Know your candidates 2020: Burnaby-Edmonds

We sent the same questionnaire to all three candidates in the riding of Burnaby-Edmonds 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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Tripat Atwal
BC Liberal Party
Real estate and development
Tripat Atwal is an accomplished businessperson with a background as an educator. She and her family have been long-time supporters and contributors to the community, both here in Canada and in her ancestral homeland of India.

Raj Chouhan
BC NDP (incumbent)
Incumbent MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds
I was first elected as MLA in 2005 and I am running for my 5th term to represent people of Burnaby-Edmonds. I served as Deputy Speaker and have served as the Official Opposition critic for labour, human rights, multiculturalism and immigration.
Cats or dogs? Dogs
Favourite book or movie? Speaking Out Louder by Jack Layton
Preferred Halloween treat? Any Halloween treat is a good treat – chocolate

Iqbal Parekh
BC Green Party
Education consultant
Iqbal Parekh has been a long time Edmonds resident and works in the education sector as a consultant in international education to both public post-secondary and independent high schools in BC and across Canada. He is passionate about providing better access to youth who wish to pursue higher education in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).
Cats or dogs? All around animal lover, currently owns a Canadian Inuti Dog
Favourite book or movie? A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Preferred Halloween treat? Chocolate

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. None of the candidates in this riding surpassed their limit.

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.

Atwal:

  • The Burnaby Hospital is a major issue for residents in Burnaby. A BC Liberal government plans to invest $8 billion in infrastructure improvement over a three-year period. This will include the Burnaby Hospital.
  • The global pandemic has us facing many challenges with seniors, the health-care system, child care, small businesses and our economy. Right now, we need to focus on rebuilding and restoring confidence in B.C. so that we can ensure security, recovery and opportunity for all in British Columbia. The BC Liberals believe in action – unlike hollow promises from the NDP

Chouhan: Burnaby-Edmonds is one of the most diverse ridings in the province and is home to many newly immigrated and refugee families that are trying to establish themselves in the community.

Under the BC Liberals there was little to no development of social or low-income housing. New families struggled with finding affordable housing and were disadvantaged in a market that was characterized by rising rent and low vacancy. More and more seniors struggled to find affordable and appropriate housing for their needs.

The BC NDP has freed up 11,000 homes from the spec tax with 25,000 affordable homes constructed or under construction. We have invested in over 550 new affordable housing units here in Burnaby-Edmonds that will be transformative for seniors, low-income, families, and people with disabilities, and we will continue to do more. We are committed to freezing rent until 2021 and capping it after that.

Parekh: The top issue facing Burnaby is the inadequate supply of affordable housing, in both the rental and ownership markets.

I believe we need better mechanisms in allowing people to have access to living a more dignified life by providing assistance to those who are precariously housed and by conducting a detailed survey on areas in the province where rezoning can take place to construct more multi-unit wood-frame buildings.

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?

Atwal:

  • A BC Liberal government will be focused on rebuilding and restoring confidence in British Columbia’s economy so that we can ensure security, recovery and opportunity for all in B.C.
  • The BC Liberal plan will create opportunity by eliminating the PST for a year, and then cutting it to 3% the following year as the economy grows. This will provide a positive impact on household savings, housing affordability, tourism and more.
  • As the BC economy recovers, child care must not be a barrier for parents. A BC Liberal government will implement a $1.1 billion plan to bring $10-a-day child care to families with incomes up to $65,000, and $20- or $30-a-day care based on household incomes up to $125,000.

Chouhan: For years, the BC Liberals have neglected the needs of British Columbians by cutting services to people who need them the most and instead massage the needs of the rich and well connected. We’ll continue to keep people safe and focus on the things that matter to them. That means investing in health care, child care, jobs, small businesses, clean energy and strengthen our communities.

For B.C. seniors, 16 years of BC Liberal neglect left our province with fragmented and unaccountable care – making seniors in long-term care homes especially vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks. We’ll hire 7,000 new health-care workers for seniors’ care homes and restore provincial standards for wages, benefits and working conditions that were cut by the BC Liberals. We’ll train more health-care professionals and launch B.C.’s second medical school.

We’re building a recovery that delivers a better future for people, communities and businesses – not just those at the top.

Parekh: (No answer provided)

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?

Atwal:

  • COVID-19 has forced us more than ever that we need to ensure that there are consistent learning options for students across B.C.
  • BC Liberals will make sure there are options for regular school in a safe setting during COVD-19, including hybrid and online, whether in a public school, independent school or via online learning or independent distributed learning.

Chouhan: The pandemic has presented us with unprecedented challenges, but, if we continue to build a B.C. that works for all of us, we’ll get through the challenging times ahead. Our plan is to make sure we look out for one another – just like British Columbians are doing every day. With the support and input of public health officials, parents, teachers, school districts and the staff that work in our schools, we are overcoming the COVID-19 obstacles.

We’ll continue to make classrooms safer, while balancing the learning needs of our students by installing new ventilation systems, Plexiglas barriers in key areas of the school, comprehensive cleaning stations, and ensure more hours of cleaning in all schools. We’ll also fast-track remote/online learning and invest in more computers and tablets, more training for teachers and support staff, and improve social e-learning that promotes group interactions between students and teachers.

Parekh: As no vaccine or cure has been developed, I believe we need to be very cautious and make sure the spread of infection is contained by limiting the number of students in each classroom and investing more in providing affordable access to online 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.

Atwal: Along with the PST cut that will save up to $6,000 on the cost of a 500-square-foot apartment and almost $19,000 on an average-sized home, the BC Liberals will:

  • Establish an incentive fund for municipalities with housing policies that will spur growth in the construction and supply of new housing.
  • Implement tax and permitting changes to boost housing supply, including rental and market housing, to increase choice and improve affordability for British Columbians.
  • Work with municipalities to review the current property tax structure to incent affordable housing development, prevent speculation and drive affordable rental housing.

Chouhan: The BC Liberals left people to struggle to find a safe and affordable roof over their head. We’ve made different choices. In Burnaby-Edmonds alone, we’ve made life-changing investments and brought forth over 550 new affordable housing units for seniors, low-income, families, and people with disabilities. We’ll continue to do more – we’ll continuing to deliver a steady supply of new affordable homes through our 10-year housing plan, increasing supportive housing units, and build 1,750 new homes – both on- and off-reserve for Indigenous people.

The BC NDP will make life more affordable for renters to help them get on the path to homeownership. We’ll freeze rents to the end of 2021, capping increases after that. A renter’s rebate of $400 a year will support renters earning up to $80,000 annually. We’ll also bring down the cost of construction, so we can bring down the cost of housing for people.

Parekh:

  • Rezoning city owned lots in Burnaby-Edmonds to multi-family, wood-frame construction.
  • Invest more in co-op housing so that the local residents are not subject to the vagaries of market fluctuation.
  • Offer incentives to local governments and socially-minded developers to increase rental housing stock and greenspace.

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.

Atwal: The BC Liberals are rock solid 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.
  • Ensure all government services are free of racism and prejudice and require all government offices to follow anti-racism policies.
  • Ensure dignity and equality for all by requiring police services to actively adopt anti-racism and anti-discriminatory conduct policies.
  • We are committed to addressing issues of economic and social inequality faced by Indigenous peoples. Our plan will achieve ongoing reconciliation and provide new opportunities for Indigenous peoples through. A major plank of this is working with Indigenous peoples to ensure we don’t leave future generations with unresolved issues of rights and title.

Chouhan: I have always been a strong voice for racial equality and social justice for workers. As a founding member of the B.C. Organization to Fight Racism, I have worked relentlessly to promote human rights and racial equality. I served as the vice-president of B.C. Human Rights Defenders since 2003.

I am proud the BC NDP re-established the Human Rights Commission in 2018; however, every time we bring it back, the BC Liberals dismantle it. We’ll introduce legislation that paves the way for race-based data collection to help modernize policing, health care and education. We’ll also conduct a full review of anti-racism laws in other jurisdictions and launch a new Anti-Racism Act that better serves everyone in B.C.

We became the first province to enshrine UNDRIP in law and we’re committed to continue to have meaningful, shared decision-making with First Nations and moving further towards long-term agreements for greater self-determination.

Parekh: Racism has no place in our society. I would advocate for changing the education curriculum to better reflect our society, one which is diverse and multi-ethnic. The earlier we can educate our youth that racism is unwelcome and that we should honour and learn from our First Nations people on how they governed before the settlers arrived.

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?

Atwal:

  • Implement 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.
  • Build an additional 10,000 new child-care spaces all across B.C., on top of those that have been added by the NDP.
  • Implement a new, online provincial electronic application. The parent would have the option to decline or wait for the next invitation.
  • Encourage and support a variety of non-profit and market-based child-care providers.
  • Expand training and support for better-qualified child-care workers.
  • Replace the Minister of State for Child Care with a full Ministry to manage licensing, funding and oversight.
  • Expand access to before- and after-school care in schools, and create incentives for employers to support child-care options for their employees.
  • We will work together with the federal government to further expand child-care options.

Chouhan: For 16 years, the BC Liberals neglected the child-care sector, leaving families to fall behind. The pandemic has highlighted just how critical access to child care is – for essential service workers to take care of our community and parents to return to work/school. The BC NDP has made record investments through our Childcare BC plan – families are saving up to $1,600/month from reduced fees and benefits, and close to 33,000 kids are benefitting from no more than $10/day for care. Here in Burnaby-Edmonds, over $8 million has gone back into parents’ pockets, and over 270 new spaces have been created.

Our historical investments are making a difference for families and the child-care sector. We hope to expand on that work and bring more relief for families through more spaces, reduced fees and enhancing wages of ECEs. We’ll also enshrine the pillars of affordability, accessibility and quality in law.

Parekh: Universal child care has long been talked about, but very little has been done. The provincial government must (incomplete response provided)

The election runs until Saturday, Oct. 24.

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