Constituency Concerns: Surrey-Tynehead, Amrik Virk MLA

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Amrik Virk, MLA Surrey Tynehead, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizen’s Services (photo: Ray Hudson)

Industrial Engine for Surrey

Ray Hudson

Amrik Virk, MLA Surrey Tynehead, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizen’s Services (photo: Ray Hudson)
Amrik Virk, MLA Surrey Tynehead, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizen’s Services (photo: Ray Hudson)

MLA Amrik Virk decribes his Surrey-Tynehead riding as having everything. There are nurseries, dairy farms, greenhouse operations and a great deal of ALR Land. Just to the northeast is Barnston Island, which is a mix of residential, farming, (a community garden there from the Options group), as well as a Katze First Nations community. In Port Kells, there is a very large and diverse industrial community, ranging from light to medium industry, as well as the sawmills mills right along the river. Commercially it’s a dynamic place with around 500 new small businesses startups in this riding last year.

“Although many people don’t even think about it,” says Virk, “the industries in the riding, the mills, the trucking companies, or the supply companies, connect this riding to the rest of the province and well beyond into the world.   Conversely, when something happens in the resource sector in BC, it impacts Surrey immediately because of that supply or service relationship across the province. It’s Surrey business that’s going to and from the various parts of the world.”

AJ: What concerns are you hearing from your constituents?

AV: How to access government services. We get questions on just about anything from the new liquor rules, to how a forestry company gets access to other services? I have to explain the connection between LNG and this riding. Many don’t realize that some companies in Port Kells, equipment dealers, industrial tires, manufacturers or distributors of machine parts, are direct suppliers to the mining, gas and exploration companies. The economic activity elsewhere, directly and profoundly affects this community.

I met with Surrey’s Police Chief, Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy recently, to talk frankly about Surrey’s issues of public safety. I’m very happy that Mayor Linda Hepner, will hire one hundred more police officers. It’s more than just more police on the road. It’s the interconnectivity and I look at it from a provincial level. I have always been a supporter of integrating policing functions more. Criminals don’t recognize boundaries so these units are important. The team role is much more complex than it would appear. For example, the Gang Life Prevention team doesn’t just talk about enforcement. It’s about prevention, interdiction and then enforcement.

At the same time I’m not happy with the increases in crime where, overall in BC, the incidence of crime is at a four-decade low. I see some particular crime rates in Surrey that have not gone down, or have not trended down in the last year. I will be watching carefully as the city carries out its commitment to train the additional 100 officers, in the prevention programs, the education programs, the enforcement programs and the habitual offender programs which are concerns that constituents bring up.

AJ: One of the major concerns for police is having to be a mental health worker as well as a cop. What do you see in terms of the development of mental health services and facilities that could reduce some of that load on police?

AV: There was always the argument that I heard from the young men and women who reported to me saying they were police officers and not social workers. I say that there are no silos, and we have to overcome that mentality. We are about building communities and it’s about providing those tools for that police officer to deal with those individuals that are emotionally disturbed. Currently we have social workers with police officers on patrol. Car 67 used to be one of my reporting units when I was in the city of Surrey. I also know the city has put forward plans for housing in the proximity of the hospital. I think it’s the right track, looking at prevention first, then interdiction.

AJ: Do you miss being a police officer?

AV: I loved serving the country in whichever province I served in and I look back with the fondest of memories. But because I learned so much about people, it’s a natural progression to take those skills into government now and it’s an opportunity to make life better for people in BC in my current role.

AJ: What are your objectives for the riding of Tynehead?

AV: Transportation. A week and a half ago I meet with Peggy Howard the General Manager for Guildford Mall to talk about the fabulous job they did, putting hundreds of millions of dollars into its upgrade. We talked about transportation and I’m glad to see the mayors are behind the vision, aggressively supporting the ‘Yes’ vote. I talked to the mall in terms of when we get transit and tee-off to the main line along 104th Avenue to the Guildford Mall.

So I would say, public safety, transportation and the economy. People are always concerned about the economy because they need jobs. And it’s from jobs and a stronger economy that you can pay for hospitals, roads bridges and so on. I have to underscore that what’s happening in the broader world is always on people’s minds. After all, a job in the resource sector in northern BC is a job for someone in Surrey-Tynehead.