Burnaby First Coalition candidates were opponents of school antihomophobia policy

*This story has been updated with new information.

Burnaby politicians shouldn’t have ties to federal and provincial parties – they need to work for the citizens of Burnaby. This was one of the key messages at a launch for city council candidates running under the banner of the Burnaby First Coalition.

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The BFC announced their first four candidates, three of whom were present at an election launch party in North Burnaby on Saturday.

“We’re not affiliated with any provincial or federal party,” Gordon Shank, a volunteer with the party, told the NOW at the event. “We don’t have colleagues in Victoria or Ottawa.”

Charter Lau, Heather Leung, Linda Hancott and John Templeton have all declared their intentions to run for Burnaby city council for the BFC.

But the party isn’t stopping there. It plans on running a full slate for council and school board to try and topple the ruling Burnaby Citizens Association, led by Mayor Derek Corrigan. The BCA has every seat on council and school board.

Shank said the party has a strict vetting process for candidates, including criminal record checks and scrutinizing their social media activity, and they will announce more candidates as they are screened. Lau, Leung and Hancott have already run in past elections, so they were easier to vet, he added, and others will be announced over the coming weeks.

Shank said there are three or four people interested in running for mayor, but the party will only choose someone who is strong enough to beat the incumbent and any other mayoral candidate.

“We won’t run just anybody – we have high standards for our candidates,” Shank said.

The issue of the Trans Mountain pipeline project was part of a discussion forum at the event that included three of the four announced candidates, some party organizers and audience members.

There was no consensus on if the BFC was for or against the pipeline expansion project, but a common theme was that it was more of a provincial and federal jurisdiction, and that there were benefits to working with Trans Mountain, such as tax revenues – instead of just fighting it in the courts. But the BFC candidates all told the NOW they would also listen to the concerns of citizens who oppose the pipeline expansion.

Lau, who runs a video production company, ran for Burnaby city council in the 2014 election. At Saturday’s launch, he criticized Corrigan for the amount of municipal tax dollars have been spent fighting the pipeline.

“I think your money should stay in Burnaby and benefit you,” he said.

Lau also criticized the current mayor’s past comments on people with addictions and the homeless.

“Burnaby should move forward together, leaving no one behind,” Lau said.

Leung, who ran for school trustee in the 2014 election, became an occupational therapist after working in journalism. She highlighted concerns around housing affordability and the overdose crisis.

She has three children, two adults and one in Grade 12, and she said she wants them to have the opportunity to live locally.

“Like other parents, I wish my children to be able to live in the city when they have their own families,” Leung said. “Now, it’s hard because the house prices are rising so high.”

Through her work, Leung said she’s seen young people admitted to long-term care facilities because of brain damage caused by overdoses, adding that to keep everyone safe and healthy, a city has to work “for everyone.”

BFC Controversy

Both Lau and Leung have had controversial pasts in politics, clashing with the BCA-dominated school board over the Burnaby school district's antihomophobia policy. The policy was designed to protect staff and students from homophobic bullying, but both Lau and Leung opposed it and were founding members of Parents' Voice, a political group that formed to fight the policy.

Following the BFC's announcement of candidates, a BCA supporter named Trevor Ritchie, who identifies himself on LinkedIn as a one-time BCA executive member from 2012-2015, took to Twitter to criticize the party's choices. He tweeted that "religiously motivated #homophobia and #transphobia" had "coloured" the BFC's campaign in 2014.

Parents's Voice, with Lau and Leung as two of the complainants, filed a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint against the gay and lesbian publication Xtra! - that complaint was dismissed. 

In 2014 before the last municipal election, the Green Party went public to disavow any connection with the BFC because of its ties to Parents' Voice, including Vancouver Green councillor Adriane Carr speaking out.

Other Candidates

Templeton, who works in the trades and volunteers with the Stoney Creek Streamkeepers, said he believes it’s time for a change in Burnaby politics. He was featured in a recent NOW article after he discovered that fish had been killed in a local creek after firefighters extinguished a nearby vehicle fire.

He says it’s not healthy that the BCA dominates every elected seat.

“Democracy works best when we have balance,” Templeton said. “Currently, we have a total of one party dominating all.”

He said he’s running because he doesn’t just want to talk, he wants to stand up and put himself forward, adding that he’s not a lawyer or a career politician.

“I am you, Johnny Canuck, the average citizen,” he said.

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