Know your candidates 2020: Burnaby North

We sent the same questionnaire to all three candidates in the riding of Burnaby North ahead of the upcoming provincial election.

Ahead of the B.C. election, we’re taking a look at all of the candidates in each riding in Burnaby and how they would like to respond to some of the most important issues of the day, from COVID and schools to child care to economic recovery.

But first, here’s a brief look at each candidate. Candidates appear in the alphabetical order of their surnames.

Dr. Raymond Dong
BC Liberal Party

I was born in Vancouver and grew up in Chinatown. After graduating from the UBC medical school in 1981, I became a cardiologist in 1988. I work at Surrey Memorial Hospital. I have volunteered for many community organizations and am the current board chair of the Vancouver Academy of Music.
Dogs or cats? Dogs
Favourite book or movie? Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
Preferred Halloween treat? Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or Kit Kats (a virtual tie)

Janet Routledge
MLA for Burnaby North 2017-2020

I was elected the MLA for Burnaby North in 2017. I’m a life-long community activist who has been deeply involved in the labour, women’s and environmental movements. I’ve lived in Burnaby North for more than 20 years. I live in a multigenerational household with my husband, son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.
Cats or dogs? Cats
Favourite book or movie? Prodigal Summer
Preferred Halloween treat? Wine gums

Norine Shim
BC Green Party
Small business owner

My story is one of humble means, personal resilience and the healing power of a community that cares. As an ‘at-risk’ youth, teachers and community leaders provided me with the support I needed to thrive. Now, I want to give back to our community of Burnaby.
Cats or dogs? Dogs

Now, on to the big questions of the day. Candidates each had 150 words to address our six questions, with the threat of being cut off at the 150th word. None of the candidates in this riding surpassed the limit.

1. What do you think is the top issue facing Burnaby in this election? How will you address this issue? Be as specific as possible.

Raymond Dong: This year has been like no other in my lifetime. In my discussions with the people of Burnaby North, I have heard very clearly that they want a government that is proactive in addressing their immediate and long-term health care needs. There must be a sustainable economic recovery in order to bring about improvements in the social determinants of health such as income level, educational opportunities, employment status and access to housing. A BC Liberal government would focus on rebuilding and restoring confidence in our province by supporting some of the hardest hit industrial sectors, including tourism and hospitality, resources such as forestry and mining, and transportation. Tax incentives, simplifying regulations and bridge financing are some of the methods that could be used to invigorate a pandemic-stalled economy.

Janet Routledge: COVID-19 is undoubtedly the top issue facing Burnaby. It brought new focus to the need for a strong system of services and supports. We responded quickly with made-in-B.C. investments that filled in the gaps in federal supports, including:

  • A $1,000 emergency benefit for workers provided to more than 600,000 workers in the province.
  • Temporary rent relief for more than 86,000 renters, giving them security from the threat of eviction.
  • Crisis supplements for more than 200,000 people on disability and income assistance.
  • Doubled the annual enhanced climate action tax credit, putting more money in the pockets of 80% of B.C. families.
  • Property tax cuts, deferred tax payments, BC Hydro rate relief and more for businesses across the province.
  • An economic recovery plan that helps deliver a better future for people, communities, and businesses.
  • An NDP government will continue investing in the services and supports people need during this difficult time.

Norine Shim: The top issue facing Burnaby in this election is a lack of affordable housing options, compounded by fractures in the mental health system. Without emergency, short- and long-term supportive housing options, we will continue to place a burden on our police, first responders and emergency rooms. Improving the availability of mental-health supports and other social services will, in turn, improve rates of homelessness, addiction and poverty. The BC Greens have committed to improve the mental health-care system, with the allocation of $1 billion over four years. We must begin implementing evidence-based solutions through thoughtful consultation with those who will be most affected.

2. The next government of British Columbia will have the responsibility of guiding the province through the COVID-19 pandemic and into recovery. What makes you and your party best positioned to carry out this work? What specific actions would you take to guide this process?

Dong: A BC Liberal government is best suited to guide our province through the uncertain times that lie ahead. Only a steady hand at the helm will navigate safely and prudently between the need for fiscal responsibility and the abyss of uncontrolled spending.  Specifically, a three-year plan to invest $8 billion in infrastructure projects will serve to improve transportation and permit the building of a new hospital for Burnaby. Opportunity to grow our economy will be sparked by the elimination of the PST for one year, followed by a 3% rate for a second year. These measures will leave more money in the pockets of British Columbians, encourage spending as a means of supporting local small businesses and reduce the cost of housing. As small businesses are the largest group driving our economy, elimination of the 2% small business income tax will further ease their burden.

Routledge: The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges. Our government has focused on providing the supports people need to get them through the pandemic. Our COVID-19 action plan invests more than $8 billion in services and supports that help people, communities and local businesses. We followed that up with a made-in-B.C. economic recovery plan that will improve health care, get people back to work, support B.C. businesses and strengthen our neighbourhoods and communities. We’re going to continue developing a pandemic prevention plan that brings to B.C. state-of-the-art testing, contact tracing, hospital management procedures and technology. When vaccines are approved and available, anyone who wants the vaccine will receive it free of charge. We will provide direct support to British Columbians with a one-time $1,000 recovery benefit for families and $500 for individuals. Our COVID-19 action and economic recovery plans are about making sure we look out for one another.

Shim: While other parties may focus specifically on economic initiatives, the BC Greens believe that all issues are interconnected and should be addressed holistically. For example, in the case of COVID-19, we see that returning to work requires child care, and building sustainable cities creates jobs. We have committed to focusing on the holistic needs of British Columbians and have shown that we can set partisan politics aside to meet those needs. If elected, I will let evidence-based practices and experts guide our decision-making to ensure all British Columbians receive the resources they need during this unprecedented time.

3. Students and families in Burnaby have been vocal in their concerns about the safety of schools in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. What specific actions would you take to address these concerns?

Dong: Our children are our future, and we must do everything possible to safeguard them. All the recommendations from the provincial health officer must be adhered to and funded appropriately. Measures to ensure adequate testing for COVID-19, to actualize accurate contact tracing, to provide adequate cleaning of all schools and to protect our teachers must be in place. Students should have equal access to various options for continuing their education. These would include in-person classes, online learning or a mixture of both. Learning delivery methods are to be customized to fit the learner and curriculum may be adjusted to suit different learning styles. Close collaboration between the teaching faculty, school boards and parents will be mandatory. Specific metrics for monitoring student progress and early identification of system failures must be developed in a pandemic-sensitive manner.

Routledge: I understand why people are concerned about safety in schools. My grandchildren and their parents live in the same household as my husband and me and my daughter-in-law is a teacher. A John Horgan government will continue to make classrooms safer through the installation of new ventilation systems, Plexiglas barriers in key areas of the school, comprehensive cleaning stations, and by ensuring more hours of cleaning in all schools. We’re building on our investment into mental health supports for students and staff and are committed to better supporting children and youth with special needs and their families, so everyone involved in our kids’ learning gets the help they need. We’ll invest in more computers and tablets, more training for teachers and support staff, and in new ways to improve social e-learning that promotes group interactions between students and teachers.

Shim: Many Burnaby schools lack fresh air intake. This is vital to ensuring proper ventilation in classrooms. As the temperature begins to drop, we will not be able to rely on leaving doors and windows open for air circulation. This will result in an environment similar to an airplane – recirculated air with poor ventilation. If we are going to combat COVID-19 over the winter months, I would advocate for these building upgrades to begin immediately. The cost of these building retrofits will pale in comparison to the losses sustained by parents taking time off work to be with their sick children.

4. Affordable housing continues to be top-of-mind for Burnaby residents. Name at least three specific, concrete actions you would take to address this issue, locally and within B.C.

Dong: As it was with my parents, who immigrated from China in the 1950s, having pride of ownership in their own home was especially important. Affordability will be facilitated by eliminating the PST component of the total cost of housing ($6,000 for a 500-square-foot apartment; or $19,000 for an average-sized home). A BC Liberal government will also create an incentive fund for municipalities with housing policies that result in actual increases in the rate of construction and in the supply of new housing. An increase in the options for housing and an improvement in affordability can also be facilitated by changes in tax structure and permitting regulations. Municipalities will be incentivized to increase affordable housing by reviewing the property tax structures to reduce speculation and prevent relentless increases in the cost of housing.

Routledge: Since I was elected in 2017, our government has approved affordable housing initiatives in Burnaby North, including housing for 464 students at BCIT and 161 units of affordable rental housing for seniors and families on Hastings and Esmond. I want to continue to advocate for more affordable housing in Burnaby North. Our 10-year housing plan is on track to bring 114,000 units of new, affordable housing to B.C. We will continue rolling out our “Homes For B.C.” plan, the largest investment in affordable housing in our province’s history. A John Horgan government will take steps to reduce construction costs. By bringing down costs for developers, we can bring down the cost of housing for people. We’ll streamline and modernize housing construction by eliminating outdated parking minimums in projects close to public transit, develop a single-window provincial permitting process, and work with communities to streamline approval processes at the local level.

Shim: To address this issue, I would aim to:

  • Propose a rental support program that would close the gap for residents paying more than 30% of their income on rent as an immediate measure.
  • Deter foreign investment and the use of housing as an investment by keeping the foreign buyers, speculation and vacancy taxes.
  • Ensure our communities are receiving assistance from both federal and provincial sources, as Burnaby only received $342,000 from the federal government for affordable housing in 2019.

5. Anti-racism and Indigenous reconciliation have come to the forefront of public discussion in recent months. How would you ensure this important work is carried out when you are elected? Be as specific as possible.

Dong: I am old enough to remember when being Chinese did not mean being equal. The stain of racism on humanity has not been washed away. The BC Liberal team is committed to fighting racism and will not permit any form of discrimination to stand. Very recently, we have seen shameful examples of systemic racism in health care delivery. A BC Liberal government will eliminate biases at all levels of the health care system and enshrine the tenet of equitable access for all. Anti-racism policies for conduct will be adopted at all government offices and by all government services. We will continue to enhance ongoing reconciliation processes and honor the dignity of Indigenous Peoples by addressing the economic and societal inequalities that they struggle with.

Routledge: This is an issue I feel very strongly about. As a community and labour activist, I have taken stands against systemic racism and discrimination throughout my life, and I have spoken out about it in the legislature. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly in our province. Our government acknowledges that for many Black, Indigenous and other people of colour, that hasn’t always been the case. I proudly supported the 2019 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act which has set the table for more meaningful shared decision making. As we move forward with key decisions on regional land and resource use allocation, we will partner with continuing First Nations, providing a clear, stable and sustainable path for everyone to work together.

Shim: As a Canadian-born citizen of Asian descent, I am running in this election because I believe that we need more representation in government – bringing my voice to the table can challenge the status quo. Although I feel strongly that I can introduce a diversity of experience, I also know that I am unable to speak to the unique experiences faced by Indigenous people and other racialized communities. Instead, I would hope to represent a safe space for ongoing inclusive dialogue and meaningful engagement in order to learn more about their experiences and co-create change. In saying that, I am mindful that many of these communities have already documented their experiences and created numerous recommendations on how to address systemic issues, and I believe it is imperative that, in addition to ongoing engagement, I continue to educate myself and take action on what has already been shared.

6. Child care has been a long ongoing issue for families in Burnaby and beyond. What specific actions would you take to ensure all families in the city can access affordable child care when they need it?

Dong: A BC Liberal government will support B.C. families by:

  • Funding a $1.1-billion initiative that will provide childcare at a cost of $10-a-day for households with annual incomes of up to $65,000, and $20- or $30-a-day for household incomes of up to $125,000.
  • Creating a full ministry for child care to manage credentialing, licensing and funding oversight of this program.
  • Increasing the number of new child-care spaces by building 10,000 more across B.C.
  • Increase options for child care by supporting various non-profit and market-based providers.
  • As early childhood development is so vital, we would improve the quality and quantity of child-care workers by enhancing and expanding educational opportunities for training.
  • Improve and expand access to programs that provide before- and after-school care.
  • Work with employers to support child-care options by providing incentives for new programs.

Routledge: I proudly served on the government’s child-care working group. The NDP formed government has returned $6,163,457 to Burnaby North parents in reduced fees. We approved 383 new spaces have been approved in Burnaby North, including 75 spaces located in a new affordable housing development. 236 local early childhood educators are receiving our wage enhancement for a total of $211,870. Similar to the legislation that enshrined the concept of universal health care, a John Horgan government will protect the principles of affordable, accessible, and inclusive quality child care in legislation. We will expand the number of $10-a-day child-care spaces and exceed our target of 22,000 new child-care spaces by expanding our child-care capital program and modular strategy for child care. We will work towards providing universal expanded access to before- and after-school care on school grounds so parents know their children are safe at one place for the full work day.

Shim: Waitlists for child care are regularly four to five years long. If you haven’t registered your child for daycare before conception you are, quite literally, out of luck. Thankfully, potential child-care facilities already exist in our community (e.g., unused school rooms, community centres, religious buildings, and seniors’ centers) – it is just a matter of finding creative ways to utilize these spaces! In addition to creatively utilizing space, we need to fast track more purpose-built structures and review existing laws that act as barriers to new daycare operators. Furthermore, by including early childhood education into our public school system, we allow all B.C. families to access this important developmental resource and take pressure off the daycare system. All families would have access to universal programs where certified early childhood educators would care for children aged three to four, and daycare would be available for children one to two years old.

The election runs until Saturday, Oct. 24.

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