I’ve called north Burnaby home for decades. For most of those years, I’ve engaged with the community and been active in Burnaby politics. I find satisfaction in helping others who may not have the skills and knowledge to navigate the system. I was elected to the council in 2002 and have been re-elected five times since. I enjoy serving as a councillor because the municipal government is closest to the people. My focus continues to be on advancing projects and policies that make Burnaby an inclusive, welcoming, safe community in which individuals, families, and businesses can thrive.
After coming to Canada from Italy in 1959, I attended Britannia Secondary School in East Vancouver, where I finished my high school in three years and graduated in 1962. I then went to UBC, where I received Honours BA and MA in Modern Languages and was awarded a teaching assistantship. I followed up with post-graduate studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where I was also a teaching assistant. After 3 years and a young family’s obligations, I returned to Burnaby and completed a teaching certificate at SFU. With that, I taught modern languages, math, social studies and ESL at the secondary school level for 30 years.
Along with my wife, Cedna, and our daughter, Victoria Milena–who now is an early childhood educator and school administrator in China–I have called north Burnaby home for 47 years. For most of those years, I’ve been engaged in the community and active in Burnaby politics.
I have always believed in the value of community involvement. I find satisfaction in helping others who may not have the skills and knowledge to navigate the system for various reasons, language being a prominent one. Early in my teaching career, I became involved with my professional association and with multicultural activities. I have been treasurer and president of the BC Association of Teachers of Modern Languages. In that position, I managed to revive a moribund organization within one year through effective management and innovative service to the members. I have also been one of the founders, and later president of the BC Heritage Languages Association, where I helped develop a standard basic curriculum for languages of ancestral origin and requested the Ministry of Education to recognize and give credit to immigrant children’s skills in their home language by passing the Oxford Language test administered by the ministry. This was a long and arduous undertaking, but successful in the end.
In 1987 I was elected to the Burnaby School Board and served as a trustee for nine years, two as chair. I was then elected MLA for Burnaby North in 1996 and appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Small Business, Tourism and Culture from 1998 to 2001. In 2002, I was elected to Burnaby City Council, where I've managed to be re-elected in 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2018.
I particularly enjoy serving as a city councillor because the municipal government is closest to the people. The job does not come without challenges, but I welcome the many opportunities I have to help citizens understand how to access services and work closely with individuals and communities to facilitate progressive changes.
Burnaby has always led the way in terms of providing great services and low taxes. My goal has always been to ensure that Burnaby remains a fiscal, social and environmental leader. I love Burnaby’s 25%+ parks and green spaces, the fabulous community centres (with new ones coming soon), the sports fields, arenas, and pools, the highly desired seniors and youth centres, the excellent libraries, and the hundreds of people who are so willing to volunteer their time to make Burnaby a great place to live. I enjoy every opportunity to play a role in keeping Burnaby an inclusive, welcoming, safe community in which individuals, families, and businesses can thrive.
My focus continues to be on advancing projects and policies that make Burnaby a livable, walkable, inclusive, and inviting community. We live in a growing city; therefore, having a role in concentrating urbanization around major transit nodes and major transit corridors while protecting single and dual-family neighbourhoods is a strongly desirable objective. According to Metro Vancouver population projections, Burnaby is expected to grow to 350,000 people by 2050 or earlier. This will put pressure on whichever council is in power to increase density beyond the four town centres, albeit much gentler, but it may be inevitable that some neighbourhoods will be impacted in the next decades.
As chair of the Planning and Development Committee, I was honoured to chair the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing in 2019. The message from the Task Force and from more than 2,500 residents who participated in the consultation process and the ideas workshops, is to facilitate the construction of much more housing for all needs and abilities, market and non-market, from affordable to missing middle to supportive housing for seniors and people with disabilities. The Task Force’s conclusion is for gentler densification all over the city while concentrating a good deal of the growth into the four town centres and to a lesser extent in the urban villages. A Burnaby housing needs study indicates the need for over 15,000 new units of housing of all types in the next 10 years.
As a medium to long-term initiative, my Planning and Development Committee has embarked on community consultation aimed at reviewing several community plans such as Bainbridge, Lochdale, Royal Oak, Sunset, Edmonds as well as Willingdon Lands across from BCIT, and the BCIT campus itself. These are areas where more contained density may be applied. The Task Force also recommended gentle density along most transit corridors and this will also be examined with input from residents soon. The committee is also speeding up the process for permitting secondary suites in duplexes, smaller lots, and laneway houses, but unfortunately, COVID-19 is holding us back considerably. I am confident that these measures will contribute to more affordability in both market and non-market housing.
The Mayor’s Task Force came up with dozens of recommendations and several Quick Start Actions that we are assiduously following up on. My Planning and Development Committee has already developed and brought to council the strongest Rental Use Zoning Policy in the country, whereby all rental units demolished will have to be replaced on a 1-to-1 basis with new ones. The committee went further and today the tenants displaced will have to be accommodated temporarily in a similar suite preferably in the same neighbourhood, and any increase in rent for the interim duration of construction will have to be covered by the developer, moving expenses included. The tenants displaced will have the right to return to a similar new suite in the new building at the same rent as when they were displaced plus yearly BC Rental’s Office increases. As well, the Rental Use Zoning Policy requires that any large development anywhere in the city provide a minimum of 20% inclusionary housing at 20% below CMHC median rents. This is one of the proudest accomplishments of my political career and I am grateful to my council colleagues and the Mayor for pulling together to make this a reality.
In the Planning and Development Committee, we are also examining a new Transportation Plan which will focus on improving transit as well as active transportation in all directions. The first two phases of consultation have taken place and the plan should be completed by the summer of 2021 with implementation starting thereafter. As a long-term project, we have also launched a sidewalk construction program with $10 million a year to upgrade all the streets with curbs, sidewalks, lighting, and trees while prioritizing sidewalks near schools, seniors housing, community centres and care homes. The plan aims to promote a healthier lifestyle by encouraging people to be more active in their community by walking or cycling. I strive to have new developments in Burnaby that combine residential and commercial elements in such a way as to enable the creation of vibrant, ground-level, pedestrian-oriented streetscapes so that people are attracted to the outdoors. The development of our four, vibrant transit-focused town centres reflects that vision, and the urban villages like Hastings and Edmonds complement it.
I also take pride in the many cultural and sports events that take place in our city all through the year. Having had the opportunity to work with council, City staff, and the community to launch events such as the Giro di Burnaby, which has become Burnaby’s largest single sporting event, I am very aware of the value such community events bring to Burnaby citizens and businesses. The Blues and Roots Festival and the summer concerts at Deer Lake Park, Hats Off Day on Hastings, Edmonds City Fair, and the many cultural festivals at Swangard Stadium add to connectivity and enjoyment of life for all residents.
As past long-time chair of Burnaby’s Community Policing Committee, which is now absorbed into the Public Safety Committee, I was instrumental in initiating the Burnaby Crime Prevention Strategy. Since Crime Prevention is the primary objective of the Public Safety Committee, I encouraged the RCMP detachment to publish on their website bi-weekly crime safety reports and crime prevention tips for the benefit of the public. The tips span from personal safety to streets, homes, and neighbourhoods, as well as prevention of petty crimes and more serious crimes such as financial, B&Es, robberies, auto theft and theft from autos.
The last few years we have involved high school students in developing crime prevention messaging for their peers. One particular video developed by high school students was taken up by ICBC. In my last few years on Public Safety, I recommended and obtained from council an increase to the RCMP contingency of 22 more officers including two bike patrol squads. These bike patrol squads have proven to be a very effective crime deterrent. To them, we also added a parks patrol bike squad with a direct call to the RCMP in case of serious criminal activity in parks.
On behalf of the council, I worked closely with the Chief Superintendent of the RCMP and the Community Policing Committee to launch Burnaby’s Crime Reduction Strategy, an area in which we have been having incredible success. In the last number of years, the police have seen a significant decrease in all monitored crime types. Together, we worked to ensure this trend continues so that we can all be proud in defining Burnaby as a very safe community.
I continue to be appointed to the Financial Management Committee where I hope to collaborate with the mayor and colleagues in ensuring Burnaby has sound reserves for future replacement of aging infrastructure and in keeping property taxes to a level that is manageable for all.
At the Metro Vancouver Regional District level, I contribute to increasing the number of regional parks and improving services to the public such as greenways and multi-use paths aimed at connecting the 22 Metro communities. I am also contributing to the implementation of the Liquid Waste Management Plan with three new liquid waste treatment plants under construction or in the design stage. These are long-term projects mandated by federal regulations and which take a lot of planning and considerable staff and financial resources. On the Solid Waste Committee, we work very hard to come up with new programs to reduce the amount of garbage produced in Metro Vancouver and to introduce new initiatives to increase recycling and to promote the reduction of plastic products at the source, especially single-use items.
Finally, I will continue to be involved with activities and initiatives that enhance the lives of Burnaby seniors. I’ve had great pleasure in volunteering for seniors’ events, driving seniors and shut-ins to luncheons at Confederation Seniors Centre, to medical appointments and other events (through Burnaby Citizen Support Services). I continue to participate on the Work Table of the Voices of Burnaby Seniors which is tasked with identifying gaps in seniors’ services and advocating all levels of government. In the last few years, I've also participated on behalf of the council in the Healthy Community Partnership aimed at promoting wellness and a sense of connection for the residents of Burnaby in collaboration with Fraser Health and the Burnaby School District.
- Chair, Mayor’s Task Force of Community Housing
- Chair, Planning and Development Committee
- Vice-chair, International Relations and Friendship Cities Committee
- Member, Audit Committee
- Member, Community Heritage Committee
- Member, Executive Committee of Council
- Member, Financial Management Committee
- Member, Parcel Tax Roll Review Panel
- Member, Simon Fraser Liaison Committee
- Director, Metro Vancouver Regional District Board
- Director, MV Liquid Waste Committee
- Director, MV Regional Parks Committee
- Director, MV Solid Waste Committee
- Council representative, Fraser Health Municipal Advisory Council
- Alternate council rep. to New Vista Society and School District Parent Advisory Committee
- School Trustee, 1987-1996 - Chair for 2 years
- MLA Burnaby North, 1996-2001
- Parliamentary Secretary, 1998-2001
- Member, Voices of Burnaby Seniors Working Table since inception in 2008
- Past-director, Fraser Health Region
- Past-vice president, National Congress of Italian Canadians
- Past-director, Burnaby Multicultural Society
- Past-president and Current Honorary Life Member, British Columbia Heritage Language Association
- Past-president, British Columbia Association of Teachers of Modern Languages
- Member, COMITES, an Advisory Citizen Committee to the Italian Consul General
- Recipient of Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
- Recipient of Medal for 125th Anniversary of Confederation of Canada
- Recipient of Knighthood of the Star by the President of the Italian Republic
- Honorary Rotarian & Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary Club of Burnaby Deer Lake