Jim Hanson sat down over Zoom with Burnaby Beacon for an interview as we approach the 2021 federal election. (Submitted)

Know your candidate: Jim Hanson, Burnaby North-Seymour

Jim Hanson, NDP candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour, spoke with the Beacon recently about the various crises—housing, toxic drugs, and climate—facing Canada in this election.

By Dustin Godfrey | September 8, 2021 |5:00 am

In the run up to Canada’s federal election, the Beacon is conducting interviews with candidates affiliated with the 4 major parties in Burnaby’s 3 ridings (Burnaby North-Seymour, Burnaby South, and New Westminster-Burnaby).

We asked each candidate for a virtual sit-down interview, followed by a short segment recorded on video. Not all candidates were available to appear on video or agreed to do so. The Beacon will post the segments with the candidates who did appear on video on our social media channels.

Jim Hanson is the NDP candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour. (Submitted)
Jim Hanson is the NDP candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour. (Submitted)

Candidate: Jim Hanson (New Democratic Party)
Riding: Burnaby North-Seymour (read more about the riding here)

Jim Hanson says he has lived in North Vancouver for his whole life, while his spouse grew up across the Burrard Inlet in Burnaby, which he says makes the issue of affordability “a very important issue to me.”

And he believes it may give him an edge his predecessor—Svend Robinson—didn’t have in the 2019 election. Typically, the Liberals have dominated the vote north of the inlet, while the Burnaby side has voted more in favour of the NDP.

“My adult children … have left this community and may leave the community permanently in order to raise their families. So it’s an issue that’s very significant to me,” Hanson said.

“Housing costs way too much. Housing costs have risen 50% during [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s time in office, and housing has become out of reach for many. Some can’t afford anywhere to live, and some have to choose between food and rent.”

How to tackle affordability

He said his party would address housing affordability by applying a national 20% foreign buyers’ tax to combat speculation in the market, along with investments into the rental market. That includes building 500,000 non-market housing units, as well as providing a $5,000-a-year grant to renters in need of the subsidy.

All 3 major parties have included plans to address speculation in their housing platforms this election, and all 3 have posted goals for building housing, though the NDP’s is the only one that focuses on non-market rentals.

Burnaby Beacon asked Hanson about his experience as a councillor for the District of North Vancouver—particularly about the competing interests with housing affordability. On the 1 hand, those who aren’t in the market need housing prices to drop, while, on the other hand, those who have bought into the market tend to be vociferous opponents of policies that would reduce the equity gains made in their property.

Hanson did not answer a question about how those 2 interests should be balanced, instead pointing to the issue of speculation in the housing market.

“Housing shouldn’t be treated as a financial asset. You shouldn’t speculate in housing, like a person might speculate in securities. Housing is a need that we all share. Every resident in Burnaby North-Seymour is entitled to safe and affordable housing, and government policy has to reflect that requirement,” Hanson said.

TMX TMI?

The NDP has been a strong opponent of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion—a stance that has been popular in Burnaby, where the pipeline ends. But over the years, despite the best efforts of opponents, the pipeline has gained victory after victory, from the courts to the National Energy Board to the Canada Energy Regulator, and it has the support of Canada’s 2 largest parties.

With that in mind, is the pipeline guaranteed for completion? And could opposition to the pipeline be distracting from putting pressure on the government to implement other measures that would address climate change?

“No, I don’t think it distracts from other efforts around climate change, because I think that it’s a symbol of what has gone wrong with Trudeau’s climate plan,” Hanson said. “And we need to keep calling Trudeau to account for the fact that, while he campaigned on a climate action plan, in fact what he did was bring in a pipeline.”

He added that the NDP will use “every tool in our toolbox” to oppose the pipeline, echoing language used by the BC NDP in the 2017 election.

“It’s bad policy. Burnaby North-Seymour is ground zero for Trudeau’s hypocrisy campaign on addressing climate change and he bought a pipeline, which will bring bitumen and export it right through our riding,” he said.

“Above and beyond all of that there’s a very significant public safety issue right here in Burnaby. Millions of barrels of oil will be stored here in Burnaby. With our ever increasingly dry and hot summers, with a propensity to earthquakes, this is exposing all of us to significant risk.”

Toxic drug crisis

Asked about the toxic drugs that killed over 1,000 people in BC in the first 6 months of this year, Hanson said he’s in favour of treating drug policy as a medical issue rather than a criminal issue. And he said he is in favour of expanding safe supply, noting his experience as the chair of the North Shore standing committee on substance use.

Some advocates point to toxic drugs killing recreational drug users, for instance at parties and music festivals, and say there needs to be an expansion of a safe supply beyond as a last resort for people with severe forms of substance use disorder.

The Beacon asked Hanson about his stance on extending safe supply beyond the purely medical realm, for those who use recreationally.

“I support legalization and regulation in order to save lives,” Hanson said.

Federal investments public transit

Taking public transit in Burnaby can be great if your starting point and destination are along the SkyTrain lines, but deviating from those routes can add significant time to a person’s commute. Given the climate crisis and the need to move away from fossil fuels, we asked Hanson what he believes the role of the federal government is in increasing public transit.

“The federal government does have a role in making the investments that are required in order to bring our public transit up to date with our population growth,” he said. “And again, given my experience in local government, I look forward to building the partnerships we require to get real action on public transit investment right here in Burnaby North-Seymour.”

Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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