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Get to know Burnaby council candidates: Tom Tao

“Transparency and accountability are vital.”
Tom Tao Council
Tom Tao, independent, 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: Tom Tao

Current occupation: Retired

Short biography (50 words maximum): Asian, senior, and renter. 

Past political family, parents were both MPs in old country. Born in China, grew up in Taiwan, and studied in the U.S. at UC Berkeley. 

Work experience in Taiwan includes World Anti-Communist League, Jones Cup Basketball Taiwan, India-Burma-Sri-Lanka Economics Association. Arrived in Burnaby in 1998, ran for city council in 2003. (word count exceeded)

Why are you running for city council? (150 words maximum): Smiling face and easy “can I help.”  That was 1998, not today.

Decency lost, respect vanished and trust is a joke.

High rise plenty, that is why big surplus. Now with more coming, new big surplus is worrisome. Greed brings out the worst in people.

Big surplus is controlled by committees. Who are they? And how can we be sure they are accountable?

Transparency and accountability are vital. Party interest is high this election. They will be at their best and worst.

Climate change is no joke. The worst is yet to come. Cold dome is coming. Flood does not touch Burnaby, but what about an earthquake? Preventative thinking and ready action is a must.

Alert, fast thinking, and urgent action will be basic. Make your vote count.

What are the top three issues facing Burnaby today, and what are your plans to address them? (250 words maximum): Inflation is high, but yet the paper reported 15 per cent increase of bar and restaurant before the end of year. And Chinese food will be higher.

Vancouver is looking at a night economy. Twenty-four hours business is a direction. Toronto is working on an indoor night market.

There is COVID-19. No one can be sure what next. Confidence is not there.

And bird flu is back. Monkeypox is in the shadow. Where do I go in emergency?

Big surplus can help. And emergency team is needed.

Then there is crime. North Van had car targeted at road side. Gang or not, how about walk by people’s safety? Vegas mafia understood and regulated. There is no crime allowed there. We ought to think about it.

We can’t let self interest trump public interest.

Shortage is real. But we also wonder. How and why. Where is the accountability?

And isn’t big surplus can help? With that big surplus, property tax still will be up 2.95 per cent. Is that reward or punishment? It is people’s money.

You can’t play people for fool forever. Why do bad guys take chances? They get away. No one accountable at end. Too much room for excuses. Crooks often the best and smartest. Make sure they would not dare to think about it.

And is it a tragedy. I can’t believe Bonsor can’t put up a sign without city’s approval. Whose order is that?

Nothing to hide will be the best. To assure that, we want the strongest accountable measure in hand. 

What is your housing situation? Are you a homeowner, renter or something else (describe)? Do you rent property to others? (50 words maximum): Renter

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 look up the best. Shop and compare. Speed rail, China is top. And they have more mega-cities. It is just going up or down.

We have to watch out for an earthquake. It is environmental development. But mindset can be in the way

I have lived in Metrotown since 1988. Station Square highrises are there. It worn the traffic situation. Kingsway is not any wider, and my no left turn suggestion of SF 1969 was completely ignored. Now the paper reported they tour SF to study traffic. Maybe tour China's mega cities to compare up or down first.

Old saying says, to understand other better will help to know yourself better.

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): Love to, but I don’t have basic information to start with. 

How many lands belong to the city?  How many private?  What about our city street planning and SkyTrain future?

With those in hand, then we can talk about good city planning in housing.

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): Bonsor right now is used as a cooling centre. Showers are there. Basketball court can put a lot of sleeping bags. All centres together can cover a lot of homelessness. Just plan ahead will do. 

Is crime a concern for you, and how do you hope to address it? (150 words maximum): Kingsway across Metrotown car break-in was a shock to me. And I used to eat there upstairs. I live nearby too. 

Old lady got pushed with roller/walker is another. Anti-Asian and anti-seniors are here. The worst is that old lady is on walker, and I see no public fury. Humanity is down the toilet.

We can be proud of Canada no more. Stone age, we are. Do we need people’s guard like New York did long ago? I hope not.

What is the biggest achievement and/or failure of Burnaby council in the last four years? (100 words): Burnaby was a suburb. Now it is a city. Highrises make it modern, but road planning needs more to be desired.

City has been cash-rich in the eye of neighbouring cities. More money is on the way. Open space, good air we must keep.

Past government allowed HSBC to cut those big old trees was a regret. Sidewalk pavement was a huge neglect.

Conversations between city and people were few. Hope it was not something to hide.

How would you spend a leisurely 24 hours in Burnaby? (150 words maximum): 7 a.m. I enjoyed my breakfast in Metrotown. Then I went window-shopping and walked the mall.

City came alive. I saw 9 a.m. crowd rushing by. Then there were mall stores ready to open.

Bonsor came next. Water and running are good for old people. The sauna and whirlpool are great.

Next, I was ready for T&T.  Lunch and dinner arranged.

Afternoon pool differs. Crowd changed. That made it multicultural.

Weekend can be a movie, but a visit to bookstore is nice.

Brentwood is hot, they say. Will check it out soon.

Big TV at home is cool. The whole world is at hand. It helps me keep in touch with rest of world. CNN, BBC, EuroNews, and CGTN cover most. There is CBC and CTV tell me all about Canada.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters? (100 words maximum): Burnaby is good. That is why we live here, but to make it better is our job. For me it is for my newborn granddaughter.

1998 gave me a lot of good memories, but they are no more. Decency, respect, and trust, we just get them back. And there is that service mentality. Why does staff keep chatting when there is a line. 

Hard times are coming, united we will get through. Big surplus is people’s money. People must have the final say. Sadly, so far it is decided by few.

Your vote counts. Independent is democratic mid ground. Make it work.

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

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