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Get to know Burnaby council candidates: Sav Dhaliwal

“Rezoning should not be about forcing certain land use on the residents, rather it should be about working with local residents to devise solutions that meet community needs.”
Sav Dhaliwal
Coun. Sav Dhaliwal is running for re-election to 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: Sav Dhaliwal

Current occupation: Burnaby city councillor

Short biography (50 words maximum): I have had the honour of serving Burnaby as city councillor since 2002. I enjoy working with people: listening to their ideas and finding solutions to their challenges.

I have chaired the Metro Vancouver board and been president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities. I’ve lived in Burnaby since 1978.

Why are you running for city council? (150 words maximum): If elected, I wish to continue to build on the work that Burnaby council has started on expanding affordable housing and addressing homelessness.

Although the council has been addressing affordability challenges aggressively, more work needs to be done on keeping property taxes and utility fee increases to a minimum.

I will provide strong leadership in implementing solutions to meet or beat our net zero carbon targets by 2050. I want to position the city to make tangible progress toward reconciliation.

The city has a strong financial position that needs to be maintained for replacing our aging infrastructure and making timely investments in critical infrastructure to accommodate growth. I will provide leadership in implementing the Burnaby Transportation Plan to support alternate modes of travel to minimize short car trips. I will collaborate with the Board of Trade to attract new investment to support new, green, well-paying jobs.

What are the top three issues facing Burnaby today, and what are your plans to address them? (250 words maximum): I know from listening to residents that they are concerned about homelessness, mental health issues and addictions, the toxic drug supply, the lack of rehabilitation clinics and family physicians and adequate access to health services; traffic, transit and transportation issues; affordable housing and affordability in general; and climate change.

These are not just local challenges. The issues are too complex to be resolved by local governments alone. That is why council, working with Mayor Hurley, partnered with the provincial and federal governments to deliver affordable homes to low-income individuals. We reacted swiftly to address homelessness by opening emergency response centres and delivering modular homes to house the homeless. We operated warming and cooling centres in response to extreme weather temperatures.

I have advocated tirelessly with the other two levels of government to respond to the barriers our residents face in accessing health services. The B.C. government has responded by making upgrades and expansions to Burnaby General Hospital to serve the growing population of Burnaby, but we need to do more.

I have championed the Burnaby Transportation Plan that sets a long-term vision for the city to reduce the use of single-occupancy vehicles by promoting the use of public transit and increasing investment into city infrastructure for safe walking and biking.

I have brought in several initiatives to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, including aggressively installing electric vehicle charging stations to fuel electric vehicles; replacing traditional streetlights with low-energy consuming LED lights; and reducing energy consumption by retrofitting buildings and equipment.

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. We are using our home for ourselves.

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): Most of the growth will be accommodated in the four town centres of Burnaby where frequent transit services are available. Densifying close to transit avoids urban sprawl and reduces the need for car ownership which will help us in meeting our carbon neutrality targets by 2050.

Some additional growth will be accommodated by allowing more density in the existing single and two-family zoning areas by adding laneway homes, duplexes, fourplexes and townhomes.

Supporting investment into new infrastructure (schools, child-care centres, new public amenities, parks and trails, public transit, roads and sidewalks, etc.) will make sure our residents continue to enjoy the kinds of services that Burnaby is known for.

In collaboration with the Burnaby Board of Trade, I will continue to promote new investment in the city to add to the already-strong business sector.

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): The public needs to have a say in what happens in their neighbourhood.

Rezoning should not be about forcing certain land use on the residents, rather it should be about working with local residents to devise solutions that meet community needs.

Community benefits and needs should come before individual interests and preferences. Burnaby’s Official Community Plan (OCP) needs to be developed and kept up-to-date with the public’s input that meets today’s and future needs of residents.

By having an up-to-date OCP, the need for rezoning will go away in the majority of cases. I support reviewing Burnaby’s OCP to ensure it is meeting the housing needs for today and the future, with a focus on housing for members of our community who are most vulnerable.

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): I painfully acknowledge the climate-related tragedy that took these 73 lives. The heat dome that persisted for days is a direct result of changing climate. All of us have been derelict in our responsibilities in protecting the environment.

We now have to come together to take measures to stop heating the planet. The City of Burnaby has introduced the extreme heat response plan to keep its citizens safe by opening several cooling centres when the temperature becomes unusually high and by creating awareness about staying cool and safe at home and in the workplace.

I will support changes to the national and B.C. Building Code to make all new development include cooling of space (along with heating) as a requirement to avoid such tragedy in the future.

Is crime a concern for you, and how do you hope to address it? (150 words maximum): Crime is always a concern for me as it is for every member of our community. Serious crime is mostly driven by organized crime. More resources from the other two levels of government are required to adequately fund policing and prosecuting of criminals in a timely manner.

In many cases however, street crime is the result of chronic gaps in the social safety net, such as untreated mental illness, untreated drug addiction, rampant poverty, homelessness, etc. All orders of government must work together to support vulnerable citizens with their needs, including rehabilitation, to help them become fully contributing members of the community.

People want to feel safe in their homes and cities. For the most part, Burnaby is a safe place. I will work hard to make sure that our first responders are adequately funded and have the proper policy direction to ensure our public feels safe and protected.

What is the biggest achievement and/or failure of Burnaby council in the last four years? (100 words): Our most important achievement was stopping the displacement of tenants living in walk-up apartments. I worked extremely hard to implement the Rental Use Zoning Policy and Tenant Assistance Policy to protect renters whose homes were demolished to make room for new housing development.

Other achievements I am proud of include: developing modular homes for homeless residents, providing emergency response centres for people with untreated mental illness or drug addictions, implementing our living wage program, and updating our equity policy.

There is more work to be done with a BCA council and Mayor Hurley to keep our city thriving and affordable.

How would you spend a leisurely 24 hours in Burnaby? (150 words maximum): I would enjoy a walk around Burnaby Lake in the morning; drop-in at one of the senior centres to mingle with members before noon; take in a lunch at one of the cafes on Edmonds Street; visit one of the beautiful parks in the afternoon and finish the day by having a quiet dinner on Hastings Street.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters? (100 words maximum): I would urge voters to go out and vote.

Decisions made by local governments have a direct effect on livability, quality of life and the environment.

Please spend a few minutes getting to know the candidates before choosing your representatives for city council. I would be honoured to represent you, along with other BCA candidates, for another term on city council.

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