Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley hasn’t made any personal New Year’s resolutions.
While others are vowing to eat more greens, hit the gym and escape the grip of social media, Hurley says he’s concentrated on fulfilling his election promises.
The retired firefighter was elected to the city’s top job in October and sworn into office in early November. His campaign slogan “Time for change” triumphed over incumbent Derek Corrigan’s “Trusted leadership. Delivered for Burnaby.”
But now it’s Hurley’s turn to deliver on the trust the electorate put in him.
The NOW asked Hurley to list his guarantees, goals and aspirations for 2019. As during the election, the focus remained on housing, followed by policing, traffic and city infrastructure.
This newspaper will follow-up on this list throughout the year and hold Hurley to account for his promises.
- Housing task force: Hurley promised this new committee will complete its six-month mandate and come up with recommendation to address housing issues in Burnaby in the years to come. It will also deliver a three-month interim report that he hopes will find solutions for tenants under threat of demoviction.
- Increased policing: Hurley said the city’s 2019 budget will increase the Burnaby RCMP’s budget. “We are going to guarantee that policing is going to step up to the proper levels to ensure that when our citizens are in our public spaces ... they feel safe,” he said. He said the precise funding numbers haven’t been set yet, but will come in the city’s annual budget (expected in late February). Hurley also said a police school liaison program will be revived, so more kids see cops in school as role models.
- Facility upgrades: “We are going to guarantee that our public facilities are going to be upgraded,” Hurley said. Plans for new ice rinks in southeast Burnaby will go ahead, with shovels in the ground “hopefully by the end of the year,” he said. More ice rinks, pool replacements and upgrades and replacements of community centres will follow, Hurley said, but groundbreaking on those is unlikely in 2019.
- Park upgrades: When Burnaby residents decide to spend time outdoors, Hurley said, they shouldn’t have to leave the city to find something that appeals to them. “We have great parks within Burnaby and I want to ensure that they’re staying up-to-date and that they’re staying relevant and attractive to our families within the city,” he said. “We need to possibly make them more exciting in some ways.” Hurley said he’s not exactly sure how the city would do that, but he pointed to Port Moody’s redevelopment of its waterfront as an example.
- More sidewalks: Sidewalks are “not the most sexy issue,” but they’re still important, especially for people with mobility issues, Hurley said. While city staff were already planning to build new sidewalks before the election, he said those plans were not ambitious enough. “The plan is OK, but I think we can step it up and maybe push it to get it completed a bit quicker,” he said.
- Housing, housing, housing: Hurley’s third goal sounds a lot like his first guarantee – “to ensure we’re going in the right direction” on the housing file. He said this will remain his number one focus. In addition to his work at Burnaby City Hall, Hurley will be chairing Metro Vancouver’s housing committee.
- Burnaby Hospital: “A great aspiration, the pie in the sky, is to get our hospital to where it needs to be,” Hurley said. He said he will push the provincial government to fund the redevelopment of the facility and add a cancer clinic. While some have called for a completely new hospital, built at a different site, Hurley said the more realistic option is for a renovation of the existing hospital. He believes the province already has money set aside for the latter option. “If we go down the road of a new hospital, it will probably put us to the back of the queue again and that may not be where we need to go, given the state of our hospital,” He said. “We are the third largest city (in B.C.) and I think our hospital has been neglected for long enough.”
Asked whether he had more guarantees, goals or aspirations for the coming year, Hurley said “I think that’s pretty good for 2019.”
Hurley was less firm in his commitments to fulfilling other promises – more crosswalks, security cameras, streamlining the permit process, reducing traffic congestion and more – within his first calendar year as mayor.
But he said he remains confident he can follow through during his four-year term.
“We didn't make any real outlandish promises,” Hurley said. “So I think they're all achievable.”