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Get to know Burnaby council candidates: Reah Arora

“I believe in building a beautiful Burnaby with vibrant and inclusive neighbourhoods.”
Reah Arora, Burnaby Citizens Association, 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: Reah Arora

Current occupation: Director of organizing and campaigns for the BC Federation of Labour

Short biography (50 words maximum): I’m a longtime Burnaby resident, community builder and organizer with a strong sense of social justice. I have a deep understanding of the impact of inclusive legislation from my time working in Alberta’s Premier's Office. I’ve worked to elect progressive governments and racialized people across Canada.

Why are you running for city council? (150 words maximum): I’m running because this city is my home sweet home and I want it to stay that way. I want to ensure that not only mine, but everyone’s future generations can continue to live in the vibrant and diverse city that Burnaby is.

I care about people living with dignity and I want to build a society that reduces harm environmentally, socially and institutionally. I have experience working with diverse communities and navigating difficult policy decisions to ensure inclusion.

I work to find a way forward that benefits everyone. I want to bring these skills to the challenges our city faces.

Burnaby can be an affordable place to live and a vibrant city that meets the challenges of the climate crisis while ensuring equitable solutions and services for all its residents regardless of who they are or where they come from.

What are the top three issues facing Burnaby today, and what are your plans to address them? (250 words maximum): 

I believe in building a beautiful Burnaby with vibrant and inclusive neighbourhoods. The keys to that are housing affordability and services families need like child care and after-school care, and actively recognizing our diversity.

Burnaby is a city of neighbourhoods and council needs to work with them to add affordable housing where it makes sense. We need to protect renters and rental housing, building on the strong Tenant Assistance Policy passed by this last council.

Families also need more access to affordable childcare, and the city needs to be an active partner in developing sites for child care and after-school care.

A vibrant Burnaby also means providing the services we all count on, ensuring that they are inclusive and truly serve our diverse communities. This means improving our already strong offerings in our public community centres, rec centres, and libraries.

What is your housing situation? Are you a homeowner, renter or something else (describe)? Do you rent property to others? (50 words maximum): Like many in my community, I live in a multi-generational home with my extended family. I lived in my own home in Edmonton, when I worked in the Premier’s office there, and currently have that house listed for sale.

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 sure people who live in Burnaby today – our families’ kids and grandchildren – can afford to keep living here. This means protecting renters and existing neighbourhoods, while building new and affordable housing. Adding residential density, where that makes sense will help us accommodate a growing population.

There is also an opportunity to approach development in a way where our key priorities like child-care spaces, non-market rental housing and affordable home ownership are at the forefront. This way we can create vibrant, walkable communities, while making the changes we need to tackle the climate crisis.

It’s important that Burnaby remain a community where there are good, green, family-supporting jobs. I am committed to Burnaby’s economic growth and attracting good jobs to our city, so that people can work where they live and live where they work.

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 agree we need more housing that meets the needs of residents who are squeezed out of the housing market.

This means we need to build more non-profit, co-op, and secure below-market rental housing across Burnaby’s neighbourhoods. The city has to use the tools at its disposal to encourage the kind of housing we need, in places where residents will be welcomed as true neighbours.

If elected, I commit to looking at the city’s Official Community Plan to see how we can enable more housing to build out diverse and mixed communities.

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): Extreme heat is a scary reality for many people, particularly those who live in buildings that aren’t able to regulate their temperatures. 

We have to invest in cooling centres across the city to accommodate residents without access to air conditioning, but we also need to work on moving towards heat pump systems and away from gas furnaces.

Burnaby has done good work on prioritizing retrofitting and electrification of city fleets but there is more we need to do, in partnership with other levels of government.

Is crime a concern for you, and how do you hope to address it? (150 words maximum): I think safety is a concern for everyone. We all want to feel safe as we go about our lives in the city. We have to look past Band-aid solutions and address mental health by working with the province to offer more outreach counselling that is culturally appropriate, and to have more access to psychiatric nurses and other clinical counselors.

Funding mental health care is extremely important to creating safe communities. One of the key things we can do locally is create skate parks for teens and more age-appropriate play/sitting/hanging out grounds for people to safely socialize.

What is the biggest achievement and/or failure of Burnaby council in the last four years? (100 words): Burnaby council’s action to protect renters and rental units is one of its best achievements in the last four years. The creation of the city’s Rental Use Zoning and Tenant Assistance policies were bold steps.

It will mean thousands of new rental homes, long-term protection for existing rental housing, and the peace of mind that housing security brings to renters. It’s this kind of bold work started by the BCA and Mayor Hurley that I want to continue on City Council.

How would you spend a leisurely 24 hours in Burnaby? (150 words maximum): There’s nothing better on a Saturday morning than a trip to the Burnaby Farmers’ Market. I love that I can pick up fresh farm food for dinner to cook and share with my family.

An afternoon relaxing with friends at one of our local brew pubs is a great way to unwind and stay connected.

After a relaxing family dinner, there’s nothing better than a swim at Eileen Dailly Pool and hearing from others in our community in the hot tub.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters? (100 words maximum): I am no stranger to challenges, and I always strive toward mutual understanding within my team as we navigate the challenges together.

I have worked to elect progressive governments and people across this country because I know that decision making isn't done alone.

The more people we elect that have a similar mindset but diversity of lived experiences, the more we will be able to accomplish. The diversity of experience, energy and perspective is what excites me about running for council with the BCA.

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

Twitter: @ReahArora
Facebook: Reah4Burnaby

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