“Contrary to what the Premier and the Transportation Minister say, the public is NOT behind the government on this contentious issue.”

The above is a quote from Ben West , and it still resonates within my thoughts. It calls me to ask the question, why does Gordon Campbell continue to ram through projects with economic  and ecological/social implications that will affect generations of residents in our area – without the support of the public?

The answer? Money. Profit. Pure and Simple. This  ” public” announcement was held on private property, with no public access and with the police and security at the gates to ensure non-invited members of the public were kept out. This is how our Premier likes to conduct business – behind closed doors and without public consultation. Need I say 2010?  Sea to Sky highway ?  Video link  to the protest here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKHUEr1mrvo

I asked Ben if he could sum up all the implications that the rapid approval and launch of the South Fraser Perimeter Road has for residents here, and why all of you should pay more attention to issues such as this. If the Premier can do it to us, he can do it to you.  Ben was kind enough to send me his ” two cents” on the matter, which I think sums up the issue in the most accurate manner.

 ”   In his speech about the Gateway Project at yesterday’s press conference, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “…this announcement is not about a road project; it is about where we are headed as a country.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement. (http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=2381)

The so called “Gateway Project” is more than just an infrastructure mega-project; it is an international trade plan with broad implications, and a land use plan for the Lower Mainland that will change the face of our region for generations to come. (www.gatewaytowhat.org)

Harper said, “As the world struggles with the effects of the global recession, we Canadians are looking ahead in order to ensure that we are part of the great economic opportunities of the coming century, and whatever may happen in the next couple of years.”

The Gateway project is the antithesis of this sort of forward thinking. A movement is underway around the world to create “green jobs” and to “green the economic stimulus.” (www.greenjobsnow.com) President Obama has been a vocal supporter of this perspective, yet Harper continues to try to solve tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. Gateway is a plan to export more non-renewable resources to China and the rest of the Asia Pacific region and to import more disposable goods. This is not a plan to build green energy infrastructure; in fact, part of the plan includes a gateway pipeline to take more oil from the tar sands and export it China. If we are truly concerned about global warming or about building a new economy that is “ahead of the curve,” what does this project have to do with it? In terms of jobs, one can create three times as many jobs by investing in public transit as one can by investing in highways. (http://www.livableregion.ca/blog/blogs/index.php/2008/11/04/transit_service_best_for_job_creation_fr)

To make matters worse, Gateway has huge social and environmental costs attached to it, nevermind the estimated monetary cost of at least 10 billion dollars, the proposed port expansion included. If Delta Port’s capacity were to be tripled (which is hard to imagine given the collapse), this would mean three times the number of large ships and big diesel trucks would be passing through the region. This in turn will result in a lot more carbon emissions and pollution. This sensitive ecological area is home to Burns Bog–the lungs of the Lower Mainland–as well as a significant portion of our most fertile farmland. Furthermore, the area is a major orca whale migratory route, a crucial staging ground for migratory birds, and, of course, a vitally important area for salmon. All of this is under threat.  

The last time I flew into Vancouver as I returned home from visiting family over the Christmas holidays, the implications of this project were really put into perspective for me. Looking down at Delta in the context of the region, it is clear that this is our last remaining flourishing green space. If highway infrastructure were put in without transit infrastructure and other smart growth measures, this area would indefinitely become overrun by suburban sprawl and big box stores. This is not the development model of the future; in fact, it’s a part of the economic model that is collapsing as we speak. 

When we heard about Harper’s announcement over the weekend, we immediately began to organize a display of opposition to take place outside the Surrey Docks, calling instead for green jobs and a green economic stimulus. Only credentialed media and invited guests were allowed in, but we still managed to pull together several dozen dedicated citizens from both sides of the Fraser River on a rainy Monday afternoon. 

Contrary to what has been said by our Premier and Transportation Minister in BC, the public is not behind the government on this contentious issue. The David Suzuki Foundation conducted a poll demonstrating that 69% of Lower Mainland residents are in favour of redirecting funds earmarked for highway construction into public transit (South of the Fraser the number is 59%). 

The Gateway project as proposed is the biggest threat to healthy community living in the Lower Mainland that we currently face. The massive investments we are about to make of our tax dollars in rebuilding our economy could either truly put us ahead of the curve through investment in green jobs, or they could instead make things much worse. “
Ben West | Healthy Communities Campaigner
Wilderness Committee | Canada’s largest membership-based wilderness preservation organization
w: 604-683-8220 | www.wildernesscommittee.org

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