Burnaby voters will choose two new councillors this weekend

Some of those running in Saturday's by-election are well-known to B.C. political insiders

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      B.C. political junkies can get an election fix this weekend. That's because voters are going to the polls in Burnaby on Saturday (June 26) to elect two new city councillors.

      The seats became available after two councillors, Paul McDonell and Nick Volkow, died in office.

      Whoever wins will only be in office for just over 15 months. That's because the next municipal election is scheduled on October 15, 2022.

      But despite the winners' short term in office, the contest has still attracted 14 candidates. They include some familiar faces to political insiders.

      One of those running is Volkow's 37-year-old son Mike, but he hasn't been nominated by his father's party, the Burnaby Citizens Association.

      The two BCA candidates are former school trustee Baljinder Narang and provincial NDP political aide Alison Gu.

      While on school board, Narang was a pioneer in creating a safer learning environment for LGBT students. Gu works in the Burnaby–Deer Lake constituency office of Advanced Education Minister Anne Kang.

      Gu once cycled from Burnaby to Ottawa to express her opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, which runs through Burnaby.

      The BCA proudly aligns itself with NDP values. Given the close ties between these organizations, this suggests that Narang and Gu might not be nearly as outspoken about liquefied-natural-gas projects backed by Premier John Horgan.

      The Greens also have two candidates in the race after snaring one seat on council in 2018.

      That came when punk rocker Joe Keithley eked out a 215-vote win over Narang, who was the only BCA council candidate to go down to defeat.

      After the election, three councillors, including McDonnel, quit the party. The other two were veterans Colleen Jordan and Dan Johnston. That prompted the BCA to develop a new strategic plan, which was released last September. One of the cornerstones of the plan is diversity and inclusion, which reflects a city that has become increasingly multicultural over the past three decades.

      Greens hope to boost presence on council

      For the upcoming by-election, the Greens have nominated Mehreen Chaudry, who came third in Burnaby–Deer Lake in the 2020 provincial election. Her bio states that she has 12 years' experience in project management, as well as an MBA from the University of Illinois in Springfield.

      The other Green candidate is Teresa Rossiello, who describes herself as an early childhood educator and volunteer advocate for marginalized people.

      Unfortunately for the Burnaby Greens, they're running at a time when the federal party became consumed in turmoil, which included one of the three MPs jumping to the Liberals.

      The most experienced politician in the by-election has had Liberal ties in the past. Lee Rankin served on Burnaby city council for 22 years.

      Rankin is a lawyer who split from the BCA many years ago and ran unsuccessfully as the B.C. Liberal candidate in Burnaby-Edmonds in 2009.

      In the 2018 council election, Rankin came 12th and Chaudry came 13th in the race for eight seats.

      Another reasonably well known political person running is Mike Hillman, a former membership chair for the Liberal Party of Canada in B.C.

      Hillman co-managed Mayor Mike Hurley's successful campaign in 2018 against longtime incumbent mayor Derek Corrigan. Hillman's financial agent is longtime B.C. Liberal activist Martin Eady.

      Also running is affordable-housing advocate Gulam Firdos, a member of the Planning Institute of B.C. and a former president of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners.

      Another candidate, longtime Burnaby resident Martin Kendell, has sworn off all political donations, pledging to run a self-funded campaign. He supports gentle densification, better maintenance of parks and playgrounds, and the creation of a cooperative strata network in Burnaby to offer resources and mentorship.

      Flora Lo, also a longtime resident of the city, has a master of laws degree in commercial and corporate law from the University of London. She describes herself as a "passionate advocate for quality child care, health care, education, affordable housing, and a healthy environment" who strongly supports the city's goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

      Democratic socialist Claire Preston decided to jump into the race because she saw a need to take action to improve society.

      Two other progressives seeking election are Deborah Skerry and Scott Van Den Ham. Skerry has a background in public and occupational health and safety and is a strong advocate for restorative justice and environmental sustainability.

      Van Den Ham is a lifelong renter who thinks there needs to be a tenant's voice on council. He has raised the possibility of rezoning the Trans Mountain tank farm on Burnaby to address the risks created by greater fuel supplies coming into Burnaby through the pipeline expansion.

      A self-described centrist in the race is Heymann Yip, a grocery wholesaler who has volunteered with the RCMP.

      "I think what City Council needs is an independent council member who is not influenced by unions, big businesses or developers," Yip told Burnaby Now earlier this year.