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Get to know Burnaby council candidates: Deborah Skerry

“Burnaby builders should lead the way by creating infrastructure with the highest standards for low emissions energy and conservation.”
Skerry Council
Deborah Skerry, independent, 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: My name is Deborah Skerry. 

Current occupation: I am semi-retired, but I continue to do property management, general contracting, and government work.

Short biography (50 words maximum): I am a conscientious human being.  I am an artist. I love music, art, dance, theater, film, television, cooking, baking, skiing, swimming, gardening, and scrabble; to name a few. I am well-educated and a good listener. I know how to get things done. I am detail-oriented and work hard.

Why are you running for city council? (150 words maximum): I am running for Burnaby city council because I know I can contribute in a positive and effective manner on the job.

My 25 years of working in public safety and restorative justice training have taught me peaceful methods in resolving disputes. I was appointed to the joint occupational health committee, where I represented the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1004 (City of Vancouver) at the table.

My 40+ years public service includes Statistics Canada (Census), and both Elections Canada and Elections B.C., working in the building trades, property management, and the running of a small business teaching me financing and administrative work skills.

I have a joint major degree in Criminology and gender sexuality and women’s studies, certificates in legal studies and social policy from Simon Fraser and a certificate in advanced electronics from BCIT.  

I have the knowledge and experience for the job.

What are the top three issues facing Burnaby today, and what are your plans to address them? (250 words maximum): The first issue facing Burnaby today is the need for affordable, accessible and available housing.

The second issue is staff storages and difficult working conditions experienced by many industries, occupations, and businesses today.

The third top issue is climate change and the environment.

I believe councillors can have the greatest impact by engaging the involvement of all concerned stakeholders at all levels of government. In order to create affordable, accessible and available housing city council needs to work with the provincial and federal governments on policy design and implementation.

Burnaby builders should lead the way by creating infrastructure with the highest standards for low emissions energy and conservation. Burnaby can regulate new structural designs and needs to assist in the retrofitting of existing buildings.

City councils can engage the recruitment personnel and training experts to understand staff shortages and what is needed to fill the many gaps in personnel. We need to better understand the health and emergency-care crisis delivery system better to improve it.

Reducing staffing storages may require improving the working conditions of existing personnel to retain them. Council should review its current budget strategies for resources to advance improvements. Burnaby could allocate more funding and advocate for the twenty-dollar minimum wage for precarious workers. We can educate, and advocate, for more hiring and training.

I advocate for education and collective action to address climate change.  We all need to do our part to reduce GHG emissions and waste. It will take the whole village of Burnaby.

What is your housing situation? Are you a homeowner, renter or something else (describe)? Do you rent property to others? (50 words maximum): I built the single-income, empty-nested home that I live in. I own the property, with the bank, and may do so until I die.

I built the rental-property that was my business for many years. I have housed many SFU students and my mom.

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’s current population of about 250,000 people can accommodate its expected growth to about 360,000 by 2050 with high-density high-rise buildings along the SkyTrain and transit-positive areas.

Historically, Burnaby was a municipality of Vancouver and part of East Vancouver – a rural community. Now, it has grown into a world-class city. We have a skyline. It is not my decision where people want to house themselves. The consumers will drive the demand.

City governments can zone structures and create green spaces, but people should be free to live as they choose.

People should have options such as laneway and other onsite structures.

Another solution may be to utilize the expanded floor space in current dwellings by converting crawl spaces to useable living spaces as an option for extended family arrangements. It is important to remember family arrangements take all forms and no one solution will work for all.

What is important is that there is equality in the delivery of services and indemnities.

(Aside: I want to take this space to complete my candidate video, that was cut off by ElectionsBC, by sharing the three missing words, which were: …as I watch “the skyline grow.”)

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): Although, some organizations are calling on municipal governments to support the creation of non-profit housing by allowing projects to be built without rezoning requirements, such as the “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,” I could not support the bypassing of procedures, theoretically designed for safety, and best practices for all.

I could not support the bypassing of zoning because it seems unfair to those that have come before and done the work of making policy or making change.

I also think it defeats the purpose of zoning in the first place.

Zoning takes place under considerable scrutiny, and usually, involves stakeholder input, bypassing that would nullify their hard work and could harm the system. I want to believe zoning is done in the best interests in all concerned parties and not one over the other.

The utilitarian concept of trying to please the greatest number of people; or in this case citizens, comes to mind. I want to see affordable housing and help where it is required-but the right way.

There may be options for fast tracking or, again, more staff and more access to services may be helpful.

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): Burnaby’s loss of 73 people in 2021 is a tragedy. My condolences to all of those who suffered loss.

Burnaby has responded, this summer, by providing cooling stations throughout the city.

All levels of government have shown how our increasingly hot summers and rising temperatures worldwide harm our livelihoods, and our overall economy, not to mention life on earth.

Burnaby should continue with its actions for reducing: GHG emissions, waste production, and finding and implementing alternate forms of energy to fossil fuels. I want continued greening, yet, again, I think it takes our whole village.

Since the 2021 tragedy, I have noticed an increase in public education on climate change. I have seen the effects of the flooding in the valley, and the forest fires rage. I see, and feel, the dangers, so I think it is important to be a good neighbour and citizen We need each other.

Is crime a concern for you, and how do you hope to address it? (150 words maximum): Yes, crime is a concern for me; crime is a concern for everyone. 

I am a criminology graduate. I have worked in public safety for years. For me, criminal justice is a lived experience. I am educated in restorative justice initiatives. I embrace them. I encourage everyone to at least learn a little about the concept of taking responsibility for the harm caused, the ability to forgive, and ideally, atonement, or the amendment of the wrong committed, as best as it can be.

I know that crime is a very complex issue. There are issues of poverty. There are systemic wrongs that need to be righted, for an equal justice to be available to all. I do not pretend that there are simple solutions, or even one solution for all, but the law is the tool, I chose to use, for effecting change.

What is the biggest achievement and/or failure of Burnaby council in the last four years? (100 words): The biggest achievement of the Burnaby city council, in the last four years, has been in maintaining the city’s prosperity, and growth.

The focus on high-density structures around the SkyTrain stations is effective, but it can take away from other areas.

Burnaby city council’s biggest failure, in the last four years, appears to be in maintaining a healthy emergency response system. The staffing shortages, and wait times for 911, and/or ambulance and emergency response is in crisis.

It is broken. I know that there has been a pandemic, and I salute the front-line workers, but we need a fix.

How would you spend a leisurely 24 hours in Burnaby? (150 words maximum): A leisurely day for me in Burnaby usually involves time in my garden. I like fresh air and walking. I can walk uphill to enjoy the view from the top.

I have enjoyed swimming at C.G. Brown Pool. I like Confederation Park and the McGill Branch Library.

It is nice to go out to supper, once and a while, at one of Burnaby’s many restaurants. It is nice to encounter my neighbours for chats and the news of the day. I enjoy Simon Fraser University and Burnaby Lake.

I am a visible part of my community, but the truth is, leisure is still a little way off from my everyday experience, although I am semi-retired.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters? (100 words maximum): The most important thing I would like to tell voters is to “get out and vote.” If you can, help another to get out and vote, do.

Please, learn about the ways to vote. There are mail-in ballots available. Eligible voters should make sure they are registered to vote, and where they can go to vote.

Finally, I think Burnabeeins are lucky. We live in a beautiful and great city. We have great country and constitution. We should not take this for granted. We should do all we can to create the best possible living environment in our city that we can.

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

I can be contacted by email at deborahskerry@hotmail.com, Facebook, or by leaving a message on 604-299-9773 which can accept a fax, with prior notification of its arrival.

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