and affordable childcare are central issues that challenge our robust economy.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: The Surrey Board of Trade asked that the Government of Canada, in conjunction with the provinces, design and implement a ‘National Poverty Reduction Strategy’ with goals, objectives and target dates to reduce/eliminate poverty in our country. The ask is to include an ‘Affordable Housing Strategy’ and specifically address a  ‘National Child Care Program’ to enable parents to work and contribute to the economic well-being of their families, communities and country; and asks that all programs dealing with poverty and homelessness are to lift people out of poverty rather than to make living in poverty more manageable; that the Government of British Columbia work cooperatively in a timely fashion with civic governments throughout the province, local community champions, and homebuilders to develop new, innovative and creative ways to convert, buy or build housing stock to develop.

The result: Ongoing advocacy.

The issue: Homelessness – Reallocating federal funding to develop a national plan to end homelessness.

What it’s about: Homelessness is bad for business and the Federal Government does not have a national plan to end homelessness in Canada. Homelessness has a direct financial impact on businesses as it deters customers, damages employee recruitment and retention, harms tourism and discourages companies from setting up


offices in areas with a visible homeless population. For many municipalities and business communities in Canada, homelessness is a real problem that requires expenditures on security upgrades to maintain the safety of staff and property. Businesses cannot realize their full potential while homelessness exists in their areas, due to reduced revenues through lost sales. The Federal Government needs to develop a new approach, which includes the reallocation of resources to develop a national plan that mandates the Federal Government to end homelessness within a reasonable timeframe.

Homelessness is a business deterrent that negatively affects commercial activity, harms tourism and deters investment. In fact, many businesses have incurred extra costs in response to increased homelessness activity in their area

A national plan to end homelessness will provide the necessary leadership to allow the Federal Government to measure the success of investments on homelessness programs.

Housing the homeless as a first priority is a cost-effective approach to reducing homelessness. Case study evidence shows that vulnerable and at-risk homeless families are more responsive to interventions and social services support after they are in their own housing, rather than while living in temporary/transitional facilities or housing programs. A national plan to end homelessness should adopt a housing-first approach as a best-practice model for reducing homelessness.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Recommendations submitted by the Surrey Board of Trade with the Burnaby Board of Trade:
That the Federal Government:

  1. Reallocate funds, from within the federal budget envelope, to develop a national plan to end homelessness.
  2. Establish a reasonable target for the reduction of homelessness in Canada and set a reasonable timeframe to accomplish this goal.
  3. Maintain the housing-first approach of creating and sustaining affordable and supportive housing as a first priority in the development of the national plan.
  4. Consult with other levels of government and community partners in the development of the national plan.

The result: Accepted as Canadian Chamber Policy. Ongoing observation and advocacy.

The issue: Homelessness – Surrey Business Action Plan.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Created a Surrey Action Plan on Homelessness

What can Surrey businesses, either individually or collectively, do to address this issue?

  • Educate itself and its employees about homelessness and poverty in Surrey
  • Send a letter to civic, provincial and federal decision-makers to support a national housing program;
  • Ask the Provincial Government and BC Housing Management Commission to increase investment in affordable housing options south of the Fraser;
  • Support the City of Surrey’s plan to permit secondary suites throughout the city. This will assist in housing affordability across all income levels;
  • Acknowledge, support and showcase the efforts of community services providers that show positive results and use good business practices;
  • Support initiatives that address low literacy and education levels as these are associated with increased risk of homelessness;
  • Encourage funding of community-based services for at-risk youth that prevent them becoming chronically homeless;
  • Encourage review of public policy given the double jeopardy of relatively high market rental rates coupled with the low shelter component of provincial income support.
  • Business needs to be involved to make the changes happen.

The result: The Surrey Board of Trade has hosted as part of its ‘Leadership Surrey Series’ – a Business and Homelessness Dialogue from 2011-2013.

The issue: National Census – Long Form.

What it’s about: Surrey Board of Trade position on the census: Needs to be mandatory. A mandatory census is important to business. Working from an informed position allows governments and business to make strategic plans and decisions based on detailed facts and identifiable trends. Without accurate demographic data, planning f


or programs and services that support business, cultural, social, health care, education, housing, or recreational needs will be made in ignorance and open the door to waste and abuse.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: After conducting a survey of our membership, the Surrey Board of Trade disagrees with the federal government’s decision to replace the mandatory Long Form Census with a shorter, voluntary survey. Like the Canadian Association for Business Economics (CABE) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers, we are particularly concerned about the loss of the compulsory Census Long Form as it will undermine and impact the economy, research and innovation initiatives.

The quality of data collected in the census would drop considerably if it was only through voluntary participation. Businesses and governments all depend on data for analysis, making investment and operating decisions. Funding decisions by government are based on census data. Small errors in the data with a voluntary collection could cost provincial and municipal governments millions of dollars. As the CABE stated: “achieving an adequate quality and an appropriate response rate from a voluntary survey will be very challenging and will almost certainly involve more resources than retaining the compulsory Long Form of past censuses. Secondly, the costs of maintaining existing programs in business and government will be increased because of the need to fund new data sources. Thirdly, high quality regional data at the municipal level will be seriously compromised, if not lost entirely in many parts of the country. This will require the development of alternative data sources with an enormous analytical and resource cost as well as a loss in comparability.” The Surrey Board of Trade in addition to our business members (which include universities and not- for-profit/service organizations) do not understand why the government did not solicit our input on this issue. We, with our nation-wide Chamber of Commerce/Board of Trade colleagues, rely on access to accurate census data for economic development and advocacy projects.  Consequently our membership, and by extension our communities, have a significant financial stake in the quality of the data.

If a small and voluntary census takes place, the lack of data and resulting weak decisions will tear at the very fabric of our country. Census information is abrogated at the cost of good governance; privacy issues can be addressed in other ways. We strongly urged the federal government to reverse its decision to eliminate the Census Long Form.

The result: The Surrey Board of Trade made their position clear and was recognized in the media. The Census Long Form was  implemented in 2016. POLICY WIN!

The issue: Minimum Wage.

What it’s about: Responses from a poll of the membership indicated a strong support exists for increasing the minimum wage.


What the Surrey Board of Trade did: The Surrey Board of Trade’s position is: The Surrey Board of Trade supports an increase in the provincial minimum wage to a level more reflective of the cost of living in British Columbia. The increase to the higher level should be made in such a way as to ensure a smooth transition to that level and that the minimum wage be reviewed by government on an annual basis. One idea that was brought forward was the idea of a liveable wage.  British Columbia had become the province with the lowest minimum wage in Canada as well as one of the highest costs of living in the country.  The province of BC now had the lowest minimum wage in the country at $8 per hour, not counting the widely criticized $6 training wage.

The result: Minimum wage was increased by the BC Government. Much of our position was utilized by the BC Government.

The issue: Education Funding – K-12 and Post-Secondary

What It’s about: Surrey Growth Stressing Education Resources – Business Community Seeking Solutions. Education services in Surrey and the South Fraser region, from pre-school to post-secondary, are facing unsustainable stresses, and unless new solutions are found, the rapidly growing population of this region will be significantly


disadvantaged both socially and economically. This potential outcome has spurred the Surrey Board of Trade to produce a paper on the state of education and its ramifications on the region’s economy titled, Education Today/Productivity Tomorrow.

  • One-third of Surrey residents are under 19 years of age.
  • 20% of all babies in BC are born in Surrey Memorial Hospital
  • Surrey growth is approximately 10 thousand people per year
  • Surrey School District is the largest in BC, 5th largest in Canada
  • Over 1,000 new students registered for school each year.
  • Lowest post-secondary rates of participation in the region

These are some of the facts from the presentation of the Surrey Board of Trade’s Education and Business Paper launched in 2011.  About 150 people from the business community heard of the challenges that impact the education system, in the context that the problems are also problems that directly affect business now and for the next decade and longer. As the paper points out, by 2016 one-third of graduating grade12 students will be from a South Fraser secondary school, yet this same region faces an imbalance of funded post-secondary seats of 100 per thousand students versus the provincial average of 244 seats per thousand. Businesses need to become advocates for education, with respect to funding, and seek ways of building a stronger education system by participating in it.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: The Surrey Board of Trade is seeking participation by the business community to act as champions for education as key indicator of economic success. With their education partners, the Surrey Board of Trade hopes to continue to raise the awareness of the problems facing Surrey and the South Fraser Region.

The Education Today/Productivity Tomorrow Position Paper, and supporting documentation is on the Surrey Board of Trade website.

The result: Meetings with MLA’s, Minister of Education, Minister of Finance – ongoing advocacy and observation at all levels. Some funding received in 2011 and 2012. Post-Secondary Funding Task Force was created.

The project: Tomorrow’s Workplace – Addressing Canada’s Demographic Crunch, Skilled Immigrants



What it’s about: The Surrey Board of Trade is proud to be a part of the Tomorrow’s Workplace project in partnership with S.U.C.C.E.S.S. This project allowed the Surrey Board of Trade to work collaboratively to ensure that our businesses are ready for the future. By 2020 businesses will need different ways to find staff. Canada’s


workforce is aging as the baby boom generation slides into retirement. The economic fallout of shortages in IT, skilled labour, and health care could be devastating. We need to prepare our businesses – small or large, now! Tomorrow’s Workplace was multi-sponsored project in British Columbia linking the Business community, the Surrey Board of Trade, five unique test business-employee models, and an educational/consultant research team. The mandate was research, communication and collaboration, and finally, a toolkit to enable future development in communities across Canada.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: The Tomorrow’s Workplace Guide will make it easier for business to create solutions, to identify the workforce they need, to anticipate change, and to have a diverse workforce. The project is unique because it brings the community together to show how business and employment service provider organizations can work together to benefit their workplaces and the community.

The result: Business Tools were created: Business Guide, Community Guide and Facilitator’s Guide. Continued promotion.

The project: Tap Into Talent – Skills Shortage Tool.

What it’s about: The Surrey Board of Trade endorses and participates in the Tap Into Talent ( initiative as hosted by the Immigrant Employment Council of BC. Along with other employer partners, which include the Community Savings Credit Union, Goldcorp, HSBC, Investors Group, M&R Environmental, Microsoft


Game Studios, Port Metro Vancouver, Schneider Electric, Schenker Logistics, Safeway, Westminster Savings Credit Union, we have committed as a partner and participant in the program to support the Tap Into Talent resource website and the Skills International hiring resource for employers. The Surrey Board of Trade, so far, is the only Board of Trade/Chamber of Commerce noted as a partner and participant.

Tap Into Talent is an online tool to help employers attract, hire and retain skilled workers in the face of current skill shortages. Employers can access a database of skilled landed immigrants that are pre-qualified for appropriate certifications, credentials and English language skills. The candidate database is available at no charge to the employer, who can screen, interview and hire at will.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: We endorsed this program and supported it.

The result: Ongoing support.

The project: Embracing Cultural Diversity in the BC Workplace Demonstration Project Launched

What it’s about: DIVERSEcity Community Resources and its Advisory Team for the Embracing Cultural Diversity in the BC Workplace Demonstration Project


“We launched a one of a kind employer and community resource –   – an all in one stop shop – created in Surrey, that will help solve looming labour shortages and make BC’s economy more competitive at a global level. This leadership project will help businesses (a) Access new markets and new employees. (b) Improve customer service. (c) Gain experience. (d) and Create dynamic workplaces,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, Both employers and potential employees can access the latest tips, strategies and research at They can base future diversity policies on a new workplace guidebook. A series of training sessions in the Lower Mainland will provide training to both employers and new immigrants. “There are all kinds of information and tools here that employers have never had before.”

Canada’s economy is experiencing big changes. Retiring baby boomers in BC will help create more than a million job openings by 2015. Canada’s low birth rate has not produced enough workers to replace them. Employers in Surrey and beyond can keep their businesses competitive by recruiting, hiring and training more new immigrants. This is a reality. These workers have skills and experiences from all over the world. They’re full of new ideas, perspectives and talent. New immigrant workers also belong to fast-growing immigrant communities. They speak different languages, and understand other cultures. They know how to connect to those communities. That is evident right here in Surrey, where 49% of our population has a mother tongue other than English.

There are many clear benefits to creating culturally diverse workforces. This resource, called ‘Get in the Know’ will provide businesses with the tools and strategies to hire and retain a more diverse workforce. This will build inclusion in the workplace and give resources to support employers in the hiring process.

The project was funded by the Ministry of Regional Economic and Skills Development. The Project Advisory Board consisted of business leaders including the Surrey Board of Trade, stakeholders and service agencies that are helping make Surrey a provincial leader in workplace diversity. Each member has deep ties to the community and understands the benefits of a multicultural society. Throughout the project the Advisory Board met to share their experiences and perspectives, provide input and direction to new resources and develop sound approaches for inclusive workforces.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: The Surrey Board of Trade, through their CEO, was an Advisory Board member. The Surrey Board of Trade supported this program and utilized the membership for key usage of this tool.

The result: Funding for the 2nd phase is currently being worked on by DiverseCity in this collaborative community project.

The issue: Early Childhood Development and Smart Family Policy.

What it’s about: The stock of human capital in British Columbia is key to its long-term economic success. This means early child development is a critical issue for business leaders, because the years before age six set in motion factors that will determine the quality of the future labour force. Today, only 71% of BC children arrive at


kindergarten meeting all of the developmental benchmarks they need to thrive both now and into the future: 29% are developmentally vulnerable.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did:

Created an Action Plan:


Compile family-friendly activities & validate/document their efforts, gather member perspectives on specific “family- friendly” tools and sponsor a conference.


Promote members issues to appropriate local, provincial, federal levels, develop policy position statements, select partners and collaborate on specific issues and sponsor a conference.


Develop a resource guide on where engagement opportunities exist and promote opportunities for engagement.

The Surrey Board of Trade joined the call to Government Leaders for a Smart Family Policy:
Call to action: The high early vulnerability rate in BC sounds a warning that the current approach to supporting families with young children comes at significant costs to British Columbians; it costs BC businesses on their bottom line; and it costs society now and for generations to come. We call on Leadership Canadidates to address the Family Policy Deficit:

Families need smart family policy to provide more time, more services and/or more income. Businesses need smart family policy to improve their bottom line. Society needs a smart family policy to advance gender equality, population health, crime reduction and a fair start for kids.

The result: Ongoing advocacy and observation.

The project: Healthy Workplace.

What it’s about: A comprehensive approach to managing a healthy workplace recognizes the need for an overall health and workplace safety policy. Further, successful organizations realize that managing health within the workplace is an important management function, and that the results have a direct impact on competitiveness and


the bottom line.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Created a Healthy Workplace Award, the first of its kind in BC.

The result: Will be creating a second phase of the Healthy Workplace Plan in partnership with the Heart & Stroke Foundation.

In progress.

The issue: Business and Families.

What it’s about: Canada has become a country in which it is far harder to raise a young family, even though the country’s economy has doubled in size since the mid-1970’s, producing, on average an extra $35,000 per household.  Despite this additional prosperity, the average household income for young Canadian couples has


flat-lined (after adjusting for inflation) even though the share of young women contributing to household incomes today is up 53 per cent. With their stalled incomes, young families must pay far higher housing prices, which increased 76 per cent across the country since the mid-1970’s.

The generation raising young children today is squeezed for time at home, squeezed for income because of the high cost of housing, and squeezed for services like child care that would help them balance earning a living with raising a family.  Yet, international comparisons consistently rank Canada among the worst industrialized countries when it comes to investing in young families.  Canada’s slow policy response to the decline in the standard of living for the generation raising young kids is not consistent with our proud tradition of building and adapting policy in response to our social and economic environment. – a proud tradition that includes public schools and universities, veterans’ benefits, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, the Canada Pension Plan and the Canada Medical Care Act.

The Context For Surrey

Growth & Diversity

Surrey is a young city that is growing at a phenomenal pace of 900 new families per month coming to live here and is projected to surpass Vancouver’s population in the next 8 years. Population projections depict that the overall population will increase from 483,260 in 2011 to 578,830 by 2021 – an increase of 95,570 people over a 10 year period. Considering the exponential growth that has already occurred in the last ten year period from 2000 (370,630) to 2010 (474,070) an increase of more than 100,000 people, it seems likely that even these projections are highly conservative.

In particular, over the next ten years, selected town centres such as Cloverdale are projected to grow (from 62,490 to 79,650); Newton (from 126,810 to 151,260) and South Surrey (from 79,660 to 104,890). Combined, South Surrey and Newton equals the entire population of the City of Burnaby (202,799).  Immigrants comprise almost 40% (151,000) of the population in Surrey; the majority reside in Newton (about 50,000), Whalley (about 36,000) and Guildford (about 23,000). More than 41% of all refugees to BC reside in Surrey.

The Most Children: the Most to Gain & the Most to Lose

With the largest number of children and youth than anywhere else in B.C. (approximately 110,000 as of 2006 census), Surrey’s school district has experienced unprecedented growth with 873 new students enrolled in 2011 for a total of 70,018  students in 127 schools, of which 38,662 are in elementary schools.  We have 23 Strong Starts operating out of 22 schools throughout the District; and a Community School Partnership with 4 Community School coordinators working with 17 community schools. Through the City’s Community Recreation Services, we have developed nine multigenerational sites, one stand alone youth centre and 2 new facilities – Kensington Prairie Early Years Community Centre and Cloverdale Recreation Centre recently opened.  Along with the current and extensive library services & programs for children, youth and families the new City Centre Library has excelled in its creation of child and youth friendly spaces and programs.

The Links between Affordable Housing – Family Debt & Child Care

Recent research reports through the CGCA of Canada, the Payroll Association of Canada, the Vanier Institute of the Family and the Conference Board of Canada all consistently refer to the increasing family debt load for Canadian families and the crunch to find both affordable housing and child care for those with young families.

According to the CGA Canada (June 2011) report, “households with an income of $50,000 and under were six times more likely to be financially vulnerable in terms of debt-service ratio.  Single-parent families were the only category where debt increases with age, and they have two-thirds more debt than couples with no children”. British Columbia stood out as the province with one of the highest household debt-service burdens in 2009. Households in that province paid 9.4% of their disposable income to service debt interest payments”. In three provinces – Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan – the number of mortgages in arrears continued to increase in 2010 while declining in all other provinces. In 2010, Surrey ranked #4 in the “Top Canadian Investment Cities” study by the Real Estate Investment Network.   In 2009, Surrey was named the #1 place in BC to invest in real estate by the Real Estate Investment Network.

Based on the 2011 Child Care Gap Assessment by the Children’s Partnership of Surrey-White Rock, Surrey has only nine licensed spaces for every 100  children aged 0 – 6. According to a Metro Vancouver Child Care report (2011), Surrey and Langley have the lowest ratio of spaces to children (compared to West Vancouver with 25 spaces for every 100 children and Vancouver with 18 spaces for every 100 children.

The Costs To Business And Community

The Implications For Business: Higher Costs, Lower Productivity

Since parents are an integral part of the labour market, the business community pays a price when employees with young kids bring their time and service squeeze to their jobs.  The work-life conflict experienced by parents raising young children today is costly for employers.  The result is higher absenteeism rates for this group of employees, greater turnover, and increased use of extended health benefits – all of which employers pay for.

In collaboration with Warren Beach (CFO) and his CA colleagues at Sierra Systems, UBC’s Dr. Paul Kershaw and his team estimated that work-life conflict among employees with preschool-aged children costs the B.C. business community in excess of $600 million annually, and the Canadian business community more than $4 billion.  The stress from work-life conflict among adults with young kids costs the Canadian health care system 2.5 billion annually, and the child welfare system another 1.2 billion per year.

In addition to these direct costs to business, the ‘squeeze’ experienced by families today also contributes to rising costs of crime, poverty, education and health care.  Over the long term, research shows that Canada’s inaction in support of the generation raising young kids is compromising the quality of our future labour force and our competitiveness. A 2009 study commissioned by the Business Council of BC reports that unnecessary vulnerability among the Generation raising young kids is the real brain drain, costing the BC economy $401 billion. The pan-Canadian cost is closer to $2 trillion. For children under age six, child care services cost most parents the equivalent of a second mortgage, even though researchers raise concerns about the quality of many services. The cost of regulated child care services erodes take-home pay for employed parents more than taxes do.

In Surrey, 32% of children in kindergarten are considered vulnerable and not ready for school in terms of their physical development, social maturity, or ABCs/123s. (For Canada, 27% are considered vulnerable). These kids are more likely to go to jail, and less likely to earn grades to go to post-secondary schools. At least two-thirds of this early vulnerability could be avoided.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Recommendations To Provincial Government (these would also apply to the Federal Government also):

Families need a New Deal to provide more time at home for moms and dads with newborns, $10/day child care services, and flex-time that enables employers and employees to balance successfully earning a living and raising a family.

The Surrey Board of Trade recommends that the Provincial and Federal Governments implement the following policy recommendations:

Reform the child care subsidy system so that parents pay no more than $10/day (full-time) and $7/day (part-time) making it free for families earning less than $40,000/year. Ensure quality services by providing funding for ample caregivers on site so that children spend their time in developmentally stimulating activities and play, including children with extra support needs. Caregivers will have appropriate training in child development and will be paid pay equity wages.

Create and implement tax incentives to support employers to develop family friendly workplaces that include features such Family Responsibility Leave, a culture that supports work life balance, alternative work arrangements, and recognition of child and elder care issues.

Introduce a healthy child check-in and parenting support program during a child’s first 18 months.

Conduct additional research and explore how to extend parental leave beyond 12 months.

The result: We have lobbied to the Provincial and Federal Governments. In progress.

The project: Immigration/Skill Shortages.

What it’s about: Surrey has a rapidly growing immigrant population, yet employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find and retain talent. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important to work with employers to develop solutions to more efficiently and effectively connect employers with the talent they need. These solutions will


benefit Surrey’s economy and offset the growing number of retirees, as the population ages and as residents leave the workforce.

Business, small and large, need to seriously think about the skills that they need to make their products and sell their products and services. A global talent shortage is poised to hit employers by as early as 2015. This means we will require a significant influx of talent to counter the rate at which our aging population is leaving the workforce. Employers in BC will become increasingly reliant on skilled immigrants to remain competitive in this changing economy. Integrating immigrant talent is critical to BC’s future economic prosperity. However, we need to see this talent pool not as a temporary economic remedy, but as a new reality about our diverse community that will unquestionably affect the way we hire and conduct business now and for the foreseeable future. We are taking a sector-based and regional approach to develop solutions that address the labour market needs of employers in BC. This is why we are meeting with employers in regions across BC to obtain feedback on how to more effectively attract, hire and retain immigrant talent.

Surrey’s visible minority population in 2010 was 182,860 or 38.3 per cent of the city’s total population and 24.8 per cent of the provincial population. Population growth in Surrey was higher than the provincial rate (2.9 per cent increase between 2005 and 2010, compared to 1.5 per cent) and Surrey’s business community has identified immigrant employment as a top business priority in the region.

With support from the Surrey Board of Trade, IEC-BC has invited businesses operating in Surrey, and the surrounding region, to participate in a guided focus-group that is expected to yield recommendations that will inform the development of provincial and federal programs and policies that support immigrant labour market integration in BC, where appropriate. This feedback will also assist IEC-BC in building concrete tools, resources and effective practices for employers, especially SMEs, that would benefit their bottom line and ultimately grow BC’s economy.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Employers representing businesses in the Surrey region met for an employer consultation, one of 15 sessions being held across the province, to obtain feedback and advice from BC employers on attracting, hiring and retaining skilled immigrants. Lead by the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC-BC), with funding from the Province of BC, the purpose of the consultation is to better understand the labour market needs of the Surrey region as part of an overall effort to develop more effective solutions that address the hiring challenges of businesses in BC.

Surveys in partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to gauge issues from the local business community were sent out.

The result: Ongoing engagement with business community.

The issue: Gaming Grants

What it’s about: As part of a reduction strategy by the BC Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, some agencies that were able to qualify previously for funding are no longer permitted to apply for funding. In addition, the bingo affiliation grants were rolled into an annual community gaming grant application process, their three-year term


grants were being phased out, and their allotments reduced to under $100,000. Some of the organizations that applied in 2010 found that the amounts they were traditionally given were reduced considerably. In some cases this meant staff layoffs and downsizing of services often related to the most vulnerable in our society such as abused women, the homeless, seniors and children. To exacerbate this situation for these agencies, little or no notice was given and as a result these agencies did not have the opportunity to seek funding through other sources if available.

Our business members who provide some community funding were inundated with higher than usual requests for funding. Because of the economic downturn that impacted all businesses, these corporations were unable to help many excellent programs. The Business community was unable to make up funds that these agencies had lost. In addition, this event happened when the grant process had already been completed by businesses and the existing money had been dispersed.

Gaming in Canada has been linked to the not-for-profit sector since its inception in 1960. The public was prepared to tolerate gaming activities such as bingo if the proceeds were to be used by non-profit agencies that benefitted the community. Gaming expansion has always been justified by this relationship. In the Gambling in Canada Research Report Number 9, the author notes “that not-for-profit funding is a vital component of provincial gambling policies and that expansion initiatives are intended to enhance, not threaten, the gambling revenues available to the charitable sector,” and, “the public is less supportive when the expansion is for the simple sake of a tax grab.”

The business community not only recognizes not-for-profits for their good work but for their economic benefit as well. John Restakis in his paper Defining the Social Economy -­‐ The BC Context January 2006 states “BC non-­‐profits generate $11 billion in revenue and employ 147,000 people. This compares to $16 billion reported by BC’s manufacturing sector, which employs 167,000. BC’s non-­profits also reported the use of 1.5 Million volunteers who in turn contribute an estimated 114.3 million hours of work to these organizations.” The erosion of the not-for-profit sector is an erosion of the provinces economic well being.

If government had to pick up the social services provided by our not-for-profit sector, the costs to BC would be considerably more than what is spent through gaming funds. The leveraging of volunteer time is one of the factors that make non-profits cost effective. Most of these organizations are lean with salaries that are historically low. Another point to consider is whether these societies will be able to find the lost funding. Many businesses and foundations that fund not-for-profits are project oriented and require the project to be completed within a year. Only a few funding organizations will permit funds to be used to maintain the organization. Many charities appreciated the gaming funds because they could be used to maintain the organization.

Some organizations have engaged in social enterprise in an effort to generate sustainable income. This is a movement which we support as it helps societies continue their charitable giving despite funding fluctuations. The “enp” (enterprising not-for-profits) organization has been providing grants, expertise and education to not for profits who wish to engage in social enterprise. Some of our member organizations such as Vancity and Coast Capital Savings are partners in this endeavour. The BC Government has provided a one-year grant to develop a tool kit for charities. The BC Advisory Council on Social Enterprise is working with this organization, a move that we support. The Surrey Board of Trade also asked for an increase in funding their grant capability to encourage entrepreneurship in the not-for-profit sector.

Given these factors it is hard to understand the decision made to reduce funding to these organizations over the past two years. In fact the funding percentages of the consolidated revenue given to charitable organizations were 17% in 2009‐2010 and 20% in 2010-­2011 as compared to 35% in 2001-­2002 and 34% in 2002-­2003. If this continues, the societal cost to replace what not-for-profit organizations do will increase dramatically.

From our work with the non-profit sector we are aware that sustainable funding is a major issue.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Our member non-profit agencies brought to our attention their concerns about the reduction of gaming.

The Surrey Board of Trade recommends:

Amend the Gaming Control Act to permit the General Manager to dedicate annually an amount equal to 30% of the gaming funds deposited to general revenue to qualified charities.

Reinstitute the policy of three-­year grants, which will reduce the administrative burden on both the charities and the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch.
The General Manager adjusts the local and provincial caps on the amount a charity can receive in accordance with the projected three-year funding levels. Right now there are societies who will be experiencing a considerable cut to their gaming grant as the result of the $100,000 local cap and the $250,000 provincial cap.
The Gaming Control Act be amended to permit the General Manager to dedicate annually an amount equal to 2% of the gaming funds deposited to general revenue to the development of social entrepreneurship and that this money be granted to “enp” (enterprising non-profits), a portion to be for distribution to qualified not-for-profits to develop a social enterprise to provide sustainable income and a portion to provide educational programs to assist these charities in the development of a social enterprise.

We are also concerned about the section in the Gaming Control Act that permits the Minister to “issue written directives to the lottery corporation on matters of general policy.” The provision to make these directives available through the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch during business hours is not providing sufficient oversight. The Regulations direct the General Manager to post these directives on the web site for 12 months. We would suggest that these directives after the 12-­month period be available for public consultation through an accessible archive section on the web site.

The result: Presented to Provincial Gaming Grant Review Committee. Ongoing.

The issue: Corporate Vote

What it’s about: Should businesses be able to vote? The argument against it is, basically, One Person, One Vote: if managers already vote as individuals, why should a business get an additional vote? The argument is that because businesses pay higher taxes, they should have more influence. It’s worth noting however that one proposal


on the table would only see those business owners who do not already have a ballot to cast in the municipality given a vote as a business. Should businesses – which pay taxes, buy permits, and have to abide by the rules of their municipality – be able to cast a vote in civic elections? Or does the idea encroach on the essence of democracy, that is, the rule of people by the people?

What did the Surrey Board of Trade do? Issued a position: The position of the Surrey Board of Trade is that we do not support corporate voting.

The result: Corporate voting is not in place.