UPDATED: Three Burnaby council members resign from BCA slate

**Note: This story has been updated from the original version to include comments from Dan Johnston and Colleen Jordan, two of the three councillors to leave the Burnaby Citizens' Association.

Three Burnaby city councillors have resigned from the dominant Burnaby Citizens’ Association over disagreements regarding subsidized housing in the city, the NOW has learned.

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Councillors Colleen Jordan, Paul McDonell and Dan Johnston submitted a joint letter of resignation on Wednesday, Feb. 5, Johnston said in an interview.

Johnston said the rift comes following several motions from Jordan over the last several months on social housing in the city, which have been shot down by the remainder of council. That includes one last month in which Jordan sought to have the city further subsidize a BC Housing project in Metrotown, where one-bedroom rents are projected to run more than $1,300 a month.

“Some people in the BCA decided anything and anything the BCA stood for in the last 45-50 years doesn’t matter anymore, and what the new mayor brings forward seems to be what the agenda of the day is,” Johnston said.

“Anything we as a group of all seven of us campaigned on doesn’t seem to be valuable, doesn’t seem to be worth debating.”

Beyond that, Jordan said she didn't feel free, being part of the BCA slate, to speak out on council decisions she disagreed with – for instance, her motion calling for subsidizing rents at the Metrotown-area social housing project.

"When that happened, I didn't feel free to go on social media and say, 'why not look at some other options?' ... But now I'm free to do that," Jordan said.

Johnston said motions brought forward by Jordan have left the group of three councillors “ganged up on” by the remainder of council.

“I think there should at least be decorum and [we should] discuss everything,” he said

Johnston said he also took issue with council’s vote to spend city money on a new CT scanner at Burnaby’s hospital – Johnston and Jordan both voted against the motion.

“We’re basically stepping into provincial territory there, and we’ve always said as a council … that we didn’t volunteer and step into provincial jurisdiction,” Johnston said.

“All of a sudden, we get a new mayor in and some shift in decisions, and all of a sudden we’re giving a million dollars of Burnaby taxpayers’ money to Burnaby Hospital, which is basically letting the provincial government off.”

Johnston said he did not see Jordan’s motion last month, which would have used Burnaby coffers to subsidize rents at a social housing project in Metrotown, as wading into provincial territory.

“We’ve, for the last five, six years, been assisting not-for-profits with waiving costs that make the local project more affordable to the local community,” he said. “It’s benefiting Burnaby-based societies and Burnaby-based individuals.”

BCA president Lee Loftus said he would have liked to see the slate “work together” rather than splitting up, as the group enters what he referred to as a phase of “renewal.”

That renewal, he said is coming in the form of consultations with citizens, forming committees and speaking to other stakeholders about the direction of the BCA.

“It was getting a little stale … in the past. Our election was successful last time; we want to make sure that we’re representing citizens properly,” Loftus said.

“We’re doing strategic planning, we reached out to our membership at large, we’re doing consulting, we’re trying to put together some communities.”

With the three resignations, the BCA's hold on council is now reduced to four councillors – less than half of the nine-member council – with Mayor Mike Hurley an independent and Coun. Joe Keithley part of the Burnaby Greens.

How the newly configured council will interact is yet to be seen, but Johnston said he hopes it’s not more of what’s already been occurring.

“It’s really up to the majority,” he said. “I’ve been on council for 25 years. I think we traditionally supported motions at least for discussion.”

Johnston said he hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll run in the next election, but if he doesn’t, he said it won’t be because of his split with the BCA. He also said it’s premature to say whether the group of three will be forming an official coalition.

Jordan also said the next election is too far away to determine whether or not her resignation from the slate will affect her decision to run again.

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