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

Know your candidate: Terry Beech, Burnaby North-Seymour

Terry Beech, Liberal 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 14, 2021 |4:00 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.

Terry Beech, Liberal candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour.
Terry Beech, Liberal candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour. (Submitted)

Candidate: Terry Beech (Liberal Party of Canada)
Riding: Burnaby North-Seymour (read more about the riding here)

2015 was the first federal election both for Terry Beech and for the riding of Burnaby North-Seymour. Once an 18-year-old councillor in the City of Nanaimo, Beech gained the Liberal nomination for this riding in 2014, after moving to Burnaby to pursue schooling at SFU.

And the incumbent candidate has held the riding ever since, winning re-election in 2019’s vote, which saw the Liberals reduced to a minority government. But the riding is not exactly a stronghold for the centrist party.

“Since Burnaby has been connected with North Vancouver, for the last 60 years, if you take that same configuration, the riding’s gone Liberal 2/3 of the time and Conservative 1/3 of the time,” Beech said.

“Generally what happens is, if the NDP does well enough, it usually splits the vote, and the Conservatives end up winning.”

In the last 2 elections, the NDP has been the second-place candidate in the riding.

The Liberals owe much of their electoral success in the riding to the Seymour side of the riding. South of the Burrard Inlet, the vote has tended to skew more toward the NDP, and this is apparent in looking at the electoral history of the 2 ridings that preceded Burnaby North-Seymour.

Burnaby-Douglas was held by New Democrats from its creation in 1997 to its dissolution in 2015. The current riding of North Vancouver, parts of which were shaved off for Burnaby North-Seymour, has bounced between Progressive Conservative, Reform, Alliance, Conservative, and Liberal since the late 1980s.

And Beech’s lead narrowed to just 3 percentage points in the 2019 election, from 6.5 points over the NDP in 2015.

TMX

Beech has long declined to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer on whether he supports the controversial pipeline. Instead, he typically points to a 2019 statement and his vote against a non-binding motion from the Conservatives that declared the government’s support for the expansion project.

Beech said the motion being non-binding doesn’t mean it was inconsequential.

“If the ‘no’ had won, then the majority of members of Parliament in the House of Commons would have disagreed with the current direction. But that’s not what happened,” Beech said.

As to why he can’t give a simple answer to the question of his support for the pipeline, he said it’s “fundamentally because of all the work I put into the project.”

“I read tens of thousands of pages of submissions to the National Energy Board. I was the only member of Parliament to attend all the hearings in Burnaby and to attend all the hearings in North Vancouver,” Beech said.

“I want to make sure that every constituent feels that what they communicated to me is what I was communicating to Ottawa on their behalf. In order to get that full disclosure, you really have to look at my statement or my follow-up work.”

Beech further suggested the calls for a binary answer to the question—yes or no—are “bumper sticker politics.” And he noted that he’s been working on specific issues around the pipeline expansion, including concerns about a fire hall on Burnaby Mountain.

Toxic drug crisis

The toxic drug crisis really took off in 2016, the year after the Liberals came to power, and has so far killed thousands of British Columbians, including 250 Burnaby residents.

This year is looking like the worst so far, with over 1,000 BC residents left dead in just the first 6 months of the year.

Beech said the issue is “extremely personal” to him, having “worked with a lot of families over the last 6 years, from all walks of life, who have lost loved ones.”

“We are an evidence-based government. We listened to our health officials. We listened to our public safety officials. And we have taken decisive action every year for the last 5 years,” Beech said.

“We have restored harm reduction as the key pillar of how we’re approaching the crisis. We have created a Canadian drug and substances strategy. In 5 years, we’ve invested $100 million in combatting and addressing the opioid crisis.”

He added that the government has launched safe supply pilot programs, including in Vancouver.

“As I said, we’re an evidence-based government, so we are looking at how that is working. We are assessing the results,” he said.

Experts, advocates, and public safety officials have spoken in near unison to say the first major step for the federal government would be decriminalization. And that has evidence behind it, most famously from Portugal, which decriminalized simple possession in 2005 with overwhelmingly positive results.

Asked why the federal government hasn’t heeded that evidence and gone ahead with decriminalization, Beech doubled down on his answer.

“We’re an evidence-based government, and perhaps there are examples of other countries that have pursued that and had better outcomes. But we are listening to our health practitioners here. We are listening to our nonprofits and social communities and public safety officials,” Beech said.

“We’ve taken pretty significant action, and we’re continuing to work with leaders, including Premier [John] Horgan, the mayor of Vancouver, Kennedy Stewart.”

But experts in all fields, from public health to public safety to drug user groups have called for decriminalization.

Asked about the apparent gap between what public health officials, drug users, and other experts are calling for and what the government has done, Beech said that ignores “all of the intermediate steps that we’re currently taking.”

“We’re taking action and measuring the results of those actions. And we’ve been diligently doing that over the last 5 years on this crisis here,” Beech said.

Housing affordability

Part of the issue around housing affordability, Beech said, is that the government had removed itself from action on housing for nearly a quarter of a century.

“It wasn’t until 2015 that we put together a national housing strategy, and while we did see some reductions in housing pricing leading up to the pandemic, we certainly have seen significant increases of pricing during the pandemic,” Beech said.

“Our national housing strategy is moving forward. It’s working. It’s getting new supply into the market. And of course, now, we’ve released a platform that has a whole bunch of new initiatives.”

Asked about how he balances increasing affordability against preserving the equity that has inflated with housing prices, Beech said large deflationary pressures “can cause other problems in the economy.”

“So over the last 6 years, we’ve created a number of tools through the national housing strategy to [alleviate] that pressure in a responsible way. So part of that is bringing new supply into the market,” he said.

He said his government is looking at issues of demand, including around speculation, as well as adding more help for people to work up a downpayment for their first home.

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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