It’s time to set the stage for the one of two stories I have been working on, and re-post an article from December regarding Kevin Falcon and the Gateway project. It clearly shows the relationship between Falcon, Campbell and the federal Conservatives, ( nothing new about this to most political junkies, but I still find it remarkable how little people consider the federal influence on provincial politics and policy) and will refresh your memory on Gateway and the South Fraser Perimeter Road project.
The link at the end of this piece to a BC Business article about Kevin Falcon was no longer functional… surprise… but I did locate a new link, replaced it and uploaded the copy to the net just in case.
“ No, really, it wasn’t actually my idea at all! Falcon and his Tory friends came up with the whole Gateway thing right after I appointed him! ”
” He, he, he… I did, didn’t I? And everyone though that was your baby… he, he, he…”
One wonders when looking at Campbell and Falcon, if it could be by sheer coincidence only that the younger politician seems to have modelled himself after the older. Swap Kevin’s gelled, ever-changing shades of brown for the silver coif of Campbell, and they look remarkably similar. Seriously – imagine Falcon in 15 years ! ( he is older than most think – late 40′s ) However, physical attributes aside, it is the similarity of ramming projects and policy through without regard to anything else, that bothers me most about Kevin Falcon.
He is well-known for his forceful manner of getting things done, but in my opinion, these are not always things that need to be done, or should be done the way that Falcon dictates. Extensive research on the Sea to Sky highway shadow tolls, and the project in general has proved this to be true, as has evidence uncovered by my continuing investigations into other projects. ( future stories to come) His signature and approval is on many, many documents that may come back to haunt him during his leadership bid.
Take for example, the South Fraser Perimeter Road, which is part of the very contentious Pacific Gateway initiative Falcon mentioned in his leadership bid press conference.
In 2005, Stephen Harper announced the Pacific Gateway Strategy, one of the most expensive and ambitious undertakings that centres around British Columbia’s proximity to Asia – China specifically – and the trade routes and transportation hubs we have along our coastline. Taking advantage of this link to China has been a huge project for the BC Liberal and Harper, with MLAs and MP’s travelling several times to China on trade missions to develop and foster business relationships.
Enter the BC governments Gateway Program, which the government often tries to emphasize is more about people and moving them around, than it is about moving goods and making money. Truth is, it is all about making money. The funny thing is that most of these projects never got the get-go until Kevin Falcon came onto the scene, and consequently signed a memorandum of understanding with Gordon Campbell, Stephen Harper, and David Emerson, accessible here in PDF format.* PDF counts as five words ; ) Canada-BC-MOU . Gateway has been Falcon’s baby since day 1, and he is guaranteed to follow it through with this same forceful manner of leadership that may have been the hallmark of Campbell’s demise.
The only problem with this big plan of Falcon’s was that much of it was a public relations nightmare – and for good reason. The South Fraser Perimeter Road, which is going to move along the Fraser River in parts of Surrey and Delta, will run from the Port Mann to Deltaport, cutting through residential neighbourhoods with schools, and cutting across part of Burns Bog before moving across some of the most fertile farmland this country has to offer.
It has been the subject of numerous protests over the last couple of years, with civil disobedience and now a legal battle has begun because the Burns Bog Conservation Society filed a lawsuit against both the federal and provincial governments for violating the conservation covenant to protect Burns Bog. My wholehearted support is behind this venture, because the South Fraser Perimeter Road is the wrong project, for the wrong reasons, at entirely the wrong time.
It really made me wonder what would make the BC Liberals move ahead with a project like this,considering all the environmental and economic issues plaguing this project. My earlier reports of significant scope changes to the project, based on information from inside sources earlier, was recently confirmed in the news. Not just any changes, but changes that are still extremely worrying to Delta staff and councillors, as well as MLA Vicki Huntingdon because not only will the changes create a traffic nightmare, but also a very real safety issue for all drivers on the road.
Originally announced to be a swift moving, mainly truck traffic route with overpasses and interchanges to keep traffic moving, some of those have plans have been scrapped in favor of street light controlled intersections. The move was not a financial one, the government claims, but one based on traffic forecasts where the improvements can be made many years down the road…
All of this came after there had already been a major change to the bidders during the bidding process, and the project budget was increased before signing in favour of what some may call environmental sucking up. I would also be remiss to mention the very large drop in trade with China with the economy over the last couple of years, one that has been slow to recover with China’s trade policies.
Toss in the soon to open Panama Canal Expansion… (see ** below) well, why would someone send freight to Vancouver, and then truck it , or send it by rail across the country at great cost when you can ship it right through the newly widened canal and right back up the east coast ? Hmm? Yes, that’s right, Mr. Falcon, you have nothing to say about that, do you?
**( the above story link was fine last night at the time of posting this story. Within one hour I received messages from readers stating that the link was eaten and the story no longer accessible. I luckily have a copy of that story, that you can read – and should read – here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/47413523/Perimeter-Road-One-Billion-Dollar-White-Elephant#
You see where I am going with this?
Even to the average person, one would wonder why a road that was billed to take container trucks off of residential streets is being built when the global economy has taken such a dive. Even today, stories are coming out that we are about to enter the second wave of recession with the recent developments in Ireland and other countries. Even banks that do global financing, as with the Sea to Sky highway financiers, are still taking hits. ( what the impact of these foreign banks troubles has on our foreign financed P3 projects is, is still unknown- that is another future story)
But wait, there is more to make you question this project if what I have said has not already made you scrunch your brows in confusion.
What if the government itself, as well as many agencies and organizations, felt that trucking was not the best way to move containers from ship to distributor? What if there was a way that could take trucks off the road almost completely, or a very good proportion of them anyways?
What about Short Sea Shipping? Pure and simple, this involves placing freight containers from cargo ships onto barges instead of trucks, and pulling them via tug boats up the Fraser river to destination of choice. Not a new concept by far, and one recognized by the ports, the government and the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council as being both a viable and realistic alternative. According to some reports I have come across, there have even been investors ready to invest money into new facilities along the waterfront to receive the barged cargo.
The following confidential document is from 2007, and was produced by an organization called the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council. The brainchild of the federal government, it’s job would appear to be to study these Gateway issues and dictate how things are done, or should be done, in their opinion. ( PDF format) gatewayvision
Page 16 details what would seem to be extraordinary advantages to container trucking, which would make one think the government would have been all over this – if it was indeed, acting in the best interests of the public. It openly states that moving cargo via this method would take a good percentage of trucks off the road, a win- win situation for all.
So intent have been Falcon and the stakeholders behind the Gateway Council to facilitate the Gateway Vision of 203o, National Public Relations was hired to conduct extensive research with focus groups across the lower mainland to figure out which words to use to sell this Gateway plan, and which words and phrases to avoid! Maybe it’s just me, but if this vision is such a great idea, why does it need to be” sold” to the people of Greater Vancouver?
For example, easy to sell words include: prosperity,mobility, future. Harder to sell words are:environment, sustainability, infrastructure. And words that are a firm RED highlighted STOP NEVER USE ? Expansion and congestion.
Take a look, again, in PDF format which allows you to see the entire 84 page document for it’s more than a little condescending manner of looking at the citizens it wishes to push this program on. : GatewayCon
Now, let’s sum it all up on the South Fraser Perimeter Road. It is, without a doubt, an environmental NO-GO. The federal and provincial governments planned this route through the best farmland and the most sensitive ecological areas in the province. Container traffic is down, and not likely to ever recover to previous levels one the vastly expanded Panama Canal opens. The financing on this project was difficult,the project was downgraded into a stop and go, safety nightmare, and any reason for previously pushing this road seems to have evaporated. Now Bond is looking at it as an untolled alternative to the Port Mann, which is a far from realistic alternative for many motorists, merely transplanting congestion.
So why is this project being built?
I suspect it has something to do with real estate, valuable commercial land and developments…
The Tsawwassen band used the South Fraser Perimeter Road as a selling point in this request for expressions of interest to develop industrial lands they now control near the ferries and Deltaport. It is billed as part of the lands being in a “strategic” location. Enter the term South Fraser Perimeter Road into the search box in this PDF file to see for yourself. Tsawwassen land projects Nice to be able to say you have an allegedly dedicated highway for a selling point, no?
Here is another sales document that advertises 27 acres of prime industrial land on Tilbury island, and again, the South Fraser Perimeter road is billed as part of this properties strategic location. ( pdf) Tilburylanddevelopmentproperty
I’m sure this is only the beginning of a rush of land sales and development we might see along that route, development that may very well see further land taken from the ALR, or further harming the delicate and vitally important ecosystem of Burns Bog.
It has also come to my attention that another route was offered up, one that went over stable land and was far less contentious, yet the government refused to consider it and went with the current plan. Why is that- are these land sales the real reason this road was built? Shades of Sea to Sky highway !!
This is, without a doubt, the wrong project in the wrong location, at the wrong time, and Falcon has been instrumental from day one in pushing this along, with the help of his friends in the federal government.
A scathing, and horrific excerpt to leave you with, from Stephen Rees’s blog link above, one that chills me to the bone:
…the Bog is the “lungs of the lower mainland,” the largest urban carbon sink in the North America, and vital to the survival of the world’s largest salmon run in the interconnected Fraser River.
…according to Environment Canada and the regional Burns Bog Scientific Advisory Panel’s under-publicized reports, the SFPR would essentially destroy Burns Bog.
It would also increase mortality rates along the route–with seven Delta schools within a kilometer of the highway–force hundreds of North Deltans from their homes (many heritage), and steamroll over hundreds of acres of farmland.
..also learned of an alternate route to the SFPR, known as the Hoover/Naas proposal, that carries none of the above detrimental impacts because it follows an existing rail right-of-way removed from homes, schools and the Bog. This railway is already entirely owned by the the province.
The video also provides a summary of some shocking statements uncovered amongst the government’s environmental assessment application documents, such as this one, which suggests there could be an economic upside to people getting sick from increased air pollution:
“With increased air pollution there can possibly be increased employment (e.g., in the health sector) because of the economic activity associated with correcting the results of its impacts.” (Government documents for SFPR: Technical Volume 16, pg. 39, 4.3.5 Employment)
Heard enough? The people of Surrey and North Delta need have been long fighting for their quality of life. The Burns Bog Conservation Society is always in need of various forms of assistance,including donations. For more information please go to their site at : http://www.burnsbog.org/
* Falcon is billing himself a “new generation in leadership”. One would do well to note that doesn’t mean a different style of leadership from Campbell, only a younger version who may be around a lot longer… for a great, in-depth look at Falcon, who is billed here as a rebel with a cause… read this article quickly, before it disappears, like these kind of links occasionally do… http://www.bcbusinessonline.ca/kevin-falcon-bc-liberal-leadership-candidate