Last night I had an opportunity to attend the All-Candidates Meeting at Gilmore School in Burnaby Heights. Although the topic of Brentwood redevelopment was not directly discussed, the issue of development in the town centres was slightly touched upon with the majority of development-related discussion relating to single-family neighbourhoods.
The issues relevant (remotely or otherwise) to this blog that were mentioned were as follows:
The Burnaby Greens commented on homelessness, walkability, and was the only party to bring up the issue of the Chevron Refinery pollution in North Burnaby.
Team Burnaby appeared to contradict itself when its Mayoral Candidate Tom Tao stated in his opening statement that Burnaby must come to terms of becoming a "global city". Soon afterwards, his running mate, Garth Evans stated that in terms of development, he is opposed to change and that he wants the status quo.
What immediately came to mind was how Team Burnaby envisions Burnaby becoming a "global city" without encouraging increased density as is beginning to happen in some areas along Hastings Street on either side of Willingdon Ave in the Burnaby Heights neighbourhood. Increased density brings in more locals to the area that not only support local businesses and jobs but also encourages more businesses and jobs to move into the area as a larger consumer and labour base will result which in turn increases the vibrancy of the neighbourhood. The current Council has encouraged the type of development that saw Safeway transformed along with the building of nice low-rise development across the street from there. Currently the old McDonald's site is being transformed into a street level retail complex with overhead residential low-rise condos.
The Green Candidate Adrianne Merlo addressed Garth Evans' statement that he does not want change by stating that change is happening whether he wants it or not as the global population shift from rural to urban areas has continued its rapid pace throughout the world and that Burnaby is no exception. The Green Candidate continued by emphasizing the need to be prepared for the projected population increase in Metro Vancouver by planning for it now rather than reacting to it later and that density is a way to accommodate more residents in Burnaby.
Although the other Mayoral Candidates addressed the public's questions directly posed to them, Team Burnaby Candidate Tom Tao showed that he is completely unprepared for the job as he failed to answer even one question when he spoke. Instead of answering the questions at hand, Tao digressed into unrelated topics to the chagrin of the audience and the posers of the questions. Why he is the Mayoral Candidate for Team Burnaby is indeed one the mysteries of 2011.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and his fellow candidates did a good job answering the sometimes nasty-sounding attacks on their record in City Council. When pressed on the issue of homelessness and social housing, Mayor Corrigan mentioned Burnaby's previous attempt to build space for battered women in the Burnaby Heights area only to have the Provincial Government pull its support at the last minute most likely to punish Burnaby for its City Council's political stripe being different from that of Victoria.
To his credit, Team Burnaby's Garth Evans admitted that the Provincial Government headed by the party that he supports has failed to live up to its share of the responsibility in Burnaby to tackle the issue of homelessness.
Adrianne Merlow of the Greens chastised Burnaby Council for not being active in dealing with homelessness and suggested that although Burnaby Council is making a technical argument for it's lack of action (provincial-municpal disagreements) but that the issue is more of a moral one that Council has ignored.
When questioned about their opinion on the carbon tax increase of 2 cents per litre recently approved by the TransLink Board of Directors, Burnaby Council gave its usual answer that it opposed the increase. Team Burnaby Candidate Tom Tao again failed to answer a question while he went on with his usual digressions. The closest he came to talking about the carbon tax increase came when he had to ask the questioner about which jurisdiction the carbon tax falls under. Tom Tao appears to not even know what the issue surrounding the carbon tax is about. I was shocked to say the least that he has not been aware of the carbon tax issue including where the money goes.
Green candidate Merlow stated her support for the carbon tax increase arguing for the importance of constructing the Evergreen Line into Coquitlam which is, in the long term, an important step towards building up sustainable transportation infrastructure in the region. The Green candidate continued to stress the importance of such initiatives to improve access to and from not only the SkyTrain stations in the town centres of Burnaby, but also the other stations that make up parts of the SkyTrain lines. Emphasis was placed on improved walkability and cycling from single-family neighbourhoods to transit stations.
One issue not discussed regarding homelessness is the potential for increased numbers of homeless people to migrate into the town centres of Burnaby as increased density in areas such as Brentwood will draw homeless people in search of safety from the isolation that they suffer from in less densely-populated areas that have less amenities. As the Brentwood area grows, more affordable housing, homeless shelters, and other social services will be required to assist marginalized people seeking safety and opportunities in the area. To ignore the issue now and to react to it later as an afterthought will end up costing tax-payers more in the long-run. Programs must be established and space developed to prepare for the issue to even have a remote chance of adequately dealing with increased homelessness.
One of the issues that residents in the Brentwood area have expressed concerns about is traffic congestion as more highrises bring more people to the area. In the Brentwood Park area of single family homes, the issue of pedestrian safety has become more apparent as increasingly rude, rat running motorists fail to acknowledge the existence of pedestrians, particularly children. I have personally even seen speeding motorists pass other drivers that conscientiously drive within the speed limit on Brentlawn Dr which is a residential street on which when cars are parked on both sides, only one car can pass through between them. Children trying to cross Beta Ave at Brentlawn Dr have been ignored as multiple motorists drive through the stop sign on Beta to turn onto Brentlawn Dr.
From the performance of the candidates last night, I would say the BCA (current Council) and the Greens truly earned their votes.