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Get to know Burnaby council candidates: Antara Deb

“Everyone, regardless of social, economic status, or ethnicity, should have appropriate, adequate, affordable and safe housing.”
Antara Deb
Antara Deb, Burnaby Citizens Association, is running for Burnaby city council in the upcoming October election.

Burnaby will head to the polls on Oct. 15 and vote for eight city councillors and seven school trustees. Mayor Mike Hurley has been acclaimed for a second term after receiving no challengers. 

The Burnaby NOW asked every candidate running for office in the upcoming civic election to respond to a questionnaire on issues facing Burnaby today.

Candidates were given strict word limits and a deadline to submit their answers. Answers exceeding the word limits are marked. For details on how and where to vote, see our voter’s guide.

Questionnaires have been edited for clarity.

Name: Antara Deb

Current occupation: IT advisor

Short biography (50 words maximum): I am a working professional, mother, and community leader. I volunteer as a resource for vulnerable women, seniors, and families in need. I serve as a director of New Vista Society and the vice-chair of the Stand with Asians Coalition and have served as a job steward with my union.

Why are you running for city council? (150 words maximum): Through my community involvement, I have seen the struggles Burnaby residents face in supporting their families (their children and their elders), finding affordable housing, and making ends meet.

I know many of these struggles myself, as a survivor of domestic violence, a mother, and a daughter to an elderly mother. The Burnaby Citizens Association-led councils have accomplished a lot, and there is still more to do.

I love Burnaby's diverse communities and will work to build a vibrant, inclusive and progressive city that puts the needs of residents first. I am running to take meaningful action, alongside the experience and energy of my other BCA council candidates.

What are the top three issues facing Burnaby today, and what are your plans to address them? (250 words maximum): 

Housing affordability continues to be a challenge throughout the Lower Mainland and Burnaby is no exception.

Everyone, regardless of social, economic status, or ethnicity, should have appropriate, adequate, affordable and safe housing.

Burnaby needs to do more to ensure our kids and grandkids can stay close to home. This means protecting renters and existing neighbourhoods and building new housing, where and how it makes sense.

Climate change is one of the most critical issues of our time and cities can play a fundamental role in tackling this crisis.

Burnaby is a leader in the green transition and supports good, local jobs. We must continue the work of transitioning our buildings, fleets, transportation routes, and parks to meet our climate targets, and work with our neighbouring municipalities to act regionally in response to the climate emergency.

Racial justice: The discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school, the murder of George Floyd, the murder of a Muslim family and the start of the Covid-19 pandemic during the last two years have exacerbated many social issues and our community has never been further disconnected.

This has led to an unprecedented rise of racism and hate crimes around the world and in our own backyard.

Burnaby is one of the most diverse cities in BC. If elected, I will advocate for policies, resources, and programming that promotes and protects cultural diversity while diminishing racism and violence. 

Everyone deserves to be safe, no matter who they are.

What is your housing situation? Are you a homeowner, renter or something else (describe)? Do you rent property to others? (50 words maximum): I own my home where I live with my son and mother.

Burnaby currently has a population of about 250,000 people and is projected to grow to about 360,000 by 2050. How – and where – do you want the city to accommodate that growth? (200 words maximum): Burnaby is known for its beautiful surroundings, natural environments and diverse culture, making it a sought-after place for immigrants and young families. I am one of those people.

As our city continues to grow, I want to make sure it is one of the most vibrant and inclusive in the region. That means we need to plan for sustainable growth.

If elected, I want to be a part of the upcoming review of the Official Community Plan (OCP) as I am committed to engaging people of all ages, abilities, and diverse backgrounds in shaping our city’s future. Planning for the right kind of housing is also important.

The city needs to create and incentivize new affordable rental units and cooperative housing for all families especially by adding density in the right area. We also need to plan for a strong economy.

It’s more important than ever to have a government that understands its role in supporting small businesses, promoting innovation, and investing in local talent. Cities must protect existing businesses, while also attracting and facilitating new investments locally.

I would work with the experienced BCA council to build on our success in this regard.

Some organizations are calling on municipal governments to support the creation of non-profit housing by allowing projects to be built without rezoning requirements. (As an example, Women Transforming Cities wants social housing initiatives of up to 12 storeys to be permitted in multi-family areas and up to six storeys in other residential areas, without a rezoning requirement). Is this something you would support – why or why not? (250 words maximum): Non-profit housing is a critical part of our housing in Burnaby, and we need more of it to allow people to enjoy stable and secure housing at rents they can afford, particularly women-led households.

Requiring a full rezoning process can significantly increase the time it takes to get much-needed housing approved, built, and tenanted. Sometimes the rezoning process results in denying approval for social housing.

I would support looking at Burnaby’s zoning through the Official Community Plan to see where we could enable more non-profit and supportive housing to be built across the city without requiring a rezoning application.

In 2021, 73 people died in Burnaby due to the heat dome. What are your plans for the city to address increasing heat? (150 words maximum): It distresses me that some of our most vulnerable citizens are at the greatest risk for the effects of extreme heat, including death.

I would prioritize communication and support for low-income, shut-in, elderly, and other hard-to-reach residents.

The city can lead communication and partnership efforts to provide practical help to people during extreme heat. I will work towards installing more multi-level drinking water fountains with misting features around the city; opening more cooling centers and outdoor pop-up cooling locations; and continuing to prioritize outdoor green space with plenty of seating and shade.

Lastly, I will build on the climate goals set by the council to make sure we are doing everything in our municipal power to reduce emissions.

Is crime a concern for you, and how do you hope to address it? (150 words maximum): As a Burnaby resident and parent, I am very much concerned about crime in our community. That’s why I am committed to building strong and resilient communities where people know and take care of one another.

Regarding policing, the bike patrol program plays a positive and invaluable role in our community. The patrollers serve as bylaw officers and ambassadors, monitoring our parks, trails and other public spaces to reduce and prevent criminal or illegal activities. I would support more funding for these patrols.

As well, I will advocate for a community policing center in each town centre, so that residents can see and be engaged in the safety of their neighborhoods.

What is the biggest achievement and/or failure of Burnaby council in the last four years? (100 words): I am proud of the achievements of the BCA-led council working with Mayor Hurley.

In particular, council achieved the strongest Tenant Assistance Policy in Canada that other cities are copying. This makes it easier for renters to stay in Burnaby without being victims of the volatile housing market.

I am also proud of the climate action framework passed by this council but there is more to do. Our council is working hard, but provincial and federal governments collectively need to work together to help cities tackle the big challenges of housing, transportation, and climate change.

How would you spend a leisurely 24 hours in Burnaby? (150 words maximum): I would enjoy exploring Burnaby with my 11-year-old son as there is so much to see and do.

We will start by visiting the Burnaby Village Museum; we love the interesting exhibitions and open-air attractions that share the history of the early days of Burnaby as a city.

We would then go to the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre, to learn more about Japanese culture and Japanese-Canadian history, watch the live performances, and eat delicious food.

Then we would take a train ride on the Burnaby Central Railway and end the day at Edmonds Community Centre swimming pool.

We Burnaby residents are fortunate to have an extensive and diverse range of attractions, parks, conservation areas and public open spaces. As councillor, I will work to protect and expand them.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters? (100 words maximum): After two unprecedented years, families have been hit hard financially.

Families rely on the services provided by the City of Burnaby, whether that is recycling and garbage pick-up, the maintenance and building of roads and sidewalks, ensuring there are facilities where seniors can go and be active at discounted rates, or investing in swimming, skating, art lessons for our youth, and after-school programs in community schools.

As our city continues to grow, it is critical that we continue to get the basics. Municipal politics matter, so please vote on Oct. 15 and let’s build a better tomorrow together.

How can folks contact you? (Website, email, social media handles)

Burnaby residents can contact me by sending an email to antarad@burnaby-citizens.ca or call me at 778-901-0925.

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