Sea to Sky highway retaining walls safety inspection reports released, raise more questions on quality of build and maintenance.

One of the advantages to blogging is the ability to follow up on stories as many times as one needs to get to the bottom of it. And as is becoming more common with stories involving the BC provincial government, it’s a matter of digging deeper,looking beyond the ministry media handler statements and sometimes going back and comparing them to new ones.

Such is the story of everything to do with the Sea to Sky highway, that lovely scenic drive and engineering marvel that takes one out to Squamish and Whistler. Not only scenic, its construction,cost and maintenance has been a source of many stories that give British Columbians a glimpse into how major projects are built and paid for.

Stories like the reason there why will never be a toll on that highway – at least until the current contractual obligations are paid out. The hidden shadow toll is based on vehicle usage counts and distance, and is included as a part of the total payment to the concessionaire ( the private partners the government must pay back every month for footing the bill of the construction) If you are a newer reader, you can find all those stories on my Best Of page, just over half way down :

Another story that has been just as compelling for me because of the potential implications of the research, revolves around the more than 200 retaining walls built along the Sea to Sky highway.

On April 30th, 2014 I broke the story that the Ministry of Transportation was investigating the condition of a series of retaining walls after photos were taken that showed gaps between blocks, seepage outside of drains, blocked drains, and walls that were wavy and in some cases bulging.

The ministry responded on  May 1st,2014, that they had done their own investigation and that the issues were all merely cosmetic in nature.

In November of 2014, it was discovered that Kiewit had inspected their own work as per a Ministry of Transportation Operation managers emails, who advised the ministry was reviewing what Kiewit had discovered.

It was then revealed – not by government but by a resident in the area of the repair – in April,2015 that two other retaining walls on the Sea to Sky highway that showed little to no visible defects, were undergoing extensive repair work.

Transportation minister Todd Stone was on the hot seat in the legislature looking nervous that week, but instead of answering any meaningful questions he tried to deny,deflect and discredit the opposition who were finally doing their job well.

Just days later it was revealed by yet another Ministry of Transportation manager that Kiewit, the builder of the highway, had used substandard materials.

Repairs have been ongoing this summer at the Pasco Road rebuild and at the CN rail overpass near Brandywine falls past Squamish, and in both cases the repairs are extensive in scope.  But why such extensive rebuilds?

An FOI  requested and released to someone in the media in August of this year, gives some insight into what went wrong on these two walls in particular. And the results are damning.

A letter dated June 17th,2014 from Hatch Mott McDonald to Sea to Sky highway builder Kiewit,  states that Kiewit flagged those two walls for internal review and testing, after an internal Kiewit audit showed the possibility that deformed wire was used in the walls instead of the contract standard wire. ( pg 98-106 below)

The safety inspection reports also show that despite the Ministries earlier claim in May 2014 that a full investigation had already been undertaken of the walls, the safety inspections were not conducted until October 2014, a full 5 months after I first broke the story.

The FOI package includes  just 12 inspection reports from 2013. In all, most walls were rated well, with several in the fair to poor range for particular components. All the issues identified by the photos posted here previously are noted, including erosion, drainage issues, water seeping between blocks, misaligned blocks, walls built of out line resulting in a wavy formation, bulges of compacted fill walls, a result of over compaction during construction.

Motion sensors also tracked movement on the walls reported here earlier for a period of time and no significant motion was detected.

However, questions remain as to how and why substandard material was used in the construction of the CN wall and the Pasco Road wall, and why it took until this point in time to address it.

Questions also remain as to why walls clearly built out of line and with defects were approved as acceptable for completion, considering the cost of building this highway. This is something I have never been able to get an answer on from the ministry of Transportation but is concerning to me for a couple of reasons.

  1. The highway is only  6 years old in some areas. To have so many issues that need maintenance and repair -some that are extensive- at such a young age indicates issues during construction that someone still signed off on. If things are popping up so quickly, and in at least a couple of cases are still not being addressed, what can we expect for the longevity of this highway?
  2. Kiewit is on half of the partnership with Flatiron that built the Port Mann Bridge, which also had very tight contractual deadlines, and also experienced significant issues during construction. The continual decline and eventual replacement of a brand new retaining wall on Lougheed Highway and the gantry collapse are just two. Kiewit has had a long history of issues in the US and elsewhere in Canada, which are detailed here.

With industry sources indicating there have already been incidents of spalling under the  new Port Mann ( falling concrete bits and pieces) and geotechnical issues with settlement.soft earth at both the north and south ends, one wonders if  BC’s great transportion projects will suffer the same crumbling fate as those in Montreal. 

Calls to the Ministry of Transportation made this morning, were not returned as of the time of this posting. I’m not surprised – I would have hard time explaining how an $800 million plus highway ended up like this too. ( and that doesn’t include the 25 years of PS payments either…)

Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.
Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.

IMG_20150819_142012 (2)

Sometimes losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth

It’s been said that losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth, and over the years I’ve found that to be true more than a few times.

On my journey from blogger, to Huffington Post featured political blogger, to Duel debate columnist at 24 Hours Vancouver and then moving onto become the new City Hall columnist, I’ve gained thousands of wonderful readers, critical experience and wisdom. And it’s been an incredible experience.

But I’ve also lost some admittedly youthful naiveté and more than a handful of illusions about democracy and journalism. I’ve changed and grown and so have my views. In a world that’s recreating itself faster than the human mind can sometimes process, the ability to adapt and move forward into new, progressive ways of thinking and dealing with challenges is essential. And that was why I left the Duel even though I had developed an incredible relationship with our readers. I knew by perpetuating and contributing to the polarization of political left and right,I was part of the problem – and I wanted to be part of the solution.

Starting on the City Hall beat was an eye-opener even for someone as politically engaged as myself. If you think the antics of provincial or federal politics is contributing to voter malaise and cynicism, you’d give up entirely if you saw what goes on, largely without examination, at the civic level.The manner in which some city halls conduct their business is definitely worthy of a municipal auditor’s office and I’m not just limiting that to Metro Vancouver.

But I digress. Back to that lost illusion, one that lead to my handing in my resignation at 24Hours Vancouver several weeks ago.

Over the last year in particular, never ending cuts to newsrooms of papers big and small across the country, have taken a toll. It’s not just Postmedia- all corporate media outlets are feeling the pinch-but Postmedia cuts have been extensive.

Some senior members have been offered buyouts, some have just  been laid off. With the availability and preference of many to get their news for free through a variety of means online, newspapers are slowing dying a rather painful and visible death. And that isn’t a good thing for anyone, least of all you, the reader.

Why? Because these cuts and closures combined with a concentration of media ownership means you, the reader, are going to lose out in the end. Postmedia competes largely with itself now. Fewer reporters and feature writers mean fewer expose’s and features, and more assignments for those left. It’s watered down,syndicated content that is beginning to look the same no matter where you go or which paper you pick up.

And  the upper management? While they are actively trying to re-work an unworkable business model thanks to the internet, they continue a downward spiral. It’s frustrating to watch talented local writers and reporters that  subscribers and buyers will actually make the effort to read,have to make the choice to leave. Uniquely talented journalists like Chad Skelton, for one. 

It doesn’t end there either. As more reporters, pundits, and columnists see full well the insecurity of their profession,they are leaving to pursue greener, more secure pastures. Not because they don’t love what they do – each of them will tell you how hard it is to make that step given the chance-but because the writing is on the wall.

For some strange reason the suits back east just don’t seem to see that they are contributing to demise and continue backing themselves into a corner. The value of the paper is inherently found in the people at ground level,working day and night to get the news out every day. Cut the content, and you cut your own throat.

For me, something just went ‘Ding!’ when the National Post/Margaret Atwood kerfuffle occurred. Which is kind of ironic because although I greatly respect the body of work Atwood has created,I’m not a huge fan personally. If you missed it, here’s an overview: 

The National Post has reposted a column written by famed Canadian author Margaret Atwood criticizing Stephen Harper after accusations of censorship.

“Um, did I just get censored?” Atwood asked on Twitter Friday evening after her column disappeared from the Post’s website, several hours after it had been posted. “For my flighty little caper on Hair?”

The celebrated Toronto author’s column, which remained available in a cached versiononline, used Stephen Harper’s repeated attacks on rival Justin Trudeau’s hair as a lead-in to pointed criticism of the prime minister himself.

“The column was taken down because the necessary fact checking had not been completed,” said the Post’s senior vice-president Gerry Nott in an email. “Senior editorial leadership at Postmedia also had not concluded whether the column was aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers.”

The vanished Post column, minus three sentences, was posted later Friday night on the website of The Walrus magazine. Soon after the lightly trimmed Walrus version appeared on the Post website as well.

Atwood, 75, questioned the original decision to remove the column.

“I am still puzzled,” she told the Star by email after the column has been reposted, adding editors had her piece for nine days before it was posted.

She also questioned the “values” being considered by the Post before it went back online.

Now,it’s not unusual for columns to get fact-checked although in my experience if that happens it does so prior to publication for obvious reasons.

The kicker for me was Gerry Nott’s emailed statement: “Senior editorial leadership at Postmedia also had not concluded whether the column was aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers.”

The values of the paper and it’s readers?

In just that one statement Nott revealed one big issue that in my opinion, is contributing to the fast demise of these chain publications. The only value a paper worth reading should place in high regard, is that of bringing forth content that encourages balanced and fair comment, without having a bias of one direction or another.

They need to bring forth comprehensive news of local and world events that are relevant to society as a whole. That is what readers expect. They want local content. They want diverse commentary. They don’t want a political agenda or content designed and or cherry-picked for a specific audience target.They don’t want to be told what to think either. Let them make up their own minds.

Postmedia executives can run their business any darn way they like, even when it doesn’t work.

National Post senior Vice President Gerry Nott and senior editorial leadership at the Post most certainly have the right to pull a column while they discuss if it aligns with their values or not.

And I have the right to say I don’t want to be a part of that anymore. That my values do not align with that mindset.

I am all about progressive values, about creating and building new ways to move forward in business, in communities and in news.  I write often and interact daily with my readers to try and engage them and get them back into the process, into realizing why it is so important. This is where newspapers can wield tremendous influence.

If I could see any indication those executives in towers far removed from you and I and every other reader out there had any inkling that they are largely the masters of their own demise, perhaps I would feel differently, but I don’t see that.I know they value the bottom line, but do they value the people who help them do that? To them, newsroom staff are simply numbers on a budget line.

I let my publisher know, and she asked me to think about it for a bit- and I did. But she and my editor respected where I was coming from and my decision.

Ironically,just two days after I handed in my resignation,we had an unannounced lay-off in our office that only served to reinforce my decision that PostMedia is headed in the wrong direction.

Perhaps not surprisingly, even ‘good old Conrad Black’ *written with serious sarcasm there* has taken issue with the direction Postmedia has taken,catching everyone off guard when he called into a Postmedia financial results conference call and tell CEO Paul Godfrey he felt the standard of some of the papers have slipped. 

Former media baron Conrad Black expressed his dissatisfaction Thursday with Postmedia’s turnaround effort as Canada’s largest newspaper chain reported another punishing quarter that left it swimming in deeper losses.

Black made an unexpected appearance on the Postmedia’s financial results conference call to tell CEO Paul Godfrey that he felt standards at some of the company’s papers have slipped.

“Please build the quality, otherwise you’re going to retreat right into your own end zone, if you’ll pardon the sports metaphor,” Black said.

“I care very much about these assets. I have nothing but high regard for you and your colleagues, but I’m very concerned we’ve got our feet stuck in cement here,” he added later.

Now Conrad Black wrote the book on meddling with papers,but now that the decline is impacting his shares,he whines. But the point remains – he is right, as late to the plate as he is in stating so. Readers tell me all the time they don’t want re-hashed national content in their local paper that they can see for free online elsewhere and most people have figured out how to get beyond any paywalls. They want to see their local longtime favourite writers and reporters bringing the content they are used to.

(And if you end up reading this Mr. Godfrey, that might be something you can talk about at your next meeting while you huddle in the end zone playing defense with a quarter of the players you used to have…try cutting  some suits in management instead of cutting the very people you need to supply your content. The irony of not accepting a political bias in stories reported,yet maintaining one as a corporate value eludes no one.)

I have nothing but high regard for my soon to be former colleagues at 24Hours.  It’s a solid team that works well together and always has – I urge you to continue to enjoy the paper as I will. Our team is why reader numbers grew significantly under our local publisher and editorial leadership, and we celebrated last April that we were the 2nd most read print publication in Western Canada, right behind The Province and ahead of The Vancouver Sun.

What’s next for me? Right now, I’m not sure. I’ve had some interest expressed elsewhere and I am always open to explore opportunities, but I won’t be jumping into anything quickly. I have an unquenchable desire to see change happen in the political process, and in engaging people to understand why they play a critical role in how our communities and nation moves forward and is shaped. 

There are so many stories out there waiting to be told and I’ll  bring them to you here for now. There is much discussion that needs to be had on policy making in this province and in this country. I’ll  also continue to hold politicians feet to the fire they way they need to be, and is happening less and less as those cuts continue to happen elsewhere.

We need to raise the bar and depth of discussion on all these issues and more.  And I will continue to write stories that might make some change happen here in there, because that’s what I love best. With the same dedication I brought to 24 Hours Vancouver. 

Thank you, all of you, for making this such an incredible experience. You’ve shared your stories with me,your outrage and your inspiration,your disagreements and debates! And I value that,more than I can say.

So welcome home, pull a chair up and grab a cuppa. We’ve got some work to do here. Check back Monday when I have a new post for you I am working on now!

-You can still follow me on Twitter too @LailaYuile where my new bio states: ” Progressive blogger & commentator – Passionate about people,politics & policy.Advocate & activist )

-have a story idea or tip? We like brown envelopes! Get in touch securely via my contact page above for further info.

Stop reading this blog and go outside.

These last beautiful days of August  bring shorter days, but the angle of the sun in late afternoon paints everything it touches gold. The sunsets seem more intense.. or maybe we just appreciate them more knowing soon September will whisk them away.

So please, enjoy them when you can and make an effort to do something that makes your soul happy. I’ll post again next week with an update on the sea to sky highway story and another tidbit on the Port Mann.



BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost taxpayers $500 million? Not building it at all will save us over $8 billion dollars.

Sometimes, one woman can only take so much. And when I saw yet another headline last night blaring: 

“BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost $500 million”

I really and truly, had enough.

“A stop-work order for the Site C dam will cause “extreme prejudice” to BC Hydro at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars and a one-year delay in the construction schedule, the utility’s lawyer says.

Mark Andrews told a B.C. Supreme Court judge that critical milestones will not be met if an injunction is granted to a pair of First Nations.

“This injunction is going to drive a truck into the schedule of the project at this stage in particular,” Andrews said Wednesday.

The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are challenging the nearly $9-billion project by arguing they were not properly consulted before permits were granted for Site C, the third dam on the Peace River.

The Treaty 8 Tribal Alliance members say they will suffer “irreparable harm” if BC Hydro is allowed to start clearing thousands of hectares of old-growth forest.

They’ve asked a judge to block work authorized by specific permits.”


“The project is in the public interest because the dam’s power will flow to British Columbians, he said.

BC Hydro has said the dam is expected increase its energy supply by eight per cent, enough to generate electricity for about 450,000 homes annually.”

This kind of stuff makes my blood boil. Let me tell you why.

Site C is a project that has been on the books for longer than many British Columbians will remember. Over the years ,the reasons for it have changed a few times in order to try and justify the project. Then Premier Clark picked it up and said  LNG plants will need the energy, so we must build Site C.

However when it was revealed that LNG plants could burn their own gas to generate power – Clark admitted to Bloomberg Site C was not needed to power up those LNG plants we still don’t have – the reason for building it changed again. Now, Clark said, British Columbians will need that clean energy! We must build Site C!

It’s also been said we could sell the energy elsewhere… but read on.

What it comes down to, is that we still don’t need the electricity from that project,and there are still very serious questions  about the rationale and the costs associated with it.

Site C was already turned down once by the BC Utilities Commission in the eighties because it simply wasn’t needed.

Not surprisingly, last year the  federal-provincial joint review panel recommended  that the B.C.  government send the project to the B.C. Utilities Commission for review on the economics and cost of the project. That is what the BC Utilities Commission exists for. It reviews all the evidence provided and determines if it is accurate and if the benefits outweigh the negatives.

But no, the province  did not, and will not send the project to the BC Utilities Commission and actually exempted it when they passed the Clean Energy Act in 2010. The province knows full well that there stands a very strong likelihood the BC Utilities Commission would say the project still isn’t needed at this point in time, or that the costs associated with it outweigh any rationale for building it.

The BC Utilities Commission might also ask the province why  it still hasn’t investigated alternatives to the dam as was recommended the last time this project went before them.

The provincial government has ignored not only the federal-provincial review panel, but politicians,industry experts and the people whose homes and land will be flooded if the project proceeds.

Each of you should be asking yourselves why this project is being pushed through without this review being done.

This is why the BC Utilities Commission exists!!  There is so much concern over this project that now the BC Auditor General will be conducting a review “to investigate “whether BC Hydro’s recommendation and government’s decision to build Site C was supported by sufficient information and analysis to demonstrate that it would meet government’s economic, social and environmental goals.”

In an exclusive interview earlier this year, the chair of the review panel had this to say:

“In his first interview on the Site C dam, the chair of the federal-provincial panel appointed to review Canada’s largest current infrastructure project said the B.C.government was unwise to green-light the project without a review by the B.C.Utilities Commission and would have been better off to delay the decision by a few years.

There’s a whole bunch of unanswered questions, some of which would be markedly advanced by waiting three or four years,” Harry Swain told DeSmog Canada. “And you’d still be within the period of time, even by Hydro’s bullish forecasts, when you’re going to need the juice.”


You shouldn’t take decisions before you need to,” Swain said. “That means you’ll have much more information when you finally have to take a decision. Building electricity facilities in advance of need only costs money.”

The panel’s report predicted that in the first four years of production, the Site C dam would lose at least $800 million because BC Hydro would generate more power than the province needs at a cost of $100 per megawatt hour — when the market price for that power is currently $30 per megawatt hour.

Wisdom would have been waiting for two, three, four years to see whether the projections they were making had any basis in fact,” Swain said. “And they would have been able to make a better-informed decision and not necessarily a more expensive one.”

In its report, the panel wrote that it couldn’t conclude that the power from Site C was needed on the schedule presented, adding: “Justification must rest on an unambiguous need for the power and analyses showing its financial costs being sufficiently attractive as to make tolerable the bearing of substantial environmental, social and other costs.”

Some of the questions that still need to be answered, according to Swain, include the real cost and availability of alternatives, how B.C. should use its Columbia River rights, how British Columbians will react to increased electricity prices (which could decrease demand) and how the province’s liquefied natural gas industry will develop.”

That interview is a must read and you can read part 1 here:

And part 2 here:

This matters.

Homes are going to be flooded,some that have been farmed and owned by three generations of the same family.They are harvesting  musk melons right now – this is fertile land, ready for crops and in this day and age the government should be promoting it, not trying to flood it.

The valley and river is also used by many including First Nations, for hunting and fishing. It has archaeological significance. Even the BC government Parks has designated the Peace River as one of its Heritage Rivers,extensively sharing how unique and diverse the river below the other two dams really is:

site C heritage river

It really matters that when the province or a crown corporation undertakes any big project, they ensure every check and balance is done and that has not been the case with Site C. And while this time it is Site C being rammed through, next time it might be a project that impacts your life more directly.

So, when I see news reports with BC Hydro warning that costs will increase by $500 million if work is halted, I see a scare tactic designed to sway the public into pressing for this project to move ahead.

What should be said is that not building it will save taxpayers far more than $8.5 billion dollar cost of construction… but also the  potential yearly loss of $800 million because the cost to produce the energy is more than current rates. Our hydro bills would likely go up.

It’s just wrong on so many levels. I urge everyone to write the premier and every Liberal MLA and demand this project be put before the BC Utilities Commission for the full review it should have had in the first place.

“Good morning Laila, My name is Derek and I’m a very rare man.” or ” How left and right politics are fabricated.”

As a writer, I get a lot of interesting emails. In fact, I sometimes imagine putting together a book one day of the  amusing and sometimes, downright odd ones that people send me. Don’t get me wrong – 98% are great tips and comments and I love getting them-it’s the 2% that raise my eyebrows!)

So, when I first checked my emails today,I quickly scanned one that said:

"Good morning Laila, 

My name is Derek and I’m a very rare man.
I’m utilizing my uniqueness to raise an equally uncommon message...."

I’ll be honest. At that point my eyes were rolling back in my head so far my chair nearly fell backwards and I had a bit of fun with this opener on Facebook.

But after meeting the deadline for this weeks column, I went back to read it again and found something that actually really mattered.

I’ve written a lot about why I think partisanship –  in particular blind and extreme partisanship – turns people off politics. and as a result, voting.

You can find those posts HERE..

…and over HERE:

…and even right HERE:

For me, it’s always been about trying to engage people and bring them back into the process. I’ve tried to make that direct connection between what happens in and around their personal lives, to the need to pay attention and get involved at some level of engagement. On many issues, it’s no longer enough to just sit and watch the news and go ” That’s terrible!” Or ” That shouldn’t happen!

So when I watched Derek’s video, I saw something that resonated deeply with what I have written in the past and what I intend to keep trying to do in the future: Get people engaged and get them to vote.

And yes some of my deeply partisan friends will once again sigh deeply as they silently curse my efforts, but oh well. It won’t be the first time and certainly not the last, I promise.

So Derek, good snag in that email. You caught my attention, hook, line and sinker. Health and humour, Laila :)

Letter from a reader: “Is there anyone looking out for the interests of the general public here???”

Catching up on the emails from my contact page here on the site today, and received this letter from a reader in Delta, who has cancer and is forced to travel to Surrey for treatments – via transit. I rarely post letters from people here, but this one really struck me.

He has noticed something that needs some attention in the city of Surrey, and he is not happy about it. And although I have noticed the sidewalk had been out for a very long time as well, I did not think of the impact it would have on those going to and from the many health care resources located just a couple of blocks down by the hospital, in particular as he writes, you are not aware of this in advance.

He makes some excellent points.

Your Worship Ms. Linda M. Hepner
And Members of Surrey Council
13450 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC V3T 1V8

Coast Capitol Credit Union
Board of Directors
4th Floor, 15117 101 Avenue
Surrey, BC V3R 8P7

Hon. Tod Stone
Minister of Transport
PO BOX 9055
V8W 9E2

Dear Madams and Sirs

For the Last Month I’ve had the Curse of Cancer and the Treatments to Battle the disease .

Which take me unfortunately to Your Community .

I’m forced to travel by transit to the Surrey Cancer Centre .

The curse has robbed me of a portion of my sight my ability to drive!

What I’ve found that is absolutely amazing is that the whole time period that I’ve been attending the Cancer Clinic and BEYOND THAT I’ve Been reliably informed .

There has been a EXTENSIVE closure of the Side walk along King George Highway STARTING on the Eastern Side of the Roadway for what appears to be Several Blocks Heading to the South . Thus Blocking off Pedestrian access to the King George Skytrain Station from the South for a Prolonged Period .

Forcing Hundreds of Pedestrians SOME Of Whom are Elderly and Infirmed , On Wheel chairs, with other Health Issues that are using this Route to get to the Main Hospital in the area .

One would THINK that the Developer Especially a ” Community Oriented Organization LIKE Coast Capital Credit Union Would Put the Interests of the Members of the Public FIRST and foremost ??? And expedite repairs and construction that Interfere with the Use of a IMPORTANT PUBLIC ACCESS ????
This incident further confirms a pattern here in the Lower Mainland Where DEVELOPERS and Speculators seem to have FREE Rain with are PUBLIC STREETS and Access they seem to have e NO PROBLEM blocking off roadway and public amenities and denying access to Public Properties at Will THIS is a Prime Case in Point .


We have all sorts of Contractors and Business organizations Lobbying for the Industry’s WHOM is Looking after the Interests of the PUBLIC HERE ???

During My frequent passes of this sight I have YET to see anyone actually WORKING to resolve this Blockage of a Important safety and access route for Pedestrians .

There is a Problem here as This Creates a Long and Laborious detour to Infirmed People Especially IF they are Not aware of the Detour in advance .

It forces people to make long waits on NUMEROUS Traffic control Lights and pass over a Major Highway several times Depending on How they Make there approach .

For Healthily Individuals with TIME on there hands No Problem !

For the elderly and sick it is a Impediment to access.
Just WHOM is looking after the interests of the PUBLIC when it comes to these Projects ? WHY has this been permitted to continue ??


Yours Richard Swanston

Delta BC V4M 2H2

I’m sincerely hoping Coast Capital as an involved community member, can address this situation. Richard is but one person who took the time to write- how many others have been in this situation but have not been able to do the same?

While ambulatory patients can use the Fraser Health employee shuttle, it is only if space allows and you have a doctors note- employees etc are given preference. And, I’m not entirely sure how many people are even informed this exists.

That shuttle however,doesn’t help people who are not patients,but simply needing to get to the doctors office,have tests, visit patients etc. who still may be elderly or infirm.

**Update. Coast Capital has advised they are looking into this and speaking with the developer and the city to see what can be done. I will keep this post updated as I learn any new information.

This weeks column for 24Hours Vancouver: BC keeps Richmond in the dark on Massey

With all the pet projects, contentious developments and questionable spending happening in cities across Metro Vancouver, it’s a rare day I find myself feeling sympathetic for local mayors and councils.

However, when it comes to how the provincial and federal governments seemingly steamroll local governments with their own projects and, at times, leave them out of the loop on critical issues that impact their communities — they have my full sympathy.

One case in point is the George Massey Tunnel Replacement project. Anyone who has driven that stretch of Highway 99 during morning or afternoon rush hour can attest the congestion is a nightmare and it’s not limited to the highway. Steveston Highway and all feeder routes are clogged as well, as drivers try to save a few minutes and dodge the bulk of the congestion.

It’s a critical issue not only for the city of Richmond and its residents, but for the region as well. So it only makes sense for the province to get it right and work closely with city officials to ensure the best result is achieved. That, however, doesn’t seem to be happening.

Recently, Richmond asked the province, once again, for more details on the project that have yet to be divulged to them, or the public.

City hall is still in the dark when it comes to how the bridge will be funded — whether there will be tolls or not — nor have they received the project definition report.

Why is the city most impacted by the province’s decision to build this bridge being left in the dark? In particular, since Richmond council would like to keep the tunnel — which has many more years of life left — to utilize for another purpose.

Between the Surrey Fraser Docks plan to ship U.S. coal directly from their facility, and the Tilbury Island LNG plant expansion, this project is more about accommodating tankers up the Fraser River than it is alleviating congestion in Richmond and Delta…

READ the rest of this weeks column, and vote on the poll, at this link:

“The only way to change it, is to vote. People are responsible.” ~ Paul Wellstone


Settled deep into the halcyon days of summer, mid-August triggers a sense of urgency for many Canadians regardless of where you live. Every day is a tick of the clock counting down the coveted days of  a northern summer that for many, is all too short.

And while most of us will use every free second of this month to simply relax with friends and family,others are already preparing for winter – cutting and stacking wood,harvesting gardens to freeze,pickle and can everything they can. Even a look into my deep freezer would show you bags of IQF local berries and fruits, and the blackberry harvest is ongoing. When you plan for 6 months of fall and winter, it takes a significant amount of your time and energy.

But in offices and certain homes all across Canada, there is a different sense of urgency developing as political parties move into high gear in the wake of  Prime Minister Harper’s early election call on August 2nd. And while most of my followers will already know this, I also know that there are thousands more Canadians who truly are not aware yet that an election is even happening this year,sad as it is.

This will be one of the longest and most expensive election campaigns in the history of Canadian politics,and every political party would be wise to pace themselves to avoid over-bombarding Canadians, which is likely to increase voter apathy. Indeed voter apathy is perhaps an even bigger threat to the future of this country than Harper when you look at the turnout in recent federal elections.

In 2011, the population of Canada was 31,612,897 million people. Only 24,257,592 were registered to vote and on the electors list.

And of those electors, only 14,823,408 people actually took the time to vote- it works out to 61.1%. A look back at the chart from Elections Canada shows the low voter turnout still is a really big issue.


Now don’t get me wrong – I am firmly in the ‘Harper needs to go’ camp – from the treatment of veterans to silencing of scientists, from his turnabout on the Chinese government to ‘quiet’ meetings with propaganda ministers and now Bill C51 -there is ample reason for pragmatic if not partisan objection to his governments actions and policies.

But when only 60% of people who are registered to vote actually do, it brings a perspective to the campaigns I think is often overlooked in the quest to win. Let me tell you why I feel that way.

I recently posted a link to to my Facebook page and asked: “If the goal of this election is to defeat the Harper government, would you vote for the candidate in your riding that is most likely to defeat a Conservative, if that candidate was not of the party you are a member of, or support? ”

Surprisingly, for the very few willing to even answer that question, even fewer were honest enough to admit that they would not. So is this about getting rid of Harper, or is this about power?

The premise of the VoteTogether initiative is to vote strategically to oust the Conservatives, and they promote voting for whichever candidate has the best chance of doing so in your riding,regardless of the party they represent.

Now, if all the rhetoric we have heard about Stop Harper were true and meaningful, one would think the federal Liberals and NDP must come to some sort of an agreement to ensure that happens. But no, that’s not happening.

Why? Because while both parties will ultimately resort to some kind of gobbledygook about not being able to support the policies of the other and how they alone are the only viable option to undo the mess the Conservatives have created, it’s really about power.  The intense yearning for power not only at the top but in the backrooms behind the top. Trudeau has nixed an alliance outright while Mulcair says while they are aiming to replace the Conservatives,when the votes go down he will not support a Tory minority.

But why not unite now, to get the job done before the election?

This is something touched on in a column by none other than Martyn Brown, who was lauded and elevated to near celebrity status by those on the left recently,for his columns bashing Christy Clark and her LNG dreams.

But today- not surprisingly -those same people are silent as his recent post heralding Green Party Elizabeth Mays performance in the Macleans debate, strikes a nerve for some and appeals to others.

For me, this is where he gets to the heart of the matter, because I too found May’s debate performance compelling:

May has also proved that her participation stands to change the entire tenor and content of any debate that might take place—and decidedly for the better.

Set aside that, as the only woman in the field, she alone stands to temper her competitors’ macho tussle of ideas and insults with some much-needed gender balance and a unique perspective.

Why the Globe is prepared to discount that imperative is as mystifying as it is glaringly inexcusable.

The larger benefit of May’s involvement is the option for change and democratic representation that her party stands to offer Canadians. It is an option that will be aided by her participation in the debates and that will be unconscionably suppressed if she is excluded.

Whatever the practical challenges may be in translating the Green party’s ideas into action and its often-lofty positions into workable policies, May’s views are important for another less obvious reason.

They remind us all that idealism still matters in politics.

Her positions are grounded in unyielding beliefs and values of what is right and what is wrong. They are often anything but “political” in the typical partisan sense, insofar as they tend to marginalize her own voter support base, as they also transcend party lines and their associated ideologies.

The trouble with being on the cusp of power—as the NDP now is, in lockstep with the Liberals and Conservatives—is that the power game becomes the only thing that really matters.

Ideals get thrown out the window when push comes to shove in the battle to play it safe with positions that always have the polls as their main object of focus.

The last place you want to be, if you want to be the last person left standing, is out on a ledge like May, defending your ideals with an uncompromising commitment to stand fast for right over wrong, come what may.

The parties and their leaders all tend to speak in code to their prospective supporters by saying enough to win them over and by saying nothing that is not open to constructive interpretation in wooing any target audience.

This is the real value of May’s involvement. She is inclined to say exactly what she means, as if it really matters.

And some of what she says speaks directly to voters like me, who long to hear politicians stake their claim in ideals that are more concerned with right and wrong than with the narrow confines of their orthodox ideologies….”

“The power game becomes the only thing that matters…” 

And sadly, this is what I see in the comments of some friends and acquaintances who speak to me now as if I too were the ‘enemy’ simply because I believe Canadians not only have a right to choose who to vote for, but that they deserve to hear what May has to say.

And I voice that. I’m not naïve, but nor am I a party member. I’m a concerned Canadian with no political affiliation,just like hundreds of thousands of other voters. So this matters to me.

I’ve been told that because the Green candidates aren’t ‘whipped’, they have to represent their constituents views regardless of what that is( like that’s a bad thing?)  – from a Liberal supporter.

That Green’s are actually Conservatives and vote Right – from an NDP supporter.

And all the while, the NDP and the Liberals keep telling people why they shouldn’t vote for the other parties, instead of telling people what they can do differently. And supporters of both are mocking the decisions and opinions of those who are undecided but maybe leaning towards their Green candidate?

Gee, do you think that after 3 months of this going on, we have the potential to see more voter apathy than ever? That the undecided, non-party member voters who don’t spend every moment following politics or even the news for that matter, will just say: “Forget it!” yet again and lead us to another Harper government? Perhaps – only time will tell.

Call me crazy, but telling someone their vote is wrong, that their opinion is stupid or doesn’t matter, might not be the best way to get people to vote. Something for those ‘influencers’ out there on social media to think about, if not the party brass.

I very much enjoy the diversity of opinions and thoughts of all my partisan friends whether I agree or not, but partisanship alone isn’t the problem. It’s the inability or the unwillingness to look beyond the confines of that partisan view to a bigger picture.  Please, when engaging potential voters, think about what your goal is for Canada- and not just your party. An increase in voter turnout is good for all of us.

Indeed,apathy is the biggest threat to democracy  and the Conservatives know this well…Don’t unwittingly feed the beast that allows them to get re-elected, in your zeal to unseat them.

“The job facing voters… in the days and years to come is to determine which hearts, minds and souls command those qualities best suited to unify a country rather than further divide it, to heal the wounds of a nation as opposed to aggravate its injuries, and to secure for the next generation a legacy of choices based on informed awareness rather than one of reactions based on unknowing fear.” ~ Abherjhani


The Mount Polley tailings pond disaster. What a difference a year makes…

August 12th,2014

“B.C. Mines Minister Bill Bennett says the Mount Polley tailings dam collapse is not an environmental disaster, equating it to the “thousands” of avalanches that happen annually in B.C. Bennett, pointing to initial positive water readings, asserted his contention will be proven in the next several weeks.”

“Bennett acknowledged the dam collapse may be a mining industry, a geotechnical and a political disaster.

But he said that has to be separated from the environmental effects.

“Get up in a helicopter and go and look at the avalanches that happen in this province — there are probably 10,000 or 15,000 avalanches that happen every single year. Get up in a helicopter and go and look at what happened last spring with the events in the Rockies with water coming down and doing exactly what happened in Hazeltine Creek. The difference is that snow melts, (but) you are left with exactly the same (result) — it looks exactly the same as what happened in Hazeltine Creek,” said Bennett.

“It’s a mess. It’s a total mess, there’s no question about that … What’s going to happen here, is we are going to be left with this opportunity to learn from this huge, profound mistake that’s been made here,” he said.

August 4th, 2015

“British Columbia’s mines minister says the mining industry remains horrified a year after a tailings pond collapsed at the Mount Polley mine northeast of Williams Lake.

Bill Bennett said no one thought a crisis on such a scale was possible but that even now he can’t guarantee that another breach of a tailings pond won’t happen because only some of the risk factors can be eliminated.

“We didn’t eliminate enough of the risk and we have to figure out, and we are figuring out, how to eliminate the rest of that risk,” he said of the Aug. 4, 2014 accident.

About 24 millions cubic metres of waste spilled into area waterways, causing an environmental disaster.”

“The provincial government has spent $6 million on the cleanup, and Imperial Metals was granted conditional approval to reopen last month, although it still needs further permits before it can operate fully.

Bennett said water and sediment testing will have to continue for decades.”

Yes… you read that right… decades. And why? Because maybe profit was more important than safety,than heeding the warnings,than doing the right thing?

What a difference a year makes to the comments of those with the power to make change. But where will Bill Bennett,Christy Clark and Mary Polak  be decades from now,when all this testing is still going on?

Will they even remember Mount Polley?

Now watch this. One year later. Mount Polley. Because this matters to all of us.