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Burnaby Citizens Association powers back to win council majority

Voter turnout came in at a paltry 19.78 per cent.
Incumbent Burnaby Citizens Association Coun. Alison Gu celebrates her victory in the 2022 municipal election.

This article has been updated with numbers from the unofficial election results.

The Burnaby Citizens Association (BCA) is celebrating after regaining a stronghold on city council.

With all four incumbent councillors re-elected, and two BCA newcomers celebrating a council victory, the NDP-affiliated party now represents six of eight council seats.

“The future is bright,” said incumbent BCA Coun. Sav Dhaliwal at an election watch party on Oct. 15.

BCA incumbent Coun. Alison Gu, at age 26, is looking at a second landslide victory with the highest number of votes in the unofficial results at 17,340 — 4,316 more than the candidate following in second place, BCA incumbent Coun. James Wang. She won 8.08 per cent of the vote.

“I’m really honoured that there’s been so much trust placed in me,” Gu told the NOW.

“The message I’ve always put forward is that housing and climate need to be tackled together and we need to be doing it at a pace that is urgent. And I hope that’s what resonates with people.”

The two spots left open by the retirement of long-time councillors Dan Johnston and Colleen Jordan opened the door for newly elected Maita Santiago and Daniel Tetrault.

Voter turnout came in at a paltry 19.78 per cent with 32,249 Burnaby residents voting out of 163,076 registered voters — lower than the 32 per cent seen in 2018, the 27.3 per cent in 2014 or the 24.6 per cent in 2011.

Incumbent Burnaby Green Party councillor and punk legend Joe Keithley kept a firm hold of his council spot with 11,383 votes, the fifth most votes.

In 2018, he was elected to the eighth and final council spot, squeaking in with 215 votes more than the next candidate.

Keithley’s election was the first crack in the armour of BCA’s stronghold on Burnaby politics. It was followed by the election of Mike Hillman in the 2021 byelection.

Incumbent One Burnaby Coun. Mike Hillman eked out a council seat then by just 124 votes over another BCA council hopeful.

He’s lost his council spot this go-round to fellow One Burnaby running mate Richard T. Lee, a former four-term MLA for Burnaby North.

“I’m honoured to be elected to represent and serve the people of Burnaby and disappointed that I won’t be joined on council by more of my One Burnaby teammates,” said Richard T. Lee in a statement to the NOW.

“I’ll look forward to finding areas of agreement and consensus with my new colleagues on council.”

The new centre-right One Burnaby party failed to significantly challenge the dominant BCA, but it performed better than previous right-leaning party Burnaby First Coalition (BFC). In 2018, the best performing BFC candidate came in 14th out of 23 candidates.

Hillman finished three spots out of a council seat, with 9,710 votes.

The Green Party, aside from Keithley, was also not able to crack another spot on council.

Carrie McLaren won fewer votes this year than in 2018, with 8,276 to 2018’s 10,019.

New Green candidates Jasmine Nicholsfigueiredo and Tara Shushtarian garnered 6,723 and 6,215 votes.

Seven of the nine independent candidates finished with the lowest number of votes, with under 2.35 per cent of the vote.

Independent Ken Arnold received the most votes of any independent, at 6,912.

The BCA see Oct. 15 as a victory.

Incumbent BCA councillors James Wang, Pietro Calendino and Sav Dhaliwal won handily in 2018, and tonight was no different, with the councillors receiving 13,024, 12,494 and 12,335 votes respectively.

For Gu, she said she’s been focused on electing the team.

“One person is always just one vote, and it’s limited in terms of what one person can achieve. But with a team of people that are on the same page, you can get things done.”

She said creating the Burnaby housing authority, which would be able to use city-owned land and waive municipal fees, is her next priority, echoed by Santiago and Tetrault.

The last meeting of the sitting council will be on Monday, Oct. 24.

The newly elected councillors and school trustees will be sworn in alongside acclaimed Mayor Mike Hurley in a ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 2.

More to come.