Know your candidate: Peter Dolling, Burnaby North-Seymour
Peter Dolling, Green Party candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour, spoke with the Beacon recently on a variety of issues, from nuclear energy to the housing crisis to the toxic drug crisis
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.
Candidate: Peter Dolling (Green Party of Canada)
Riding: Burnaby North-Seymour (read more about the riding here)
Peter Dolling grew up in Langley before moving to Vancouver at age 18. In that time, he said he’s seen plenty of people forced further out into the Lower Mainland due to the high cost of living in Metro Vancouver.
“These are people’s homes, communities that they’ve grown up in, and they have roots in, and they’re not able to continue their lives in these places. Because the rate of the housing cost has increased at a rate not commensurate with their income,” Dolling said.
“My sister is now in New Brunswick, and many of my friends have moved out beyond the bridges. And quite frankly, I mean, prior to the pandemic, and everybody working from home, I also look at that as having an impact on climate change.”
Dolling said forcing people to commute farther to work goes against what needs to be done, because it causes more people to drive longer distances to work.
“It’s just another symptom of this problem that we’ve got going on, where we’re kind of losing our community value in the Lower Mainland,” he said.
So how does one address affordability?
“There’s quite clearly the foreign investment issue. I think that’s a pretty low-hanging fruit that we can tackle. People using condos as a bank account, rather than a living situation, is tricky,” Dolling said.
He said it is “tricky” because it often affects entry-level housing that people are more likely to be able to afford their first downpayment on.
However, property values being where they are, achieving affordability in the real estate market would require significantly depressing property values. And that would receive significant pushback from people who already own property and who may be banking on their home’s value for their retirement.
“That’s a problem to me. And we don’t deal with that by suppressing the housing market, but only a little bit so that people can still retire. I think we’d look at it from the other angle: why don’t these people have enough money to retire on in the first place?” Dolling said.
“I think wages need to come up. If we can get more Canadians into postsecondary education for a better price, they’re not riding debt into their adulthood and they can afford homes.”
But he said the more important issue for affordability is addressing “such a large homelessness population in the Lower Mainland.” He suggested some of it is the weather—with a more temperate climate, the Lower Mainland is likely a common destination for unhoused people who have to sleep outside throughout Canada.
According to the 2020 Metro Vancouver homelessness survey, 40% of respondents had lived in the region for less than 5 years, but it’s unclear how many have actually come to the region after becoming unhoused.
“But the reality is, I look at that as a major failure of government and leadership that anybody sleeps outside,” Dolling said.
“A friend of mine once said that charities are great, but their existence represents a failure of leadership and a failure of government. Why do these even need to exist if there’s enough money to go around and enough to support people?”
Toxic drug crisis
“Generally speaking, I am for safe supply,” said Dolling.
Some advocates have called for vastly increasing safe supply to a point of including recreational drug use in the spectrum offered by governments, citing the fact that many people who use recreationally are vulnerable to the tainted illicit supply.
When asked by the Beacon how far he thinks safe supply policies should go, however, Dolling said he couldn’t speak in detail on that particular issue.
“To be perfectly honest, I haven’t heard the push for recreational safe supply,” he said. “I think that we suffer so much in this country, and in government specifically, with a very reactive management style. And when you look at the drugs problem as a healthcare problem and a social problem, the way that we’ve often tried to fix it is reactively.”
He added that he believes safe supply and other harm reduction measures are more proactive solutions that reduce the downstream costs of prohibition, such as incarceration and hospitalization.
The Green Party has been controversial among some environmentalists for its anti-nuclear stance.
Some have said nuclear energy is the only way to meet our energy needs without greenhouse-gas emissions, but the Green Party’s stance has generally been avidly against nuclear energy.
Dolling said one of the major issues with relying on nuclear energy to transition to zero-emission energy is how long it takes to develop nuclear power plants.
“We don’t have that time. … If we were going to do that, we needed to do it 10 years ago,” he said, adding that older nuclear power plant designs are “not as failsafe.”
“The newer versions are generally expected to be a lot safer, but we haven’t gone through any sort of [environmental impact assessment] process with them. We just don’t have the scalability yet.”
More recent developments in nuclear technology—particularly small modular reactors—are generally seen as safer, faster to set up, and leaving waste that, while still radioactive, is significantly reduced in its longevity.
But Dolling said the environmental impact assessment involved in the small modular reactors would still take years, noting the “fierce opposition” to nuclear power that could bog the process down.
“So just thinking pragmatically, when I look at the timescale, it ends up being about the same [as traditional reactors],” he said.