Stephen Rees's blog

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

City State on the Fraser

with 3 comments

Rafe Mair, in the Tyee, writes about the meetings he has been chairing for Metro Vancouver as part of the process for updating the regional plan.

He covers all the ground that will be familiar to readers of this blog – the Eagleridge Bluffs, the South Fraser Perimeter Road, the uselessness of our environmental assessment process. But the real point is how the province treats municipalities.

My essential question is this: what happens when senior governments want to do something that one of the component local governments of Metro Vancouver either isn’t fussy about or simply disapproves of — such as the overpass at Eagleridge Bluffs near Horseshoe Bay, or a massive undertaking such as expanding Deltaport, including a highway that endangers wildlife preserves and threatens agricultural land?

At present, when the provincial government decides to do something, it does it. Then, as an afterthought, it gets an environmental assessment. That the project will be approved is a foregone conclusion of nearly all B.C. environmental assessments. There is very little ability of the public to stop, amend or slow down Victoria’s pet projects.

Actually that is also true of projects that municipalities want to do, but have little public support – or outright opposition. Many councils hold hearings and allow people to make presentations at council meetings – but vote regardless of what they have heard. And this includes projects which clearly violate the principles those same councils set out in their Official Community Plan – and especially the regional growth strategy they all signed on to.

Rafe thinks it is time we tried democracy for a change, and I must say I agree with him.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 1, 2008 at 10:31 am

Posted in regional government

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3 Responses

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  1. I’ve just read Rafe Mair’s Tyee article and Stephen Rees’ blog. In my recent experience with Langley Township, public input makes no difference where development permits are concerned. Our Township received 269 letters questioning the speed at which a building development permit was being issued–despite the fact that some key changes were being made to the original plan. Elected governing bodies pretty much do as they please, as you say, regardless of what they have heard.

    Myrna Pfeifer

    January 2, 2008 at 12:09 am

  2. One of the problems that I see is that if a City Council or the Province abdicates responsibility to the wishes of “the public” (as voiced at public consultations and protest rallies) – you’d end up catering to a lot of NIMBYs and special interest groups. There would be no densification or construction of infrastructure and you’d have everyone trying to protect their own plot of land from noise, traffic, overlook or indesirable neighbours (social housing, liquor stores, industrial uses, noisy schools).

    Ron C.

    January 2, 2008 at 2:50 pm

  3. And while NIMBY (and BANANA) and instantly easy to use, people do have a right to voice their opinion over what happens in their neighbourhoods. Jane Jacobs was a young mother who did not want to see Greeenwich Village demolished to satisfy the power lust of Robert Moses. She also saw, long before the professionals did, that the housing “projects” of the post war era were going to be disasters – and she was right and they were mostly demolished. But most of the professionals of the time dismissed her and tried to belittle her.

    One of the issues with democracy is that you have to defend the rights of those you disagree with. A government – or a council – which only listens to developers does not deserve to be re-elected. That does not mean that neighborhoods groups are necessarily right – as the current protests over a drug rehab centre in Richmond demonstrate. But he way to deal with such groups is to show why they are wrong – using reasoned arguments and solid evidence – not simply ignore them!

    Stephen Rees

    January 2, 2008 at 8:01 pm


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