Seeing Mayor Derek Corrigan’s smiling face in Maclean’s in recognition of Burnaby being the best-run city in Canada must have frosted Premier Gordon Campbell’s gourd on a hot summer day. Surely, former city councillors Lee Rankin and Garth Evans winced as well seeing the man they opposed so vociferously for years receiving praise on a national scale.
Maclean’s made the proclamation based on a national survey of municipal governments it commissioned from the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS).
Corrigan’s ego is already gargantuan in his opponents’ eyes, and the survey won’t do anything to reduce that feeling.
Burnaby got its lofty ranking because it scored high in areas such as environmental health, recreation, culture and economic development. It doesn’t hurt either that its coffers are bulging with something like $633 million in financial reserves, to say nothing of the hundreds of millions of bucks worth of assets in its land bank.
Maclean’s reports the development community heaps praise on Burnaby’s planning department. Such a reputation for a municipality guided by a left-wing organization has to rankle the right-wing contingent. Well-run, fiscally-responsible government goes against every stereotype the conservative contingent has of the socialist side. The Maclean’s kudo comes with the Burnaby Citizens Association, backed by the New Democratic Party and labour unions, having been continuously in charge for almost a quarter of a century.
Corrigan, quite rightly, credited city staff for the ranking. That’s been the case for quite a while, however. Alan Emmott, the former mayor/reeve who helped found the BCA way back in 1958, has in the past said hiring the right staff, and listening to them, was the secret to the city’s success in bringing infrastructure and growth to the suburb in the ’60s and ’70s.
But being efficient is boring. Only 26 per cent of eligible voters showed up for the last municipal election, one of the worst turnouts in the country. Mention Burnaby to residents in other Lower Mainland cities and they respond with a collective yawn. To them it’s just an extension of Vancouver as they tootle east along Hastings, Kingsway and the Trans-Canada.
Considering the survey showed the overall cost of government in Burnaby is $145 per person compared to the national average of $235, boring can’t be all bad.
City council’s decision to name the new library near Kingsway and Edmonds after Tommy Douglas is ridiculous. Sure the father of medicare is one of the country’s greatest Canadians—the greatest according to the CBC contest conducted a few years ago—and deserves to be honoured, but on a national scale.
The man known as much for being Kiefer Sutherland’s grandfather as he is for being the former leader of the federal NDP has a superficial connection to Burnaby, at best. In 1962, Douglas had been defeated in his native Saskatchewan and needed a way onto Parliament Hill. He was parachuted into the Burnaby-Coquitlam riding when a loyal party soldier Erhart Regier stepped aside to allow Douglas to run in a by-election in a safe riding. Douglas did the same thing after losing in Burnaby in 1968, going to Nanaimo to get his seat. His contribution to Burnaby was negligible. Burnaby’s contribution to Douglas was far greater.
Surely there’s somebody with deeper roots in the Edmonds community that’s more worthy. If not, there’s nothing wrong with calling it the Edmonds branch. It tells people where it is and adds to the neighbourhood’s pride. This time, council has gone too far in naming places after NDP politicians. At least the Eileen Dailly pool and Jim Lorimer Park honour people with deep Burnaby roots. What’s next, the Carole James Dog Pound because she once barked loudly at the corner of Gilley and Kingsway about axing the carbon tax?