As housing activists continue to fight against development in Metrotown and the loss of rental stock in the area, at least one Burnaby Citizens Association (BCA) member is calling out the civic party and, more specifically, city council for abandoning their roots as a social democratic party.
Murray Martin, a member of ACORN Burnaby, a housing advocacy group, said he’s also a member of the BCA and suggested council and Mayor Derek Corrigan are only interested in representing developers, unions and property owners.
“They don’t represent renters or homeless people,” he told the NOW. “They’re non-citizens as far as the city’s actions go.”
ACORN is one of several groups that has joined forces to create the Stop Demovictions Burnaby campaign, which is trying to halt redevelopment of older low-income units in the Metrotown area.
Martin argued the way city council is handling development in Metrotown is akin to what a far right-wing party might do.
“It’s not the party of Tommy Douglas or Svend Robinson,” he said, noting two well-known NDP figures in politics.
Martin said he’s not the only BCA member dissatisfied with council’s direction, adding he only sees the situation changing if BCA members start to realize the party is fairly conservative.
He also suggested there is no political opposition, adding any party on the right or left of the BCA will have a hard time because the party gets support from both unions and developers.
The BCA has certainly proved to be a financial and political juggernaut.
For the last three elections, the party has snagged every council and school board seat.
In the 2014 civic election, the party netted $484,649 in contributions. The Burnaby First Coalition raised just $28,344.
The largest BCA contributors were trade unions, making up almost a third of the party’s donations with $161,325.
Corporations accounted for $144,100 of the BCA’s funds, with Thind Properties Ltd. leading the way with $20,000, followed by McAllister Developments ($10,000) and Amacon Management Services Corp. ($7,500).
Amacon is one of the companies targeted by the Stop Demovctions Burnaby group for buying up a number of older apartments on Dunblane Avenue with the plans to demolish them and build a new tower.
The head of the local firefighters union said he’s also seen a change at city hall.
Rob Lamoureux, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 323, said he’s talked to BCA members and other union members who are disappointed with the direction of council.
“They’ve gone completely away from their core or morals, the way I see it,” he said. “They’re not a very left-leaning government, the way I see it. It’s really unfortunate, to be honest with you. I think they’ve lost their conscience. I think they‘ve lost their moral compass. I think they’ve really strayed away from it.”
The union has been in a bitter battle with the city for several years over a new contract.
Lamoureux said the union provided financial support to the BCA in the last civic election but hasn’t since the end of 2014 over the squabble with the contract.
He said the union won’t be supporting the party in the next election in 2018, and, depending on the candidates, may stay out of local politics completely.
“There’s nothing there in the BCA for us,” he said.
While the head of the union praised council for doing a good job running the city fiscally, Lamoureux suggested issues like demovictions are the negative effect of a government that hasn’t faced an opposition for years.
“There’s no voice to oppose what’s going on, anywhere,” he said.
But any notion the BCA is somehow out of step with its roots isn’t sitting well with the mayor.
“I think it’s laughable from people who are members of the party,” Corrigan said, noting he’s been a member since 1979. “If anyone knows what the principles of this party are and what we’ve been able to do over the course of a very long time, I do.”
He said he’s surprised members would make the critical comments about the party. Instead, he suggested people have massive expectations on the local government.
“For many of these people, I think the frustration comes that they’re New Democrats who have lost repeatedly in forming any kind of provincial or federal government for decades, and as a result, they’re very frustrated,” Corrigan said. “So all of their expectations end up resting on local government to solve all of the problems that confront them.”
The mayor argued that, if people take a “realistic” look, they would understand the city is doing well with the resources it has.
As for the issue of demovictions, he said none of the critics have come forward with a logical plan to do anything other than what the city is doing in Metrotown.
He said the city is taking density bonus money to create affordable housing, noting $8.5 million is being spent on a social housing project at Southgate in Edmonds. He said the move is an example of council doing what it said it would do.