The Current

How financial pressures are hitting voters in one of Canada's fastest growing cities

In this special election edition of The Current, we talk to Canadians in one of Canada’s fastest growing cities about the financial pressures weighing on their minds ahead of the federal election this month.

3 Surrey, B.C., residents talk affordability in this special election edition of The Current

Mita Naidu is a mother and communications specialist in Delta, B.C. She says being able to care for both her children and her elderly parents is top of mind for her as the federal election looms. (Submitted by Mita Naidu)

Mita Naidu is part of the "sandwich generation" ⁠— the group of Canadians who are not only caring for their children, but for their elderly parents, too.

And as she looks back on the four years since the last federal election, she says life has only gotten harder.

"We talk a lot about marginalized, impoverished families and we talk a lot about the wealthy," said the Delta, B.C., mother and communications specialist who works in Surrey, B.C.

"But the people right in the middle, in my age group, between 40 and 50, have a lot of financial and fiscal responsibility."

The Current hosted a special election town hall with people who are grappling with issues around housing, poverty and the cost of living in Surrey, one of Canada's fastest growing cities — and one that's quickly losing its reputation as Vancouver's more affordable sibling.

Naidu told The Current's Laura Lynch that she worries about expenses such as university tuition for her children, assisted living for her mother, transportation and her mortgage. She also faces indirect costs as a result of her situation; she recently turned down a job promotion because she can't travel or work late hours and also care for her family.

She said tax credits, and more incentives for businesses to support people like herself, are some of the ways the next federal government could make life more affordable for Canadians who are caretakers and have jobs.

"If the government can help us develop and incentivize programs where we can telework more, where we can take time off, where we can job share, these are the things I'm interested in," she said.

Owning land 'a pipe dream'

Entrepreneur Gemma McNeill receives government wage subsidies to help pay the employees at her agriculture business in Surrey, and attests that they have been "a huge help."

The first-generation farmer at Zaklan Heritage Farm told Lynch she agrees there are social needs that Canadians, as a community, should support.

And although she's fortunate to work and live on land that's been in her partner's family for years, she also worries about the cost of living.

Gemma McNeill, a farmer and co-owner of Zaklan Heritage Farm in Surrey, B.C., says the idea of owning her own farm one day 'feels like a pipe dream,' because of the high cost to purchase land in her area. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

"The idea for us to own our own farm one day feels like a pipe dream," she said.

That's because the cost of buying land where she lives can be close to $1 million for less than half a hectare, she said.

McNeill added that having their own land will be "a huge factor in our food security, I'd say, in the future."

Weighing the cost of a family

Ateesh Chand worries about the future, too, especially now that he has a third child on the way.

The realtor and longtime Surrey resident is saving up to provide his current children with tuition for university and a vehicle to drive. But the cost of doing so weighed heavily on his mind when he and his wife were deciding whether they could afford to expand their family, he said.

Chand said their financial contributions toward those goals "haven't been the same" since they started more than a decade ago.

Ateesh Chand is a realtor and longtime Surrey, B.C., resident. (Elizabeth Hoath/CBC)

"We're going to try to mimic the exact same process — putting them into college programs and trying to give them the same type of lifestyle," he told Lynch. "But I'm not sure if that's going to be possible."

Those kinds of concerns are why Naidu is looking for a political party that's going to "fight for the common man, or woman, or person."

"There are inequities built into the system," she said, "and I want a government that's going to take responsibility for those inequities."

Written by Kirsten Fenn. Produced by Jessica Linzey, Geoff Turner, Elizabeth Hoath, Anne Penman, Yamri Taddese and Erin Pettit.


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