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Friday
Jun212013

SOCIAL POLICY TEAM - updated June 2013

Thursday
Aug042011

MANDATE:

  • to report on matters of concern in the field of labor, immigration, homelessness, health and other social issues as they relate to business
  • to recommend action/policy to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce
  •  to make submissions to appropriate government representatives

For meeting times, please contact Anita Huberman (anita@businessinsurrey.com) or Ray Hudson (ray@businessinsurrey.com).

NOTE: For related Surrey Board of Trade media coverage and articles go to the bottom of this page.

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1. 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.
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2. 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 budget.
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.
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3. 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.

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4. 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.

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5. 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.

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6. 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 for 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 but the Census Long Form was not re-implemented.

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7. 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.

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8. 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 at www.businessinsurrey.com/education.

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.

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9. The issue:

Bill 18 – Assistance to Shelter Act.

What it’s about:

Minister Rich Coleman has stated that it is important to connect people to resources and services, from which they can benefit. We agree that this is an admirable goal.

We believe that the success of this initiative will depend very much on the local resources that are in place.  A sufficient number of low barrier shelters, to which people can take their belongings and pets is necessary to increase the likelihood that more people would willingly seek shelter in the event of extreme weather conditions. The challenge outside Vancouver, including in Surrey, is that there may not be the number and variety of shelter beds available when extreme weather warnings are issued. We understand that shelters are not a solution for housing but they do provide needed overnight safety for individuals without shelter.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did:

Issued a media release and letter to the appropriate Ministries. The questions and concerns that we included the following:

1. If there are no beds available. will the police take a person to an adjacent municipality? Will the police take a person to the lockup? If so, what would happen the next morning to someone who has been displaced from the only area that they know? What would be the impact on that adjacent community and to businesses there? What responsibility exists to return someone to their point of origin?

2. What is “reasonable force”, in the context of Bill 18, when used to compel an individual to accompany police to shelter? How much force would be applied to someone who physically resists the police when asked/told to go to a shelter? What risk does this present to the subject or the officer?

3.  What will be the appetite of police to enforce such directives? When police are required to carry out the procedures within this legislation, will this impact service to other areas of the city?

The result:

Media coverage. Ongoing observation.

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10. 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. For more information go to: www.businessinsurrey.com. Continued promotion.

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11. 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 (www.tapintotalent.ca) 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:

To find out more and register for this service, visit our website at www.businessinsurrey.com/employer-hiring-tool/

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12. 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 www.getintheknow.ca.

“We launched a one of a kind employer and community resource – www.getintheknow.ca   - 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 www.getintheknow.ca. 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.

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13. 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:

3. Created an Action Plan:

Education:

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

Advocacy

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

Engagement

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

4. 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.

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14. 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.

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15. 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:

  1. CHILD CARE SUPPORTS

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.

  1. FLEXIBLE & FAMILY FRIENDLY WORKPLACES

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.

  1. HEALTHY CHILD CHECK IN

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

  1. PARENTAL LEAVE

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.

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16. 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.

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