Back by popular demand: Falcon’s follies ~ Gateway,SFPR and the Railgate connection.

Indeed, with the revelations brought forward by Vicky Huntington and other dedicated researchers on the ALR land being optioned in Delta...there has been increasing attention around several older posts of mine.

You can find them all here under the BEST OF page, under the Falcon’s Follies series… which leads into another series about Shadow tolls on the Sea to Sky highway- something mayors in metro Van ( and Christy Clark!) seem to still be clueless about as they whine about nary a toll being paid on that highway to the elite’s playground.

But as I work on the new post about foreign interests in Canada and our increasing loss of sovereignty… please enjoy some of Kevin Falcon’s follies ~ Gateway,SFPR and the Railgate connection. Originally posted February 6th, 2011.

It was a very sunny day in September 2006, when Premier Gordon Campbell arrived for the grand opening of Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus, smack dab in the heart of Whalley. Despite the demands of his busy schedule, Campbell did make time to sit with local reporter, Tom Zytaruk… and what a revealing interview it was, indeed.

Campbell, in town to open the SFU campus on Friday, said his government is concentrating on building up this side of the river to reduce the need for commuting to Vancouver.

” It’s building a critical mass of urban commercial cultural activities here.” he said. ” There is a perception that everyone is going from here( Surrey) to there ( Vancouver). This is a perception founded in 1982. In reality, people are coming from there to here.”

The massive Gateway  project aimed at improving the transportation of goods on this side of the Fraser through initiatives like the South Fraser Perimeter Road, says Campbell, isn’t progressing fast enough.

” I’d like it faster,” he said. ” We need to move on it. We’re further behind this year than we were last year. Every year that we wait generates additional costs,additional negative impacts.”

Of particular importance in the above excerpt is that Campbell talks about his governments concentrated efforts to build up development south of the Fraser, and the Gateway project-South Fraser Perimeter Road, in the same breath.

Why this is so important? I’ll tell you.

 Instead of winding down B.C. Rail as was the agenda of government at the time of the “sale”,former Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon, went on to give B.C. Rail a new mandate to develop Gateway access to B.C. ports for container rail traffic. Largely unknown to most of the general public until media reports of testimony last year in the Basi-Virk trial addressed the new mandate, what was a revelation to many, was in fact part of what many believe was part of the concentrated effort to  assist in building up development south of the Fraser River.

The  mandate and agenda presented in  the 2005-2007 service plan for BC rail appears as it was intended : the rail line and it’s subsidiaries would dispose of the bulk of its holdings over a period of time, slowing winding down. http://www.bcrco.com/2005serveplan.pdf

After all, as the government continues to contend, BC rail was laden with debt, a massive burden to the province.

However, the 2007-2009 service plans indicates clearly Falcon’s change of mandate which orders BC rail to get in line and assist the Asia-Pacific Gateway strategy – a must read if there ever was one. In fact, the service plan states the new mandate was introduced early in 2006, which happens  also to be when former transportation minister Kevin Falcon and premier Campbell released the Gateway program information report. 

It wasn’t until McCullough had Brian Kenning, a former BC rail board member,on the stand in the Basi- Virk trial last fall, that the  majority of the general public first heard about that change of mandate outlined above -the following from an article by Keith Fraser :

The details came out during the third day of cross-examination of former B.C. Rail board member Brian Kenning.

In 2008, five years after the Crown corporation had been largely sold off, a number of B.C. Rail executives flew to other key ports, including Hong Kong and Dubai, said Kenning, who sat on the evaluation committee for the sale of B.C. Rail and headed the audit committee.

“So B.C. Rail, in 2008, a company with [few employees], you’re saying it’s necessary for them to go on airline travel to the Far East, have I got that right?” asked defence lawyer Kevin McCullough.

“No, you haven’t got that right,” said Kenning. “What I’m saying is that we had a new mandate from the government that required us to carry out our job,” said Kenning. “We made the decision that trips to other, key, world-class ports would be helpful to us in carrying out what was a new duty tasked to us by the minister of transportation and the premier’s office.”

McCullough pressed Kenning on why B.C. Rail, which only had a small rail line at Roberts Bank and no trains by this point, would agree to such an expenditure.

“As a board member, did you not think that was absurd?” he said.

“No, it wasn’t absurd,” said Kenning. “I think it makes perfect sense, given what the government asked us to do.”

From Neil Hall:

After BC Rail was sold, Kenning recalled, the plan was to wind down the company after it sold up to $300 million of its real estate holdings, which was expected to take two years.

But he said the transportation minister at the time, Kevin Falcon, gave BC Rail an additional mandate, asking it to develop “gateway access” to ports, so executives flew to Dubai and Hong Kong for discussions with officials.

McCullough asked Kenning if he thought it was absurd that BC Rail, which was by then a small company with no trains, would send executives abroad.

Kenning said the government told the company to look at other ports with high container traffic, and that’s why executives were sent overseas

To be certain, Gateway has always been former transportation minister Kevin Falcon’s baby, as was the SFPR. It is well-known and documented  that Falcon was the driving force to make a concept that had been around for years, a reality,  and in particular he has always been vehement in his defence of the South Fraser Perimeter Road( SFPR). The rationale used to support the project always revolved around the movement of trucks carrying goods and cargo to and from Deltaport.  But to some who knew, BC rails new mandate to support the Gateway initiative and port development through the Roberts Bank Corridor was seemingly at odds with the reasoning to wind it down as a debt-ridden burden to the province.

Of course, the  key to BC rails new mandate revolved around the rail line to Deltaport-more commonly known as the Roberts Bank Spur line, which was alleged to have been offered to Omnitrax as a consolation prize in exchange for not dropping out of the already tainted bidding process for BC Rail.

Lawyers Michael Bolton for David Basi and Kevin McCullough for Bob Virk have repeatedly argued in court that their clients’ political superiors ordered the consolation prize be given to OmniTRAX.

The RCMP told B.C. Liberal Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon that the separate privatization process for the port subdivision had to be cancelled because it had been compromised by leaks of confidential government information.

(The article  is a must read, even more relevent now in the entire railgate affair than ever)

Of course, the line was never sold, and there was a very good reason why not. Had Omnitrax actually obtained ownership of that line, the Asia-Pacific Gateway initiative may not have transpired the way it did.

Likely realising the gem before him, former transportation minister Kevin Falcon thus changed the mandate of BC rail, which effectively halted the wind-down as previously planned. Additional staff were even required to facilitate the new activities and goals of BC Rail to support Deltaport and the gateway initiative.

In January of 2007, whispers of BC rail attempting to purchase land were making waves in North Delta coffee shops. Shortly thereafter, it hit the pages of the Delta Optimist that BC rail was making plans for a new rail yard at Roberts Bank. Although the company only owned an option to purchase a 250 foot strip along the rail line, landowners told the paper BC rail came to them asking to purchase large parcels. BC Rail claimed the landowners came to them.

In August, 2007, B.C. Rail applied to the Agricultural Land Commission for permission to purchase, subdivide, and build an expanded right-of-way along the Deltaport rail line on 52 acres of active farmland.  The expanded right-of-way required the subdivision of nine properties in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The Application (#0-37610) was NOT for exclusions but the right to subdivide farmland and build within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Instead of purchasing just the 52 acres as approved, to date B.C. Rail has spent over 15 million taxpayer dollars to purchase over 150 acres of prime Delta farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve.  Instead of buying portions of properties, B.C. Rail has purchased large parcels between Deltaport and a service road to the south.

These properties were originally crown properties of the Roberts Bank Backup Lands that were expropriated by the province in 1968 and 1969 for port development. Subsequently they were sold back to the farmers between 8 and 10 years ago for very reasonable prices.

The rationale given for the expanded right-of-way has always been the planned future Terminal 2 at Roberts Bank. The plans east of Highway 17 are to accommodate the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

What makes all of this so interesting is that these acres and acres of farmland properties BC Rail has purchased, border  a good portion of the land that was removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve under the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty. The Tsawwassen First Nation received approximately 207 hectares (511 acres) from the ALR as part of the deal.

Some of the that land is going to be industrial development,right beside the BC rail lands. following link shows the TFN is open for business: http://www.tsawwassenfirstnation.com/TEDC_Open_for_Business_Brochure.pdf

” TEDC also issued a Request for Expressions of Interest to find a qualified partner for development of the first 100 acres of TFN Industrial Lands.On the commercial side, TEDC entered into a Letter of Intent to develop a 100 acre commercial site (on the north side of Highway 17) with Property Development Group (PDG). PDG is an experienced shopping centre developer that has developed projects on other First Nation lands.TFN was also featured in a provincial government initiative to connect foreign investment with business opportunities in BC. “

Something tells me, that we need to go back to that interview with Campbell from 2006, where he stated his government was concentrating on building urban commercial centers south of the Fraser River…

When you consider that the SFPR began as a dedicated highway complete with interchanges to move container trucks to and from the port and it has ended up being nothing more than just another road, and a highly questionable one at that, you have to wonder why Falcon pushed so hard for this project during his time as transportation minister. Certainly,there have proven to be more than a few flaws with the project that Falcon and the Liberals never counted on, and  have had to compensate  for.

The global economic meltdown, for one – the fallout of which is still greatly evident in reduced container traffic through our ports, thus negating the crux of the rationale behind the SFPR. The reason why the project has been downgraded several times (possibly at great risk to drivers, with a major interchange reduced to a light controlled intersection at one crucial juncture ) we have been told is because  current and projected traffic volumes did not merit the build.

Some analysts have been saying all along that Deltaport container traffic is unlikely to ever reach the levels it once was considering the Panama Canal expansion opens only one year after the SFPR –  greatly reducing the likelihood Asia will continue to offload goods here on the west coast. With the expanded canal able to accommodate super-cargo carriers, shippers can make the more cost-effective choice of delivering goods directly to the eastern coast of the USA and Canada via the canal, rather than stopping here and then trucking or sending cargo via rail across the country.

And then let us not forget the very profitable bounty of curious land deals that have been occurring since 2005 along the current route of the SFPR – some long before specific details were known to the general public and even prior to the completion of the environmental assessments.( to be detailed in a future installment)

Add it all up and it appears there are grand plans underway to develop and industrialize hundreds of acres of lands south of Deltaport way, and the BC Rail  spur line and subsequent land aquisitions are central to it.

A note of interest at this point, is that Colliers international did a report on the real estate benefits of the SFPR, even before the project included this southern portion. From that report:

 ”Colliers carried out a two phase study with reports provided in November 1999 and January 2000.  Phase I forecast the type, magnitude and rate of land development without and with SFPR.  Key findings and conclusions were:

 SFPR catchment area of South Westminster, Bridgeview, Port Mann and Fraser Heights has approximately 900 acres of vacant industrial land of which 50% is serviced.

 Without the SFPR, it is forecast that approximately 200 acres would be developed for industrial purposes by 2021.  With SFPR all 900 acres would be developed by 2021.  The incremental 700 acres of industrial development can be attributed to enhanced accessibility due to SFPR.

Colliers conclude that this increase in demand would be reallocation from within Greater Vancouver.”

Both Gateway and the SFPR have been instrumental in allowing both government and developers  relatively unfettered access to one of the last great undeveloped tracts of land yet untouched because it sits in the agricultural land reserve -all through a series of land deals,swaps and treaties no one anticipated before it was too late.

Some say Gateway and the South Fraser Perimeter Road are two of former transportation minister Kevin Falcon’s biggest follies. Considering the number of land titles I hold in my hand from deals related to these projects, I would say they have potential to rival the land deals along the Sea to Sky highway.

Either way, I’d say perhaps Omnitrax really did  lose out on the most expensive consolation prize in history… and former transportation minister-now- liberal-leadership-hopeful Kevin Falcon has more questions to answer, since he was behind the mandate that turned BC rail into a tool for land development in Gateway.

*** BC Rail went onto a long term agreement with Kinder Morgan as a result of issuing this request back in 2006. http://www.bcrco.com/operating.pdf

***On April 1st, 2010, BCRC was brought back into government under the BC Transportation Financing Authority,and it’s reporting will be combined with the BCTFA, as reported in the 2009 report, which is good reading.  http://www.bcrco.com/2009report.pdf

Excerpts of interest from that report:

-During 2009, the Company met all its specific mandated objectives and continued to work toward its mandate of acquiring and holding railway corridors and strategic port lands and making related infrastructure investments to support the Pacific Gateway initiative.

- BCRC’s primary mandate is to support and facilitate the British Columbia Ports Strategy (“BC Ports Strategy”) and Pacific Gateway Strategy, by providing consulting advice, acquiring and holding railway corridor and strategic port lands, and making related infrastructure investments for the Province. – acquisition and retention by BCR Properties Ltd. of key lands which support port terminal operations. BCRC, through its subsidiary BCR Properties Ltd., has also retained ownership of port-related lands,

-On April 1 2010, 100% ownership was transferred to the BC Transportation Financing Authority (“BCTFA”). From this date onwards, information reported in the BCRC Annual Report will be consolidated into the BCTFA, resulting in this being the last annual report for BCRC.
- BCRC is principally a holding company with its commercial and business activities conducted through its operating subsidiaryBCR Properties Ltd. (“BCR Properties”). This wholly owned subsidiary operates the Port Subdivision, the 24-mile railway line connecting three major railways (CN Rail, Canadian Pacific Railway, and BNSF Railway) with the port terminals at Roberts Bank. Although it does not operate its own trains on this railway line, BCR Properties maintains the track and manages all train operations, recovering its costs from the three user railways based on their respective share of traffic over the line. BCR Properties also manages the Company’s non-railway real estate portfolio. This includes retention and management of the strategic port-related lands including lands associated with Vancouver Wharves and Squamish Terminals operations.

Benefit to the Public   The main benefit to the public of BCRC’s operations comes from its role in helping to implement the Shareholder’s BC Ports Strategy and Pacific Gateway Strategy. These strategies will add billions of dollars of economic output and more than 30,000 jobs in British Columbia by 2020 by expanding and increasing the efficiency of the province’s transportation infrastructure. While increasing the province’s capacity to serve export markets, it will also directly benefit British Columbians by improving movement of people and goods, facilitating economic growth, increasing transportation choices and enhancing connections to designated population growth areas. *****

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15 Responses to Back by popular demand: Falcon’s follies ~ Gateway,SFPR and the Railgate connection.

  1. Grant G says:

    Yes indeed, Falcon is up to his eyeballs in BC Rail stink too..

    Wonder why the media never chased Falcon over his habitual lies and contradictions..

    Well researched

    Like

  2. Maggie Bernet says:

    It seems to me all we do is chase our politicians these days, and they still get away with most of their corrupt scams, lies, excuses, blaming others, no accountability, no integrity, no humanity, just plain arrogance and bullying, Republican/Hitler style Politicians we have voted in, or have we?

    the sad part is, too many buy into this “new wave” of politics where the people get 2 pay and have no say whatsoever, as today’s society is so busy chasing their own dream by their selfish thinking and forget to listen and pay attention to what is being done to us, no wonder they have such an easy time screwing us royally on every level.

    wage raise here and there, more taxes and less service, more payout and still less $$ to bring home, we have become a society of followers, what about leading the pack and say enough is enough, lets not just talk about it, lets go out there in raise our arms and say HALT, STOP, you crossed the line, now get back and clean up the bloody mess you crated or get the hell out of here.

    Harper doesn’t seem to know how much the F-35 cost, Christy Clark doesn’t have a clue about the Delta Land….

    Slimy lying deceitful pathological politicians. Watts doesn’t know anything about increased RCMP salaries, give me a break, she knows very well what she signed as she needs them to cover her ass, or is she out to lunch like Marvin Hunt when he signed the gaming agreement?
    Well which is it?
    What is it with Surrey people that hang on to this corrupt Mayor at all cost? just because evil has a smile doesn’t mean it can’t kill you.

    Politicians have lost all credibility

    Like

  3. bernadettekeenan says:

    I think the Folly of the South Fraser Freeway is going to be much harder to walk away from or get rid of than Fast Ferries for example. The existing traffic levels are so low that they were able to shut down a portion of South Fraser Way to complete the over pass at Tannery Road, with little or no appreciable increase in traffic along Scott Road. So what are they doing building a freeway when there is no traffic?
    Also they are are so proud of it (not) that when they call press conferences to make announcements relating to it – they conveniently forget to let the public know. What are they afraid of – that perhaps some of the the still passionate opposition to the freeway will show up? As an environmental and economical disaster this freeway will surely prove to be an embarrassment to them and the way they are slinking around behind the public backs about it seems to prove that. Oh and if the freeway is all about prosperity and bringing jobs and $$$ to BC why can’t our government afford proper funding for education, health care etc? Maybe because they are putting billions, that is thousands of millions into pavement politics projects that our children, and grandchildren and most likely their children will be paying for – for years to to come.

    Like

  4. Debbie says:

    I missed putting in my last post about Minister Shirley Bond’s elequante description imparted by her as she officially declared the TFN industrial Park open for business last summer. All around us the bald eagles were reflected in the gold sun as they went wheeling through the bright blue sky. Every so often an Eagle would dive into the water and reappear with a fish in its tallons as it broke through the water. Sea gulls would dive down and return with beaks full of clams which they let smash upon the rocks below. The surf broke as a white froth along the shore, while tribal elders gathered food as they had done for eons. Along the beaches seaweed was being gathered as food for families and for sale to enrich local gardens in Tsawwassen and Ladner.. The gulf Islands rose before us sheathed in the purples and blues of the setting sun in hues only seen here. The slap of a seal’s flipper carried across the sea as did the chirp and whistle of sea otters.
    This was what was seen, felt and described by those of us who gathered and watched the opening ceremonies. Yet what Minister Bond heard and beheld was quite different. She described her vision as one that saw all around her, the highways, roads and bridges that would transport trucks and loaded rail cars from huge container ships . The blast of ship and rail horns that would drown out the sound and sights of birds, that would be music to her hears. Yes, that unmistakable love song of never ending progress and commerce where the sights and sounds of a dying ecology and precious way of life would trump all else. These were the only sights and sounds Minister Bond and her Captains of Indusrty were interested in. The quieter, ancient and wIser voices and sounds were swept aside in a shortsighted frenzy of greed.

    Like

  5. bernadettekeenan says:

    I think you and I are seeing the same things Debbie.

    Like

  6. Laila says:

    It will get worse, much worse if this government stays in power much longer.

    Like

  7. bernadettekeenan says:

    I see that too Laila – very scary.

    Like

  8. Grant D says:

    I found out that this SFPR may just be a ghost highway when done.
    The massive expansion of the Panama canal is finished around the same time this SFPR is to be completed.
    So as of 2014 huge Panamax class ships will sail across the Pacific and through the canal and avoid the west coast entirely with their cargo destined for the east coast.
    These new vessels will carry way more cargo than any existing ships.
    It will be way cheaper to ship goods through the canal instead of by rail and truck across Canada.
    The SFPR will be a ghost highway.

    Like

    • Laila says:

      Grant you must not have read some of my older pieces on the SFPR,I’ve written about the Panama Canal aspect, a long time ago…I actually mention it in this post. I love how Falcon heralded this project along with Bond when she took over, as so progressive, as a dedicated truck route when it will be nothing of the sort when completed.

      Considering the extensive downgrades to the project, it really is nothing more than a free alternative to the Port Mann when finished and a conduit to the Tsawassen First Nations mega mall complex being built out in the same area. If you drive out that way, access is already done.

      For more background on the SFPR, including the Panama Canal aspect, you can reach those stories via this link http://lailayuile.com/?s=sfpr

      Like

  9. Grant D says:

    Sorry missed them, but got them now.
    Thank you very much.
    My brother works at the ports and they are nervous about the canal.

    Like

    • Laila says:

      I can imagine. The deltaport expansion has been heralded as a jobs creator for ages, but in reality our northern port in BC is closer to Asia by a day, and is linked up with rail lines to the east, also meaning many will ship there rather than Delta. Maybe if more knew about this and paid attention, the workers would have an angle or at least some real warning of what might happen.

      Like

  10. bernadettekeenan says:

    Also from what I understand none of our ports are currently at capacity, so expansion is not really needed right now.

    Like

  11. Grant D says:

    Thanks Laila.
    I missed that first time through.

    Like

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