Red wave brings green light for Surrey LRT

New Liberal MPs commit to working with city, province on rapid transit priority

Fleetwood-Port Kells MP-designate Ken Hardie, pictured at the Richmond YVR SkyTrain station, says the new federal Liberal government will work with the City of Surrey and the provincial government to advance light-rail transit in the city | Rob Kruyt

Having secured a majority government in last month’s election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals now face the task of fulfilling campaign promises. When it comes to Surrey, one issue has already risen to the top of everyone’s to-do list: light-rail transit (LRT).

The City of Surrey wants to build 27 kilometres of light rail throughout the municipality. The first stage of the $2.1 billion project is projected to be completed within seven years.

“We will certainly respect Surrey’s decision about the kind of technology it wants,” Ken Hardie, one of the city’s new crop of successful Liberal candidates – and a former TransLink spokesman – said when asked about the federal government’s role in the project. “That hasn’t always been the case in the past; there have been times where federal governments have prescribed technology to be used. Surrey has its business case locked down for LRT as opposed to SkyTrain technology, and that’s what the Liberal government will definitely respect.”

Hardie was part of a red wave that washed east over the Fraser River as the votes were tallied on October 19. Three key ridings previously held by the NDP and Conservatives were taken by the Liberal party. Sukh Dhaliwal won in Surrey-Newton and Randeep Sarai and Hardie topped the polls in Surrey Centre and Fleetwood-Port Kells, respectively. Former mayor Dianne Watts took the riding of South Surrey-White Rock for the Conservatives.

Hardie said he’s already met with Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, Dhaliwal and Sarai about building LRT in Surrey.

Hepner said in an email that there’s “a real energy and focus to get things done” concerning LRT now under a new Liberal government.

A May 2015 City of Surrey report estimates the project will create 14,000 direct and indirect jobs, $810 million in direct, indirect and induced wages and salaries, $101 million in B.C. personal income and sales tax revenue plus $116 million in federal personal income tax revenue.

The entire project is expected to take 12 years to complete.

Sarai, a lawyer based in Surrey with a background in real estate development, said his fellow Liberal MPs and the City of Surrey are on the same page when it comes to transportation upgrades.

“We all sat down and had a meeting with the mayor, and I think we all want the same thing,” he said. “We have been waiting long enough, and now is the time to start moving this project to the next phase so we can help this community grow.”

Sarai said replacing the 78-year-old Pattullo Bridge is another Liberal transportation infrastructure project priority.

Dhaliwal, an engineer, land surveyor and former Liberal MP for Newton-North Delta from 2006 to 2011, said much of the focus now turns to the Liberals’ first budget for the 2016-17 year, expected in March or April.

“The priorities are the same for Surrey-Newton as they are for the rest of Canada,” Dhaliwal said. “And that’s making sure we introduce legislation that will cut taxes for the middle class and raise them for the top 1% [of] earners.”