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Get to know Burnaby council candidates: Mona Grewal

“We need to make it easier for people to purchase a home, start a family, keep those families together and ultimately age in place.”
Mona Grewal, One Burnaby, 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: Mona Grewal

Current occupation: Small business owner – Paragon Design

Short biography (50 words maximum): Mona Grewal is running for City Council with One Burnaby, our city’s newest political party.

Mona emigrated to Canada thirty years ago, received her diploma at BCIT in interior design and runs her own business. She is also a co-owner of an architecture and design firm.

Why are you running for city council? (150 words maximum): I’m running for council because I want to make sure that families like mine have the same opportunities to build a life in Burnaby. When I emigrated and earned my diploma at BCIT while raising my children, it was very hard.

That’s why I’ve become a champion for women’s economic empowerment through education, and I want to see programs and supports put in place through city hall to better serve immigrant communities, families and women who are trying to improve their lives.

What are the top three issues facing Burnaby today, and what are your plans to address them? (250 words maximum): Our team at One Burnaby launched in June of this year, and we’ve already had more than 7,000 conversations with voters about the issues facing Burnaby today.

Armed with those conversations and our decades of living, working, and raising families in Burnaby, we’ve determined that the top issues facing the people of Burnaby are:

Housing affordability, and overall availability of housing of all kinds, which we’ll address by introducing flexible zoning that will allow more lots everywhere in the city, while making housing affordable, and keeping families together.

Public and street safety, there is increasing street disorder and instances of hate crimes, while at the same time we’re seeing a high number of vehicle caused injuries and deaths. To address this:

We’ll be hiring more bylaw officers to handle nuisance crimes and supporting a four quadrants community policing program that will consult with neighbourhoods on how best to support their community’s needs, alongside a Vision Zero mandate to cut traffic deaths and injuries by 50 per cent by 2030, because Burnaby has one of the highest rates of vehicle casualties per capita in the province and it doesn’t have to be this way.

Investing in our shared future, which we’ll address through a number of policies, including: establishing a Burnaby office of reconciliation and Nation to Nation partnership, dedicated to working with First Nations, city hall staff, citizens of Burnaby, and the business community in order to coordinate, fund engagement capacity and advance shared projects. (word count exceeded)

What is your housing situation? Are you a homeowner, renter or something else (describe)? Do you rent property to others? (50 words maximum): My family and I live in our home near Deer Lake Park.

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 make it easier for people to purchase a home, start a family, keep those families together and ultimately age in place. 

That’s why One Burnaby is committed to a plan to:

Introducing flexible residential zoning, to allow a household to introduce more housing units on a single lot, without changing the character of the neighbourhood by allowing up to six housing units per lot, everywhere within 15 minutes of rapid transit, and up to four housing units per lot everywhere else.

Providing a template for pre-approved and streamlined building plans, in order to provide a suite of options for families to build the housing they need without exorbitant design and consultation fees.

Reviewing the building code, to make sure that added density also provides accessibility, so that as family members age they can age with dignity.

Four floors and corner stores in every neighbourhood, with flexible zoning for ground and second-floor commercial use, so that corner stores, coffee shops, child-care spaces, and other community amenities can be introduced within walking distance of your front door on every corner in your neighbourhood. (word count exceeded)

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): One Burnaby will be addressing the housing shortage by:

Building housing for all, by introducing flexible zoning and gentle density to neighbourhoods within a 15 minute walk of rapid transit — below four stories in residential neighbourhoods, and up to six stories on main arterials for purpose-built rentals.

Making rules that make sense, cutting through red tape, and making it easier for a family to choose what they want to do with their own property.

Building affordable housing at every opportunity, including using city capital spending on fire halls, libraries, and community centres to build housing for teachers, social workers, health care professionals and first responders so that they can afford to live in the city they serve.

Reviewing and reform our consultation process, so that it better reflects our neighbourhoods.

Managing fees and cost downloading, so that we aren’t passing on unnecessary additional costs to households looking to invest in their own community.

And we’ll get it done fast by eliminating the permitting backlog by introducing a 3x3x3 mandate for permits: three days for simple retrofits and business permits, three weeks for pre-approved builds with plans by accredited professionals, three months for consultations (word count exceeded)

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 first role of government is making sure that it keeps its citizens safe, and as the climate crisis mounts, we’ll need to do more with policy in order to address the threats to our population.

The biggest things that can be done to address heating in the city are: providing new, affordable, and up-to-code housing options that keep people safe and cool. One Burnaby will address this by undertaking city wide zoning reform to increase the available housing options of all kinds.

Introducing additional tree cover to eliminate heat islands. One Burnaby will address this by doubling the rate of tree planting and refocusing city tree planting along arterials.

Reducing the use of internal combustion engine vehicles that drive up temperatures near busy roads. (word count exceeded)

Is crime a concern for you, and how do you hope to address it? (150 words maximum): We’re seeing concerns around hate crimes and random attacks at our town centres, especially Metrotown, as well as street disorder.

We can’t have a prosperous city if people from all walks of life don’t feel safe – which is why One Burnaby is committing to introducing a four quadrants community policing program, where we’ll support distinct community policing models depending on the area of the city and those neighbourhoods’ distinct needs.

We’ll also increase the number of bylaw enforcement officers in order to address nuisance crimes in parks and public spaces.

What is the biggest achievement and/or failure of Burnaby council in the last four years? (100 words): Introducing renter protections and approving the construction of purpose-built rental for the first time in almost 20 years.

How would you spend a leisurely 24 hours in Burnaby? (150 words maximum): I’d spend time with my family, and go for a walk at Deer Lake Park.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters? (100 words maximum): The BCA has had uninterrupted control of Burnaby city council since 1988.

We at One Burnaby feel that 34 years is long enough, it’s time for change, and One Burnaby is leading the way by freezing property taxes in 2023 to keep money in your pocket, building housing for all to make it more affordable while keeping families together, making Burnaby safe through expanded community policing, more bylaw officers and building safer streets, introducing a city report card and ombudsperson’s office to make city hall more accountable and expediting permitting for businesses while reviewing city policies.

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