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Burnaby resident dismayed by ‘archaic’ voting process to remove wetlands

A Burnaby resident wants the city to allow email voting for the city's petition to remove 21 acres of parkland to make way for an organics recycling facility.
A Burnaby resident is concerned about the lack of an email voting option in the city's official vote to un-dedicate 21 acres of parkland, including sensitive wetland habitat.

Burnaby residents are upset with the official voting process underway to remove dedicated parkland to make space for a green waste recycling plant.

One resident called the process “archaic.”

The city is pursuing a formal petition vote in which residents opposed to removing a 21-acre chunk of sensitive wetlands at Fraser Foreshore Park must submit an “elector response form” to Burnaby City Hall by April 28.

Residents who do not submit a form in-person or by mail are counted as in favour of the project, according to the petition (which is called an “alternative approval process” or AAP).

Monica Serban, a software engineer who lives in South Burnaby, said she has strong concerns about the AAP.

Serban said it was “ridiculous” residents couldn’t submit the response form by email.

“I should be able to email it to somebody,” she said, noting Courtenay and Prince George, both currently undergoing an AAP, are allowing email submissions.

“That’s a possibility for other smaller cities – Prince George and Courtenay are smaller (than Burnaby) for sure – and they can afford to have a person reading emails.”

Serban said public awareness for the GRO project is low and adding extra steps to the voting process makes it less accessible.

“People do not have time to do all of this,” she said.

Other Burnaby residents on social media have expressed similar perspectives.

City response

The city says it won’t accept electronic voting submissions to “ensure the integrity of the vote.”

“The alternative approval process (AAP) for Burnaby is being administered like an election, in which we must verify identities and eligibility and require a real, physical signature of the electors,” city spokesperson Chris Bryan told the NOW in a statement.

“Therefore, the City of Burnaby is not accepting electronic voting submissions to ensure the integrity of the vote as well as the protection of participant’s privacy.”

The city sees the organics recycling facility as a positive step for climate action: the facility would reduce the equivalent of 14,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually, equal to taking 3,000 cars off the road, according to a city press release.

Still, the City of Courtenay’s AAP, regarding the disposal of a 0.06-acre piece of dedicated parkland, allows voters to submit the elector response form by email.

Prince George also allows fax and email submissions for its AAP on the city taking out a loan for about $2.7 million.

The province, according to its guide to the AAP for local governments, states, “Local governments may choose to allow electors to submit response forms by email or by fax.”

“These types of submissions are not covered by provincial legislation, and any policies related to electronic submissions would best be set out by local governments in a formal policy document.”

Resident: GRO facility itself not the problem

Serban stressed she isn’t opposed to the GRO project itself.

“They can build that facility anywhere that they want, but not next to an important river, not in the area that was so preserved that people were telling me I cannot bike there because I’m disturbing the birds,” Serban told the NOW.

“So now, you cannot come and tell me, ‘I’m going to destroy all of that.’”

She said she takes her son to Fraser Foreshore Park frequently to enjoy and learn about nature.

“It’s such a quiet area, you can see actually different birds and bunnies, and sometimes even a coyote. If you stay still there and quiet for a couple of minutes, for sure you will see something.”

Voters opposed to Burnaby’s plan to undedicated the parkland at Fraser Foreshore must sign and submit the elector response form to the city’s legislative services department at 4949 Canada Way by 4 p.m. on April 28. The form is available at:

  • Burnaby City Hall at the legislative services department (4949 Canada Way)
  • Online for self-printing and delivery
  • Burnaby Public Library: Bob Prittie Metrotown (6100 Willingdon Ave.)
  • Burnaby Public Library: Edmonds Tommy Douglas (7311 Kingsway)
  • Burnaby Public Library: Cameron (9523 Cameron St.)
  • Burnaby Public Library: McGill (4595 Albert St.)

If the city receives 16,250 responses in opposition, or 10 per cent of the electorate, the parkland will not be removed.