In Burnaby North-Seymour, Trans Mountain splits candidates

Candidates split on pipeline expansion project

In Burnaby North-Seymour, it’s anyone’s race. 

The new electoral district, created ahead of the 2015 election, straddles Burrard Inlet, covering most of Burnaby north of Lougheed Highway and a large swath of eastern North Vancouver.

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The riding is currently represented by Liberal Terry Beech, who is fending off challenges from Conservative Heather Leung, New Democrat Svend Robinson, Green Amita Kuttner and Rocky Dong of the People’s Party. 

Beech rode a nationwide red wave in 2015 to earn nearly 19,000 votes and 36 per cent support, besting the NDP’s Carol Baird by more than 3,400 ballots and Conservative Mike Little by more than 4,300.

But since then, the Liberal government has twice approved the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project (TMX), which terminates in Burnaby North-Seymour, and Beech’s leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has been mired in scandal, including the SNC-Lavalin affair and multiple incidents of his wearing blackface coming to light during the election. 

And the rookie MP is facing a Conservative hoping to help vault her party into government, a New Democrat with a quarter-century of Parliamentary experience and a Green representing a party intent on breaking through to grow its modest House of Commons presence.

Trans Mountain looms over this riding larger than any other in the country, and the candidates have presented a full spectrum of views on it. 

The riding

Burnaby North-Seymour is home to 102,486 people in 39,910 homes, with an average age of 41.5 , according to the 2016 census. 

The median household income is $78,160, above the national average of $73,050. 

More than half (59 per cent) of Burnaby North-Seymour residents 15 years or older have a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree. 

The candidates 

Liberal Terry Beech made his first foray into politics in 1999 at 18, becoming B.C.’s youngest ever elected official as a city councillor in Nanaimo. He didn’t seek re-electoin, opting instead to pursue schooling and a business career, only to return to politics in 2015.

Beech is hoping to be sent back to Ottawa on a promise of balancing the economy and environment. 

Despite his party’s approvals of the Trans Mountain expansion, Beech has repeatedly said he tries to represent the majority of his constituents, whom he believes oppose it, while coming short of outright opposing it himself. 

In 2017, he was one of only two Liberal MPs to vote against a motion supporting TMX.

Last year, Beech penned a discussion paper proposing potential strategies – including redeveloping the Burnaby Mountain tank farm into condos – for mitigating the effects of the expansion.

Conservative Heather Leung is an occupational therapist making her first foray into federal politics after unsuccessful runs for school board and city council in Burnaby.

She has yet to return calls from the NOW since declaring her candidacy, so it’s hard to say where she stands on many issues, but she has made a statement on her campaign website in regards to Trans Mountain. 

“The incumbent Liberal MP opposes his party's official position of supporting the expansion project, an ethical dilemma for him to explain,” she says of Beech. “Heather Leung is the only major party candidate who is in support of Canadian energy and natural resource infrastructure and the jobs and prosperity these bring to Burnaby North-Seymour and corresponding benefits to Canada.”

New Democrat Svend Robinson is attempting a political comeback 40 years after first becoming a Burnaby MP in 1979. He served 25 years in the House of Commons before pulling out of the 2004 race after admitting to stealing a diamond ring. He ran and lost in an attempted comeback in a Vancouver riding in 2006. 

According to Robinson, Beech has been ineffective on Trans Mountain. 

“He's had no impact whatsoever,” Robinson said in January. “He can suck and blow as much as he wants but at the end of the day, you measure influence by results.”

Robinson said he can do a lot more as an NDP MP than Beech to bring forceful Trans Mountain opposition to Ottawa.

“Elect enough New Democrats to make a difference instead of another ineffective Liberal backbencher,” he said.

Green Amita Kuttner is taking their first plunge into politics shortly after earning a PhD in astrophysics. 

But it may not be the first time you’ve seen Kuttner’s name in the news. Their (Kuttner is non-binary and uses they/them/their pronouns) mother was killed in the 2005 Blueridge mudslide in North Vancouver.

“Since then I’ve been pursuing my education and really just going after science for the beauty of it. At some point in grad school, I realized I was very dissatisfied with the way the world is and I would not be willing to witness it disappear and change. I decided I had to do something service oriented.”

Kuttner also opposes TMX: “It has become clear there is no good case for this project, whether it be from the standpoint of climate science, economics, Indigenous rights or community safety and consent.” 

Rocky Dong of the People’s Party punched into the race wearing boxing gloves in a nod to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, with whom he shares a first name. 

Dong told the NOW he voted for Beech in 2015 in a strategic anti-Conservative vote. But now, he said, he is providing something to vote for. 

PPC Leader Maxime Bernier has said he supports TMX.

Debates

There are currently two all-candidates meetings planned for the riding. Click here for updated information.

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