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Get to know Burnaby council candidates: James Wang

“In today’s uncertain 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.”
JamesWang_Council
Coun. James Wang, Burnaby Citizens Association, is running for re-election to the 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: James Wang

Current occupation: Burnaby city councillor

Short biography (50 words maximum): I moved to Canada in 1996 and have lived in Burnaby with my family for over two decades.

After serving two terms as school trustee, I was elected to council in 2014. Ever since, I have worked diligently to make Burnaby a strong, vibrant and inclusive city.

Why are you running for city council? (150 words maximum): We have made huge strides on affordable housing, climate change and public safety by working closely with Mayor Mike Hurley and BCA council members in the last four years.

I’m running for re-election because of my strong passion for community services and connections. There have been many initiatives that have been started in the last few years that still require support to bring to implementation.

In today’s uncertain 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 for new investments locally. This is what I do best.

If elected on Oct. 15, I commit to work toward a more affordable, inclusive and livable city.

What are the top three issues facing Burnaby today, and what are your plans to address them? (250 words maximum): Affordable housing, climate change and community safety.

On the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing, I contributed to developing comprehensive strategies to address the housing crisis and improve affordability. Now we have over 12,000 rental units at all stages of the development process and more than 60 per cent of that is non-market rental units.

On the environmental committee, I supported the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and I voted in favour of the climate emergency declaration.

As chair of the public safety committee, I introduced the first-ever community safety plan, now in the process of being implemented, to make Burnaby a safe place for everyone.

If elected on Oct. 15, I will work closely with Mayor Hurley and BCA council members to implement the initiatives we have started and continue to make a more affordable and livable city.

What is your housing situation? Are you a homeowner, renter or something else (describe)? Do you rent property to others? (50 words maximum): I am a homeowner and also rent property to families and individuals.

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): During the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing, we committed to finding ways to make it easier for families, seniors and people with a low income to find stable housing.

Our actions sparked a historic surge in the creation of non-market rental housing. Now we have over 12,000 rental units at all stages of the development process and more than 60 per cent of that is non-market rental units. I think this will go a long way to accommodating growth.

Our Housing and Homelessness Strategy (HOME) addresses challenges and opportunities across the entire housing system, including reducing homelessness. It identifies specific actions to take over the next 10 years to improve housing opportunities for the entire community. Housing the homeless is important for the well-being of our city and our neighbours.

We’re moving quickly to build the facilities our growing community needs. We just approved the most ambitious capital program in our city’s history, which will add brand new facilities and connections to make our community even more livable.

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): So far, we have done many things to support non-market housing including pre-zoning city-owned sites to speed up the development process; fast-tracking non-market housing projects through the development process; dedicating a staff team that expedites the projects through our process; provided funding to make projects affordable, including funding for development fees and charges.

We are actively looking at ways that will speed the delivery of affordable housing because we need more of it in our city.  Through our development approvals review project, we will be looking at ways to make our development process faster and more efficient, including the use of planning tools such as development permits.

We need to balance community and neighbourhood concerns with the need to build more non-profit housing. With my BCA council colleagues, I would explore reviewing our Official Community Plan and considering other tools to expedite ways to build housing that our city needs.

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): Immediately after the 2021 heat dome, we began working with community partners and provincial agencies to understand what had happened and how we could improve our response to heat events. We spent months working on our enhanced Extreme Heat Response Plan and added new initiatives to help those in need.

Now you will see cooling centre open houses in advance of the summer season, our Alertable app which is a mass notification tool that we can alert our community of a heat event, extended hours at our cooling centres, and better collaboration with community partners to coordinate an overall community response during a heat event.

These are responses to extreme heat, but we also must focus on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to meet our climate targets. I am committed to tackling both these things as it is one of the biggest challenges of our time.

Is crime a concern for you, and how do you hope to address it? (150 words maximum): City council must work to keep our city safe. That means working with all our partners in the community.

Under my leadership as chair of the public safety committee, I brought to council the first-ever community safety plan for the city, now in the process of being implemented, to make Burnaby a safe place for everyone.

It not only demonstrates I am instrumental in liaising with our local police service to ensure community safety concerns are being heard and addressed, but also my direct engagement in maintaining and enhancing public safety in our community.

In the past years, the city has hired more RCMP and firefighters and launched the bike patrol program that plays a positive and invaluable role in our community.

What is the biggest achievement and/or failure of Burnaby council in the last four years? (100 words): 

Working closely with Mayor Hurley and BCA councillors, we made huge strides on affordable housing. As a member of the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing and the planning and development committee, I have worked with all stakeholders to develop comprehensive strategies to reduce the crisis of housing affordability.

Even though we have made big progress on affordable housing, I still think we can do much better with full support and funding from upper levels of governments. I will work with all government partners to bring more housing to Burnaby.

How would you spend a leisurely 24 hours in Burnaby? (150 words maximum): In the morning, I’d play a round of golf in the Burnaby Mountain Golf Course or at Kensington Pitch and Putt, my neighbourhood’s fine golf facilities.

Then I would spend a couple of hours doing garden work. During the pandemic period, my wife and I made a Japanese garden in my backyard. My architecture background gives me the tools to beautify my yards.

After dinner, my wife and I would go for a walk, just like we did almost every day during the pandemic. It’s also a good opportunity to learn from our neighbours nearby.

My two kids are chasing their dreams away from home after they graduated from Burnaby North Secondary, so before bed we might chat with them via social media to share the joy of life.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters? (100 words maximum): Working with Mayor Mike Hurley and BCA council members, we made huge strides on affordable housing, climate change and public safety.

My involvement in multicultural and anti-racism actions give me the tools to help Burnaby become a more equitable, inclusive and safe community.

As a volunteer I helped fundraise millions for the Burnaby Hospital Foundation and local food banks, and I procured tens of thousands of personal protective equipment for local hospitals and seniors’ facilities.

I want to continue to work with you and for you! If elected I commit to work toward a more affordable, inclusive and livable city.

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

Website: www.burnaby-citizens.ca
Email: JamesW@burnaby-citizens.ca
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/james4burnaby

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