Abbotsford emerged as a “hub of caring and giving and neighbourly co-operation” during the pandemic and following the November floods, Mayor Henry Braun said Friday morning (May 13).
Braun, speaking at the annual Mayor’s Breakfast at Tradex, said the last two years have been the most challenging of his life, but he is hopeful about the future.
“We’ve proved not just to ourselves but to the whole world who was watching that Abbotsford is truly resilient. We proved that as a city we can face challenges head on and work hard to come out the other end, maintaining a sense of optimism,” he said.
Braun’s speech covered a range of topics, of which the floods, the recovery and future mitigation efforts were prominent.
He said of the 300 city infrastructure sites that were damaged in the floods, repairs have been completed to 190.
Braun said recovery costs to the city will be at least $150 million, and he is continuing to push senior levels of government for support.
This includes funding to improve and develop infrastructure to better protect the community in the event of another catastrophic flood.
The city recently presented four options – ranging from $100 million to $2.3 billion – for Sumas Prairie flood mitigation.
Additional funds are being proposed for upgrades to Clayburn Village, water-source resiliency and the Matsqui dike, putting the total cost from $209 million to $2.8 billion.
Braun said Friday morning that public feedback has been taking place, and the findings and the preferred option will be presented “very soon” to city council.
He also addressed concerns in the delays in government funding to some of the impacted farmers. He said would be contacting provincial ministers to find out why there is a holdup, whether it’s due to staffing shortages or other reasons.
Braun also touched on the topic of homelessness, specifically referencing the homeless camps on Riverside Road and at the Lonzo Road truck-parking area.
These areas are on land owned by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and Braun said the province needs to ensure that the “unacceptable situation” is addressed. He said he was pleased that housing minister Dave Eby toured the area on April 1.
Braun said Abbotsford has 107 year-round shelters spaces and 406 units of supportive housing that are currently operational or in the works, and had 60 extreme-weather shelter spaces over the past winter.
“But all this is simply not enough to confront the escalating issue. When appropriate service levels are not in place, there’s a trickle-down impact not only to the individuals who are unhoused and in need of help, but also to you as our local business leaders and to the city as well. Housing is the responsibility of the provincial government and we need their help,” he said.
Braun also discussed the various projects underway that he says are positive for the city, including three major road projects – the widening of Sumas Way to the U.S. border, including a new overpass on Vye Road; improvements to Fraser Highway from Aldergrove to Mt. Lehman Road; and the Marshall Road extension connecting King Road to Mt. Lehman Road.
He said housing construction is also booming, with a 35 per cent increase last year over 2020 in applications for single-family lots, townhouses and apartments, reaching a record total of almost 7,000 units.
“These developments and many others have a tremendous economic impact and bring the potential for more opportunities to our residents and business owners and those wishing to come to Abbotsford,” he said.
Braun said the city’s net financial position has also grown – from $313 million in 2020 to $359 million in 2021.
The mayor’s complete speech can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel.