Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for December 3rd, 2007


with 18 comments

I have just returned from a meeting at SFU addressed by Babara Pettit, Ned Jacobs and Betty Krawzyk. The intent was to discuss the tactics used to protest the destruction of the Eagleridge Bluffs as part of the Sea to Sky Highway project. The meeting was moderated by Frances Bula of the Vancouver Sun.

As we know, the protests did not stop the construction of the highway. Betty and Ned went to jail – as did Harriet Nahane, an elder of the First Nations who died of the pneumonia she caught there. So the discussion was about what had been learned, and what parallels there might be for continuing and more effective dissent against the Gateway.

I tried making notes but I got too caught up in what was being said, so I am not going to be a very effective reporter. However the meeting was filmed – both for SFU and an ongoing project by George Orr. So in some way the record of the meeting will probably get to you somehow. I am going to try to see what I can synthesize. When I got home my neighbour told me that he had seen me speaking on tv about Bill 43 – and apparently I spoke for quite a while. Well the clip that I have linked to at YouTube is quite short. What my neighbour said does show that the cameras were rolling and though it may not have made the news that evening or even the next day, somehow the message is getting out. (My neighbour did not recall which channel he had been watching.)

Betty pointed out that schools do not teach passive civil disobedience any more. I remember being taught about Gandhi, and Mrs Pankhurst. I also learned a lot at university about civil rights and how Rosa Parks became the person who started a movement with one simple decision to break the law. And in my life I have seen many protest movements – and even a couple of revolutions. Betty also said that the only way we have achieved any of the things that are now enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was because somebody went to jail for each of them at some time.

Up to now we have been following the process on Gateway – but with a growing recognition that the process is deeply flawed. I was reminded this evening that it was Kevin Falcon, who was then Minister of Deregulation, who ensured that the Environmental Assessment process was gutted, paving the way for the Eagleridge Buffs and what was to follow. I recalled when Barbara Pettit spoke about the transportation plan for the Olympics, that the sham that it was supposed to be for the two weeks of the Winter Games was revealed. For the transportation requirements for two weeks of spectators travelling to Whistler every day could have been managed easily using trains, coaches and ferries that could have been rented or borrowed. So that original “mulitmodal” plan was deliberately sabotaged in order for the developers to get the road improvements they wanted for their real estate plans. The Sea to Sky upgrade went into the bid book. The route across the bluffs does not make much sense as the tunnel option would have been cheaper, and the road faster.

We have been arguing that the demand forecast used in the EA for Highway #1 expansion is flawed, because the total number of trips in future years is constrained to be the same in both scenarios – with and without the highway. Kevin Falcon says that is because the development “will occur anyway”. He knows that this is not true, because he signed up the real estate developers and realtors at a breakfast some years ago – identifying for them the opportunities to get on board and make money from the new opportunities that twinning the Port Mann and widening the freeway would produce. One of those realtors was there this evening. It is not that the modellers were sloppy or unprofessional, or that the model itself is inadequate. It is because Kevin Falcon caused the assessment to be skewed by a false assumption. In exactly the same way that he misrepresented the arguments about the need for the Sea to Sky “improvements” and for the alignment in West Vancouver that eliminated exactly the sort of irreplaceable miniature ecosystem that the Environmental Assessment process was supposed to defend. Of course, once the Ministry of the Environment was halved, it was all going to be academic anyway. No government project, however bad, has been stopped by this process. (I must admit that before this evening I had put more weight on Gordon’s plan to sell BC Rail, but that does not explain the route through the bluffs.)

There was a lot of frustration expressed at the role of media – especially the Vancouver Sun – and how it either ignores or twists the issues. At Eagleridge the protesters were ridiculed as rich NIMBYs taking their $5 lattes to the protest camp. I do not recall the red legged frog even being mentioned, let alone the unique arbutus woodland.

What was missing was any decisive voice on how to organise in future, and Ms Bula tried to close the meeting before we could. So I took over the mike anyway. I pointed out that we do not need the mainstream media as we have the internet – and cell phones, laptops, backberries. As Carmen Mills pointed out we did get a crowd of 300 together against Bill 43 in 8 days using just those media. The network of community groups opposed to the Gateway keeps on growing. And I wonder if the BC Liberals will be able to hold on to seats like West Vancouver or Delta if this keeps up. And neither of those seats would have been promising territory for the NDP or the Green Party before now. What we do need to do is pick the place – or places – where our peaceful acts of civil disobedience will be – and make sure we get as many people as possible to them. Several orders of magnitude greater than were seen at Eagleridge. Enough so that arrests are not going to be an easy option achieved with a couple of small vans. And all kinds of people. As Eric Doherty pointed out the unifying concern for all of us can be climate change and the strategy to reduce greenhouse gas. This is common to all the groups which otherwise can be divided up into a wide variety of local concerns. But the loss of the farmland, and of the habitats, and of the green space and clean water while all of immediate local concern are part of the same issue. Is it business as usual in BC or we going to change?

And how important is that question to each of us individually?

And what are we prepared to give up to make sure that the Gateway doesn’t happen?

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”

Written by Stephen Rees

December 3, 2007 at 11:13 pm

Fund new vision for GTA transit

with 4 comments

This is an editorial from the Toronto Star

It seems to me that it would do the South Coast of British Columbia Transportation Authority (which until someone tells me otherwise I shall call SoCoBiCTA) well to read, learn and emulate

This is precisely what the transportation authority was set up to do. It has studied local needs, taken a broad view, and recommended a way forward that would produce maximum improvements in service, fairly quickly, at the most reasonable cost.

Somehow, I have a nasty suspicion that what we will see here will be the usual political pork barrelling, backed up by shady “studies” and biased modelling that assumes the required outcome before the machine is even turned on. But I live in hopes that this really will remove the politics from transit and introduce professional management.

And if you believe that do I have some bridges for you to buy

Written by Stephen Rees

December 3, 2007 at 5:25 pm