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Battleground Burnaby a profile in pipeline politics

In Burnaby, where the Trans Mountain pipeline-expansion project has become a key issue for voters, the B.C. Liberals and NDP are fielding fresh candidates in one swing riding and preparing for a rematch in another.

Burnaby-Lougheed was split by just 752 votes last election when New Democrat Jane Shin, who is retiring after one term, beat Liberal Ken Kramer. This time around, the NDP have put forward school trustee Katrina Chen while former Global TV anchor Steve Darling hopes to snag the seat for the Liberals.

Darling said he’s aware of the role his profile plays in his campaign, but knows he has plenty of work to do after he’s recognized when he goes door knocking.

“People want someone who’s going to be an advocate for them and I’ve done that my whole career,” said Darling, who worked in the riding for 18 years at Global’s studio.

Darling hears often about the contentious pipeline project that would cut through the riding. The project is supported by the Liberals on the basis of five provincially imposed conditions being met, while the NDP wants to kill it.

“I always tell people, this is a decision that was made long before I decided I was going to come and run,” he said. “It’s a decision we have to live with and we’re trying to do the best we can to make sure that B.C.’s interests are protected.”

Katrina Chen, a Burnaby school board trustee, is carrying the NDP's banner in the Burnaby-Lougheed riding in this election.

Katrina Chen, a Burnaby school board trustee, is carrying the NDP’s banner in the Burnaby-Lougheed riding in this election.

On education, Darling said supporting teachers, students and parents is key, and he wants to focus on bringing all stakeholders together to plan for decades ahead.

Voters tell Darling that affordable housing is a priority and he wants to focus on the supply side. If elected, he pledges to put together a task force involving governments, developers and housing-advocacy groups to come up with a solution tailored to the riding. He also wants to look into more student housing on the Simon Fraser University campus.

Chen said she’s been knocking on doors since September in hopes of defending the NDP’s seat. A key issue for constituents has been affordability, one of three pillars of the party’s platform.

Green party candidate Joe Keithley, who is running in Burnaby-Lougheed, has a high profile as a member of the legendary local punk band DOA.

Green party candidate Joe Keithley, who is running in Burnaby-Lougheed, has a high profile as a member of the legendary local punk band DOA.

“It’s really sad,” Chen said. “I’m hearing people are moving out of this community because they cannot afford the high cost of living.”

Many are also citing the pipeline expansion as a major health and safety concern, and reason for leaving, Chen said.

She said a food bank started at SFU in 2014 is symbolic of the issue of affordability, as well as the chronic underfunding of schools at all levels.

Chen said that after spending a decade on the frontline at schools, she’s learned that “the one key thing government should do is listen,” which has become the essence of her campaign. 

The Greens are putting forward another high-profile candidate with Joe Keithley from legendary punk band DOA, who is well-known in the riding and who previously ran for the party in 1996 and 2001.

Neeraj Murarka is running for the Libertarians and Sylvia Gung as an independent.

Just west in Burnaby North, Liberal Richard T. Lee beat new Democrat Janet Routledge last election by 668 votes. Lee is now campaigning for a fifth term while Routledge will again try to grab the seat for the NDP.

Janet Routledge is back, on behalf of the NDP, for another shot at getting elected in Burnaby North. She lost the riding in the 2013 provincial election by 668 votes.

Janet Routledge is back, on behalf of the NDP, for another shot at getting elected in Burnaby North. She lost the riding in the 2013 provincial election by 668 votes.

Routledge, who has lived in the riding for about 20 years, said a strong theme of conversations she has with constituents is that “life has become more affordable and more exhausting” under a Liberal government.

She has also heard from families who plan to move out of Burnaby because they can no longer afford to live there. She tells them about the NDP’s pledges to implement $10-a-day childcare, build 114,000 new housing units and raise the minimum wage to $15. 

Liberal Burnaby North MLA Richard T. Lee is campaigning for a fifth term in office.

Liberal Burnaby North MLA Richard T. Lee is campaigning for a fifth term in office.

And the pipeline has people worried about a potential spill, and how it would impact their health, property values and the local economy, she said.

“There are key plans in the NDP platform that address their concerns and would provide immediate relief,” Routledge said.  

Lee said the most important factor for winning his riding a fifth time is making voters aware of the Liberals’ platform and record in economic development and job creation.

Lee said that with the pipeline project, his priority is making sure the B.C. government’s five conditions are met.

On housing, he touted $4.9 billion the Liberals invested in affordable housing since 2001, as well as their implementation of the foreign-buyers tax and programs for first-time home buyers. 

Burnaby North Green party candidate Peter Hallschmid is the CEO of a high-tech start-up and a teacher at Simon Fraser University.

Burnaby North Green party candidate Peter Hallschmid is the CEO of a high-tech start-up and a teacher at Simon Fraser University.

Lee said that when door knocking, many voters say they’re concerned about education and health care. He reminds them about the $622-million upgrade and expansion of Burnaby Hospital,  $100-million B.C. Tech Fund and seismic upgrades in elementary and secondary schools. 

“We need a strong economy,” Lee said. “We want to continue so that the province has the revenue and resources to complete these kinds of investments.”

The Greens are putting forward Peter Hallschmid, who is the CEO of a high-tech start-up and a teacher at SFU.

neagland@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/nickeagland

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