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Three-way battle brews in Burnaby

For all the nasty comments and blatant rhetoric bandied about in Burnaby's vehemently fought 2008 civic election, voters could have some fairly easy choices to make when they go to the polls on Saturday.

Those who are happy will likely vote for the NDP-aligned Burnaby Citizens Association candidates, who have held a strong majority on both city council and the school board for more than 20 years.

"We've been developing a very complete city, one that has a lot of access and amenities and areas where people can walk and bike, take public transit and enjoy the city," said Mayor Derek Corrigan, a 21-year veteran of the city council table.

Projects on the go include the construction of a new library and swimming pool in the Edmonds area, the hiring of 25 more police officers over the next three years, continued opposition to the widening of the Trans-Canada Highway, and forging ahead with a controversial multi-million computing program that is admittedly behind schedule and over budget.

Andrew Chisholm, the Team Burnaby mayoral candidate, said voters who want a change from the "confrontational attitude" at city hall should look at his group, which is promising to reduce the rate of tax increases, use casino revenues to hire 100 new police officers, have an "independent review" of the computer controversy, and open some kind of hostel or emergency shelter in the city within the year.

"There is a clear distinction within the platforms," said Chisholm, the son of a former B.C. Liberal MLA and president of the family-owned Dragonwood Industrial Park in the city.

Making things even more interesting is the creation of the Independent Voices slate, a group of three experienced civic politicians - councillors Gary Begin and Garth Evans, and former school trustee Barbara Spitz, who split off from Team Burnaby earlier this year due to disagreements over party discipline.

"We want to do politics differently than they've been done in Burnaby in the past," said Evans. "I think that elected councillors should make up their own mind on each issue and vote as they think best for the people and not be answerable to any party or any party executive."

Race may also play a larger role than ever in Burnaby's election with a record nine of 25 city council candidates and 11 of 16 school board candidates having Asian surnames.

Team council candidate Jeffrey Chiu raised some hackles recently when he told a local newspaper that Chinese people are "more prudent" with their money.

Dan Hilborn contributes to Vancouver's 24 hours.

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