Know your candidates 2020: Burnaby-Deer Lake

We sent the same questionnaire to all three candidates in the riding of Burnaby-Deer Lake ahead of the upcoming provincial election.

Ahead of the B.C. election, we’re taking a look at all of the candidates in each riding in Burnaby and how they would like to respond to some of the most important issues of the day, from COVID and schools to child care to economic recovery.

But first, here’s a brief look at each candidate. Candidates appear in the alphabetical order of their surnames.

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Glynnis Hoi Sum Chan
BC Liberal Party
Business owner
Chan is a Burnaby resident who owns Happy Times Travel in Vancouver and Richmond.

Mehreen Chaudry
BC Green Party
Project Management
Mehreen was born in Ottawa, grew up in Pakistan. She has an MBA from University of Illinois and works in project management. As a single parent, she understands the challenges of young families. She stands for affordable housing, universal childcare, and sustainability. She was Green Candidate for the Burnaby municipal elections in 2018.
Cats or dogs? Dogs
Favourite book or movie? Hidden Figures
Preferred Halloween treat? Twix

Anne Kang
BC NDP
Incumbent MLA for Burnaby-Deer & minister of citizens’ services
Having lived in Burnaby for more than 30 years, I have been fighting for our community on the issues that matter the most. After working as a teacher, I served 3 terms on Burnaby City Council, and was elected to serve as your MLA in 2017.
Cats or dogs? Dogs!
Favourite book or movie? Movie: Sound of Music, Book: Anne Frank’s Diary
Preferred Halloween treat? Twix!

Now, on to the big questions of the day. Candidates each had 150 words to address our six questions, with the threat of being cut off at the 150th word. Answers where the limited was exceeded have been noted.

1. What do you think is the top issue facing Burnaby in this election? How will you address this issue? Be as specific as possible.

Chan: The most pressing issues and concerns that my riding in Burnaby is facing is having more infrastructure investments – such as schools, hospitals, and roads. As the pandemic brought a lot of challenges in the country, we experienced this in our schools, seniors homes, child-care centres, medical facilities and small businesses. A BC Liberal government will rebuild and restore confidence in the province  – with an $8-billion Rebuild B.C. infrastructure plan.

Chaudry:

  • Affordable Housing – B.C. renters face sky-high rents and escalating cost of living. In B.C., 43% of renter households – 250,000 people – pay more than 30% of their income in rent. This is having significant adverse effects on peoples’ mental health and wellbeing, so they will be able to get a grant towards their rent.
  • Small Businesses – BC Greens will allocate $300 million to create a six-month rent subsidy program for small businesses. For qualifying businesses, we would cover 25% of the rental costs. Small business limited to $50,000 in monthly rent costs. Simple, accessible criteria developed to support access to programs.
  • Child Care – Up to $500 per month for families with children under three and a stay-at-home parent. Create a comprehensive program for early childhood education and care. We would increase funding for child-care programs from $674 million in 2020/21 to $897 million in 2024/25.

Kang: From speaking to voters, I hear that the top issues facing Burnaby are housing and health care. Burnaby is a fast-growing city, and we need affordable housing options to match the demand. Over the past three years, John Horgan and the BC NDP funded 456 affordable rental homes in Burnaby, and we will increase this number if re-elected. Our overall goal is to increase the 25,000 homes already built or on the way to build even more. I will continue to advocate for more of these homes to be built in Burnaby.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of our health-care system. My BC NDP colleagues and I have successfully advocated for a $1.3-billion investment toward the redevelopment and modernization of the Burnaby Hospital. This investment will expand the ER and add 400 new beds, a cancer centre, and mental-health treatment centre, among other improvements.

2. The next government of British Columbia will have the responsibility of guiding the province through the COVID-19 pandemic and into recovery. What makes you and your party best positioned to carry out this work? What specific actions would you take to guide this process?

Chan: In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Bonnie Henry has done a good job leading B.C. through it – but we need to do more. John Horgan and the NDP’s unnecessary snap election was not only illegal but it was not in the best interest of the health and safety of British Columbians. The BC Liberals are focused on rebuilding and restoring confidence in B.C., which will ensure security and opportunity for all British Columbians. I believe that policies that would eliminate PST for one year, ensure child-care support for families, building infrastructure and improvements are vital to the province’s recovery. In addition, we will need further education and information dissemination to make sure British Columbians are safe, healthy and strong.

Chaudry: I am a mother, whose ability to find work has been affected by COVID-19, so I know the anxiety and worry of people who are going through unemployment, back to school and worrying about their parents. As a party, we have learned a lot from going through COVID – we now have opportunities to do things better moving forward e.g. better seniors care, universal child care, improved mental health services, more flexible work arrangements, better work benefits, to name a few.

Also, the Greens are prepared to work collaboratively with other parties and accept good ideas no matter who comes up with them if they would benefit the public. The Green Party is clearly focused on the needs of British Columbians rather than solidifying power. We are a party that looks not just to the next electoral cycle but ahead for generations to come.

Kang: When COVID-19 first hit, the BC NDP responded quickly, following the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry and her team. We did so while centering the needs of people, by providing rent relief, Emergency Benefit for Workers and more. As we continue to navigate the pandemic, we’ll need that same rational responsiveness.

By committing $1.6 billion toward our COVID-19 response moving forward, we’ll hire 7,000 new health-care workers to staff long-term care homes, provide free COVID-19 vaccines when they’re ready, two million doses of flu vaccines, and a new Hospital at Home program to limit spread in hospitals.

The BC NDP has a strong economic recovery plan, and through the Recovery Investment Fund, we’ll create 18,000 new jobs every year. Because we know that people are the economy, we will continue to fund the social services that form the fabric of our society – health care, education, child care, senior care, and more.

3. Students and families in Burnaby have been vocal in their concerns about the safety of schools in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. What specific actions would you take to address these concerns?

Chan: Going around the neighbourhood and talking to parents with school kids – this is really a big concern for them. Protecting kids from getting sick must be the priority. And once a vaccine is approved for safe usage, children and vulnerable individuals must get it first. In the meantime, we must also provide learning options either in school, online or both. Those options must be implemented with equal opportunity for all students to learn across B.C.

Chaudry: My boys went back to school this September; there were lots of phone calls between myself and other moms talking through the anxiety that we all felt sending our kids to school. As a parent in Burnaby, I am concerned that most parents did not have a choice but to send kids to school. I would like to work and find ways to have more hybrid options available to parents, where they get the proper support from schools and teachers from their catchments even with remote learning. Also, I would push for funding to improve fresh air ventilation in our schools and keeping the class size small by having more portables in schools.

Kang: I have been working closely with the Burnaby School Board, teachers and parents to ensure a safe re-opening. My BC NDP colleagues in Burnaby and I have also arranged a donation of boxes of hand sanitizer and 14,000 masks to our schools.

The BC NDP will not only invest in the installation of new ventilation systems and Plexiglas, but we’ll also continue our work in making the largest investments in schools in B.C.’s history, ensuring our children have a safe learning environment.

As the Minister of Citizens’ Services, I worked to expand high speed internet connectivity across the province. We’ve already invested $50 million toward the effort and included an additional $90 million in the Economic Recovery Plan. We will continue to invest in connectivity, more training for teachers and support staff, and new ways to improve remote-learning options.

4. Affordable housing continues to be top-of-mind for Burnaby residents. Name at least three specific, concrete actions you would take to address this issue, locally and within B.C.

Chan: I believe that the BC Liberals’ position to eliminate PST for one year and gradually re-introduced it at 3% the next year would greatly help our households – with an average household saving over $1,700 a year. The BC Liberal government will also establish an incentive fund for municipalities with housing policies that increass in the construction and supply of new housing. Implementing tax and permitting changes to boost housing supply will give the people the option to choose and thus improve affordability for them. We will also work with municipalities to review the current property tax structure to incent affordable housing development, prevent speculation and drive affordable rental housing.

Chaudry:

  • The NDP has offered 14,000 affordable housing units across the province (through BC Housing). Burnaby has 5% of the province’s population. Burnaby’s share of the NDP housing plan is 4,000 units. Other parts of the province also need more affordable housing units. The BC Green Party would greatly expand this plan and take steps to pick up the pace of implementation.
  • The BC Green Party would make it easier for non-profit groups like Burnaby’s Indigenous Housing Society (and housing co-ops, seniors housing, housing for persons with disabilities) to access money for the special housing needs of their clients.
  • Target low and moderate income earners who are paying more than on their rent. Close the gap between affordable rent and what renters are actually paying. Be a means-tested grant that applies to low and moderate income earners who are paying more than 30% of their income in rent.

Kang: If I have the honour to serve as your MLA again, I will continue to work with John Horgan and the BC NDP on implementing the following concrete actions:

  • Freeze rent to the end of 2021 and permanently limit rent increases to inflation after that.
  • A renter’s rebate of $400/year for households earning up to $80,000 annually.
  • Closing loopholes in strata insurance while strengthening regulations.
  • Expanding on the largest investment made in affordable housing in our province’s history and adding on to the 25,000 affordable homes already built or on the way.
  • Provide additional low-interest loans for middle-income families to purchase homes, and look for new pathways to home ownership, such as rent-to-own or other equity-building programs.
  • Increase the 2,800 units of supportive housing to 5,000.

5. Anti-racism and Indigenous reconciliation have come to the forefront of public discussion in recent months. How would you ensure this important work is carried out when you are elected? Be as specific as possible.

Chan: As a Chinese immigrant who moved here 40 years ago, it was a challenge for me and for other minorities facing this dilemma. We somehow experienced various racial discriminations at work, in school and perhaps on every public places in the country, but this doesn’t stop us to be good citizens and to be successful and be part of the growth of our province and county. The BC Liberal team stands firm in our commitment to combat racism and discrimination of all kinds. We will work to eliminate systemic racism and unconscious bias across the health-care system, and to ensure services are equitable and accessible for all, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or any other form of discrimination. We will ensure all government services are also free of racism and all government offices must follow anti-racism policies.

We are committed to addressing issues of economic and social … (word count exceeded)

Chaudry: As a Southeast Asian Muslim single mom, I pretty much check all the boxes for every kind of possible discrimination that one can think of.  If you look at the MLAs running as BC Green Party candidates, you can see how the party is ensuring that work on anti-racism and Indigenous reconciliation is going to be carried out successfully. By including people from all walks of life, all communities and different faiths, the BC Green Party is ensuring that the solutions are also coming from people who know the problems first hand. When you include people like myself in developing the solutions, you will actually solve the problems. The most important thing to do is educate and hold ourselves accountable as a society when it comes to inclusion and social justice.

Kang: Under the leadership of John Horgan, British Columbia is the first province to legislate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into law. We’ll build on our commitment to reconciliation, which we know is an ongoing process that requires commitments and funding at every aspect of our governance, from education to housing to health care – which is exactly what we’ve done.

I have been a vocal advocate against racism and hate. While serving as the Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism, I worked with community groups in creating the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network and successfully secured $1.9 million toward anti-racism efforts and programming in the Economic Recovery Plan, in addition to the $540,000 in annual funding. I have also been working closely with the BC Human Rights Commissioner and the BC Privacy Commissioner to implement a framework in collecting race-based data, a crucial step towards tackling systematic racism.

6. Child care has been a long ongoing issue for families in Burnaby and beyond. What specific actions would you take to ensure all families in the city can access affordable child care when they need it?

Chan: The lack of child-care options is an issue that I’ve experienced as a single mom raising two kids while running a small business. Every support that the government can provide to families will be a big help to every household. That’s why I support the BC Liberal’s plan for families. Which includes a $1.1 billion plan to bring $10-a-day child care to families with household incomes of up to $65,000, and $20- or $30-a-day care, based on household income up to $125,000. We need to also work with employers on expanding access to before- and after-school care in schools and create incentives for them to support child-care options for their employees.

Chaudry: I am a resident of Deer Lake riding living close to the Metrotown area, and there is no available child care for my children; the few options we do have are filled up. So, as a working single mom, I have to make alliterative arrangements for my children for before and after school, which just adds more stress to my life, and I have friends who are in the same situation. So the child-care issue hits very close to home for me. If I were elected, I would ensure that the provincial Green Party pushes for provincial funds to purchase land and/or land with buildings in Burnaby in order to build “purpose-built” child care. I would also want to look at including child care in all community centers. Also explore the option of utilizing existing spaces in schools that can be used for before- and after-school care.

Kang: After years of BC Liberal neglect, the BC NDP are committed to ensure that all families can have access to affordable, quality child care, and build on the work we have already done. From our Childcare BC Plan, nearly 33,000 children have access to child care for no more than $10 a day. Here in Burnaby-Deer Lake, the BC NDP have funded nearly 140 new licensed child-care spaces, and families have seen savings of more than $7 million return to their pockets through reduced fees and benefits.

We’ll expand our child-care capital program and modular strategy to ensure that child care is incorporated into new housing complexes, workplaces and schools.

We also appreciate the dedicated work of early childhood educators, who nourish our childrens’ learning and growth needs, and we’ll expand on the $2/hour wage enhancement and more training.

We have made significant progress and will continue on this work.

The election runs until Saturday, Oct. 24.

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