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Get to know Burnaby council candidates: Gulam Firdos

“I am running for city council to bring a change in the system.”
Gulam Firdos, 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: Gulam Firdos

Current occupation: City planner

Short biography (50 words maximum): Professional city planner (35 years), 10 years as UN housing expert, former president of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, expert in affordable and rental housing, and critic of making the city a concrete jungle.

Why are you running for city council? (150 words maximum):  I am running for city council to bring a change in the system. Again to remind everyone that although the councillors have been in the council for years, they did not resolve affordable housing and rental issues. Since the main responsibility of the city is land use planning and development so the citizens can enjoy reasonable and affordable shelter to live.

As a land use planning expert, I am the only candidate to resolve land use planning shelter for all and affordable housing issues for the city.  

What are the top three issues facing Burnaby today, and what are your plans to address them? (250 words maximum): Although there are a substantial number of issues in Burnaby such as climate, the pipeline, transportation, etc., currently the top three issues facing Burnaby are: 

Housing and rental affordability: In Burnaby, around 100,000 people are without proper reasonable rental housing. Therefore, in reality, housing is the top concern of our people. As a housing expert, I want to make housing more affordable through land use planning and management to balance housing and rental affordability.

Make Burnaby a healthy city by organizing emergency health transportation for seniors: Diminishing trend of ambulance and hospital transfers, especially for seniors (who are most vulnerable), have never been addressed by the councillors. I will address this issue by introducing private hospital transfer facility which I will introduce very soon with the help from government.

Social issues such as hate crime, drug abuse and drug-related criminal offences, racial issues, disrespect of Indigenous people, Islamophobia.

I want to address these social issues and fight to resolve them.

What is your housing situation? Are you a homeowner, renter or something else (describe)? Do you rent property to others? (50 words maximum): Presently I am a renter and do not rent property.

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): Accommodating the growing population from 250,000 to 360,000 by 2050 is a land management issue.

The only feasible way to deal this issue is to develop the principle of housing concentration within the existing framework, such as laneways, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, etc. This will tend to increase housing stock, increase the income of existing homeowners and keep rentals under control.

Highrises are unable to resolve these issues since those will only increase cost of living, as they are highly priced.

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): In my opinion, the creation of non-profit housing projects are welcome, provided these housing projects will be affordable (350,000 for a two-bed and 1,500 for two-bed rentals).

Rezoning concepts can be compromised if social housing projects consisting of 12 storeys in multifamily areas and six stories in residential areas, if those housing projects guarantee affordable accommodation and are operated as a not-for-profit entity.

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): Although we are quite aware and know that the heat dome affect is related to climate change, none of the city councillors has taken steps to bring a motion to address the heat dome issue.

In my opinion, a motion should be tabled which coordinates worship places such as churches, mosques, etc. to accommodate homeless people to take shelter in those worship areas during a heat dome and provide cooling systems as well as cool water and drinks so they do not face the situation like 2021.

Is crime a concern for you, and how do you hope to address it? (150 words maximum): I have reiterated that crime (hate crime, killing with machetes, drug abuse, ethnic crime etc.) should be rooted out from Burnaby.

This can be dealt with higher vigilance from our police with support from citizens. I think that a specific motion can be tabled to deal with the high rise of criminal activities.

What is the biggest achievement and/or failure of Burnaby council in the last four years? (100 words): Burnaby city council has not been able to achieve its goal to bring confidence among the citizens on issues like affordable housing, health improvements or social issues which are not being addressed in the council, but most of the times discussion centres around rezoning land parcels for permitting highrise buildings to appease developers.

They have failed to address affordable housing, rather reducing the city into a concrete warehouse.

How would you spend a leisurely 24 hours in Burnaby? (150 words maximum): Spending 24 hours rowing a boat in Deer Lake Park, sitting in a café in Burnaby Mountain around SFU would be joyous.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters? (100 words maximum): Since Burnaby is my home, and I come to live and die in Burnaby, therefore I would like to see all those who think Burnaby their home should have the basic requirements such as shelter, health facilities and a remarkable social life to live. That’s my prayer for all. That’s why I am fighting for the people and need their vote to raise my voice.

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