Be more aware of the Burnaby mayoral election

Photos from David P. Ball / StarMetro

Written by: Kayli Jamieson

In case you haven’t heard, Burnaby’s municipal elections are on October 20, and there are four mayoral candidates running this term. Included are Derek Corrigan, Mike Hurley, Sylvia Gung, and Helen Chang. Eight city councillors and seven school trustees will also be elected.

Students at SFU Burnaby need to be informed about their municipal government. We often look at federal issues like the Kinder Morgan pipeline, or hyper-local issues like SFU’s student government, but forget to look closer to home in our own neighbourhood. It’s saddening how some students I talk to haven’t even heard of the upcoming election. Some don’t even know who the current mayor of Burnaby is. Those who’ve heard of Derek Corrigan may be vaguely aware of his current actions within the city, or they may be completely apathetic.

However, we shouldn’t be. The choices that happen now in Burnaby will affect and change your future more than you realize. Being informed on where our mayoral candidates stand on key issues might alter your perspective entirely.

For those who don’t know, this election is somewhat centered around candidate Derek Corrigan. Corrigan’s already served Burnaby for five terms, but might lose his seat to Mike Hurley over the controversial housing issues plaguing the municipality — especially the recent “demovictions” around Metrotown. Demoviction is a term for when older low-income housing complexes located near high-density areas are demolished to build larger condos that can accommodate more residents.

Previous tenants of these demovicted buildings are finding it very difficult to find affordable new homes. This has been the central issue of the election for Corrigan and Hurley, with Corrigan receiving extensive backlash over it.

Retired firefighter Hurley first stepped up as a candidate in late June to challenge Corrigan’s approach to Burnaby housing, describing him as having “no empathy” for the stressed evicted residents. Corrigan blames Burnaby’s inability to prevent demolitions on provincial legislation and zoning bylaws.

Recently, new legislation has given B.C. municipalities to have more power over rental zoning, and Corrigan suggests the new housing could have the same rental prices as the demolished properties. He ultimately suggests a “one-to-one replacement.”

Is this merely a political move to regain supporters for the upcoming election? Hurley finds it “suspicious” that Corrigan is only now showing “real concern”. In an article by Burnaby Now, SFU political scientist Paddy Smith also suspects this move is a counter to Hurley’s campaign. I myself am suspicious of sudden promises or political moves right before an election.

No matter the reasoning behind the turnaround, the real issue at hand are the displaced residents who have nowhere to go. Hurley’s recently proposed solution is to place a moratorium on demovictions unless it’s certain that those displaced would have a guaranteed new residence with the same rent. Although his housing plans are not cemented in detail, his main platform is focused on addressing housing affordability.

Hurley has also suggested using some of the city’s money — as Burnaby has around $1 billion in reserve — to aid the housing issue. He criticizes Corrigan for his inaction toward finding solutions and shifting the blame to the provincial and federal government.

Corrigan has stated that Hurley “knows nothing” about how municipal politics work and criticizes his lack of experience of being on a city council. These criticisms only come off as petty. By bringing down someone with these kind of statements, what does that say about the speaker themselves?

Despite these comments, Hurley has been endorsed by the Burnaby Teacher’s Association as well as the New Westminster and District Labour Council. Also in support of Hurley is Joe Keithley of the Burnaby Civic Greens, who initially was also running for mayor, but pulled out to direct more votes to Hurley in hopes it will unseat Corrigan. Keithley is running for a Council seat instead.

Corrigan reminds the public of “the accomplishments [his party has] had over the course of the last thirty years in order to gauge what [they’ll] do in the future”, also adding the city’s progressive nature and prosperity was due to their hard work. He describes the housing issue as a “tough problem” with “no easy solution”. It seems that Corrigan is perhaps grasping at straws by trying to remind Burnaby of the “good things” he has done, hoping it will make voters overlook the drama around the housing crisis.

While it appears that some citizens of Burnaby are already taking sides, the official platforms for all four candidates have not been released at the time of this writing. Candidate profiles are at least on the City of Burnaby’s website, with a segment of Sylvia Gung’s description stating “abolishing municipal election campaigns can solve housing problems.” This comes off as very ironic considering she’s running in the elections. She’s perhaps most well-known for wishing to ban public displays of affection to supposedly prevent violence toward gay and lesbian couples — some odd logic to say the least.

More information has yet to be released as well for candidate Helen Chang. She was elected as a Burnaby school trustee for three years in 2005, and wishes to make Burnaby safe and inclusive. Chang and Gung aren’t directly involved yet with the demovictions drama between Corrigan and Hurley, but they may possibly bring proposals to the table of how Burnaby can be improved. This is something to look out for as well, as they’re all still active characters in this elections.

At the end of the day, remember that your vote does matter. This election has real and visible consequences, and people need to be as informed and active as they are for any other election. Place meaning behind your vote and create conversations with others about it. Nothing bad comes from being informed about the changes within your most local community, and who’s behind them