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Get to know Burnaby council candidates: Joe Keithley

“We must however find a balance between our housing needs and environment so Burnaby doesn’t become a city of just highrises.”
Joe Keithley Green Party photo
Coun. Joe Keithley, Green Party of Burnaby, is running for re-election to Burnaby city council this October.

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: Joe Keithley

Current occupation: Burnaby city councillor

Short biography (50 words maximum): I was born in Burnaby, and with my wife Laura, we have raised our three children here.

I’m a lifelong environmentalist and have always stood up for people’s rights and against racism and sexism. I’ve been inducted into B.C.’s Music Hall of Fame for my work with the band D.O.A.

Why are you running for city council? (150 words maximum): I am running because I love our community and at this time, we need strong leadership in key areas, and I know I can provide that.

We need to be working on making Burnaby a truly sustainable city, a 15-minute city, where all your services are close by.

We need to provide a lot of housing, and as a councillor I have worked hard to help get over 12,000 rental units built or into the planning stages. Over 8,000 of these units are below market rates.

If re-elected, I will continue to work hard on this issue. I also want to continue protecting and expanding our green spaces as well as growing our tree canopy. I will also continue the progress we have made to protect our vulnerable population and will work to provide more support for our seniors.

What are the top three issues facing Burnaby today, and what are your plans to address them? (250 words maximum): There are many important issues: we need more affordable daycare, a complete cycling and sidewalk network, and more support for seniors.

My top three are: affordable housing, fighting climate change and holding the line on taxes.

Home ownership isn’t a possibility for many Burnaby residents. This is largely because the provincial and federal governments have failed to make good on their promise to fund affordable housing. We need housing for all, as housing should be a right and not a privilege.

We must build affordable rental and co-op homes coordinated by a new Burnaby housing authority that will put aside land for long term leases and get these below-market rate homes built as quickly as possible.

To mitigate climate change, I believe that Burnaby should be aiming to make Burnaby carbon neutral by 2035; if we wait till 2050 it will be too late.

To achieve this, we need to make all new housing carbon neutral and design a plan to retrofit all older homes and businesses to be carbon neutral. We also need to create a 15-minute city so people can walk, cycle, roll to get what they need without using a car.

Holding the line on taxes is important, as taxpayers are already overburdened. We will find ways to cut waste and make the city more efficient. One example of this approach that I voted for was to use the same design for the new Fire Halls #4 and # 8 (at SFU) to save on design costs.

What is your housing situation? Are you a homeowner, renter or something else (describe)? Do you rent property to others? (50 words maximum): My wife and I own our home, and we do not have rental 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): We need to gently densify, but only after extensive consultation in every neighbourhood.

The bulk of this density should be near transit hubs so they can serve a greater amount of people. We must however find a balance between our housing needs and environment so Burnaby doesn’t become a city of just highrises.

This can be achieved by making our new Official Community Plan (OCP) which will be complete in 2025, more flexible to handle the pressures and needs of the future. As your councillor I would make sure that there is extensive public consultation on the OCP.

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):  I am all for non-profit housing. Along with Mayor Hurley, I have been the lead proponent of non-profit housing on council.

This was a fundamental reason why I ran for council in 2018, as Burnaby’s housing needs were not being even slightly considered by the BCA council.

But it is important to consider the neighbours of every new project. That’s why public hearings are important on all significant developments in the city. I, as one of your councillors, would not impose a development project onto any neighbourhood without the residents getting their input first.

I believe we need to widen public consultation on projects so that everybody has their say.

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): The 73 deaths that occurred during last year’s heat dome are a tragedy and demonstrate the reaI world effects of the climate crisis.

I recently put forth a motion in council that will rapidly increase the speed at which the city can plant trees which will help to mitigate extreme heat events. I would also assure that enough cooling centres are open throughout the city so that seniors and vulnerable people will have relief from the heat.

The Greens have acknowledged and acted upon climate change for the last 40 years while the other parties have only woken up to this reality in the last few years.

The Burnaby Green Party is your best choice to effectively steer the city in a direction to mitigate climate change impacts and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Is crime a concern for you, and how do you hope to address it? (150 words maximum): Crime is a big concern for me, all residents in our community need to feel safe and protected.

I believe one idea to help our residents feel protected is for the RCMP to increase the number of officers on bicycles; this approach would give them a chance to be more integrated in the community. By getting the officers out of their squad cars, the bike patrols would help add a human face to the force and enable them to react quickly to crime. The RCMP also needs more resources to react to gang related crime and violence.

Two years ago, after two shootings in South Burnaby, Mayor Hurley and I, along with two members of the RCMP, met with residents at Ron McLean Park to hear their concerns. After that meeting the RCMP increased the number of patrols in the area which reduced the level of street crime.

What is the biggest achievement and/or failure of Burnaby council in the last four years? (100 words): I worked with Mayor Hurley to stop the demovictions at Metrotown that were occurring because of a lack of foresight from former Mayor Derek Corrigan.

Together with Mayor Hurley, I have been able to get over 12,000 rental homes built or into the planning stages. Over 8,000 of these are below market rates.

Mayor Hurley and I also helped to enact Canada’s strongest tenant protection policy.

How would you spend a leisurely 24 hours in Burnaby? (150 words maximum): A leisurely day in Burnaby can look like a lot of different things! Personally, I’d go with my family down to Foreshore Park to have a picnic and play with my two young grandsons.

Seeing the boats on the Fraser River always reminds me of my Finnish grandfather and uncle who were fishing boat captains on this mighty river.

Ideally, I’d end the day watching the Canucks on TV on their quest to win the Stanley Cup!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters? (100 words maximum): I have initiated the following: 100 electric vehicle chargers at city hall as we electrify our fleet, greater protection of our waterways by getting Flowlink technology included in the last budget, the creation of new community gardens and permitting backyard chickens to strengthen our food security, the recycling of construction waste from our demolished buildings, and have started the process of banning single-use plastics.

I have also gotten council to endorse the Fossil Free Non-Proliferation Treaty and the creation of my music charity Harmony for All, which gets musical instruments into the hands of Burnaby kids that need them.

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



Twitter: @DOAJoe

Instagram: @joe.keithley