Stephen Rees's blog

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

We Don’t Want Trucking Freeways Rally

with 11 comments

Me lecturing about the basic wrongness of the Gateway

Me lecturing about the basic wrongness of the Gateway

We did not exactly fill the park this afternoon, but the turnout was over a 100 – thus at least giving the lie to Kevin Falcon’s assertion that there are only four people south of the Fraser who are against Gateway. It is very clear that the neighborhood of the park where the rally was held will be severely impacted by the expansion of the Highway and the construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road – and construction on that has already started with land being cleared between South Fraser Way and the BNSF mainline.

I was also greatly encouraged by the number of people who came up to me afterwards and spoke about their concerns. What is perhaps surprising is that Kevin Falcon has adopted a new tactic. At the ceremony for the “opening” of the new Queensborough Bridge north interchange (where community pressure achieved a major redesign of the bike facilities) he spoke about the current economic “uncertainties”, and how the Gateway would help us better weather the uncertain economic future. This is a very skillful tactic, given that it actually flies in the face of everything that has been happening. Rising oil prices and the declining US dollar, as well as recession south of the 49th parallel, have cut imports from Asia and also make it more likely that US made goods will be more competitive, and China will be exporting more to hard currency countries. The banking debacle means that the financial basis of the P3 that is supposed to build all this infrastructure has also become much harder. Credit is not just harder to get, but many of the firms that put these deals together are going to be in serious trouble. Plus, a model which was run at 80c per litre gasoline cost has not produced traffic forecast that anyone can now have any confidence in.

I enjoyed listening to all the other speakers – but the one who always impresses is Joe Foy whose passion is authentic and whose rhetoric is unmatched. Much quieter – but equally convincing was Eliza Olson – who spoke about the importance of Burns Bog and revealed the real reason for the SFPR. It has nothing to do with moving containers from Deltaport – but a lot more to do with developing the south bank of the Fraser as an industrial area. I use the word “reveal” because none of the proponents have admitted that this is why the alternative route was never seriously considered. I suspect too that searches of the land registry would show some interesting linkages between those who bought land along the route and BC Liberal party supporters. It has always been clear that the ostensible reasons for the Gateway do not stand up to examination. But the whole thing does make a lot of sense as a real estate ploy. But even that can easily come unstuck, as the real estate market in this region has begun to show signs of the same weakness that is affecting the rest of the western world. the US and the UK are seeing dramatic price drops and buyers are very hesitant to get into the market if it is going to fall further. And the liquidity crunch has got real state harder than any other sector. We are already hearing that there are far too many condos on the market in Vancouver – and the whole house of cards looks very unsteady to me.

Surrey Gateway Rally photo by Rob Baxter

Surrey Gateway Rally photo by Rob Baxter

UPDATE Coverage was good on CBC, CKNW and the local press (with short video)

Written by Stephen Rees

September 27, 2008 at 8:20 pm

Posted in Gateway

11 Responses

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  1. Yes, and Marx predicted it all, of course! It’s a crisis of overaccumulation, in which we speculate that the future will yield more value than real production/consumption actually delivers. Once these cracks become visible, investors lose confidence and assets must be ‘rationalized,’ or devalued to their real present worth. It’s a cycle that is becoming increasingly more frequent and increasingly more severe. Will a $700 billion taxpayer bailout be enough to push Americans to fight for an alternative model? Probably not.


    September 27, 2008 at 10:38 pm

  2. It seems the Gateway types are desperate – From the Delta Optimist. “Highway provides SkyTrain link”

    And they printed my reply

    Malcolm J.

    September 28, 2008 at 7:02 am

  3. Whilst it’s not exactly ‘good news’ it soundy like this may slow the destruction down a bit. Hopefully as the ripples widen the local big project (which I’m beginning to think may be another real estate thing) will be less possible as well.

    Andy in Germany

    September 28, 2008 at 12:23 pm

  4. While I’m not one of Gateway’s biggest supporters, you make quite the specious argument when you say there would be some interesting links between land owners and the BC Liberals. This may or may not be true (perhaps if you’re willing to publicly go on the offensive against this plan you could put some effort into digging up these publicly available documents and provide some real evidence?), the SFPR has been in Metro planning documents at least 25 years!

    Also, I don’t think anyone is trying to hide the fact the SFPR will help build industrial capacity in this corridor, as you imply. I’m not sure this in inappropriate either, given this is brownfield development and the lack of suitable industrial space elsewhere in the region. Where would you prefer to see this development occur? I think this development is wholly more appropriate than what’s going on in Campbell Heights or Maple Ridge’s attempts to develop the Albion area.


    September 28, 2008 at 3:26 pm

  5. I am glad that the land deals are finally getting more airtime. Susan wrote a great letter to the Delta Optimist raising that point. It really is clear that the SFPR is about more than the port. If it was only the port, much less expensive and more efficient routes would have been at least considered. If we keep talking and writing about it, hopefully the real information will come out.


    September 28, 2008 at 3:47 pm

  6. There was a very short piece on CKNW News

    Stephen Rees

    September 29, 2008 at 7:36 am

  7. The south bank of the Fraser River is already an industrial area. There’s the Fraser Port and Seaspan’s Tilbury terminal there – plus a huge number of industrial properties fronting River Road. The SFPR skirts the back of those properties.

    Many of those industrial properties are built on demolition and land clearing (DLC) waste landfills that exist because the Minicipality of Delta failed in the early 1990s to enforce its zoning regulations prohibiting such land use – GVRD responded to the environmental problem caused by the contravening land uses by lobbying the Province for more control over solid waste (which the Province was happy to unload), whihc resulted in GVRD’s Solid Waste Regulatory Bylaw and subsequent prosecutions of DLC operators.

    Look at the aerial shots of the SFPR route at the end of this slideshow to see that the route skirts many existing industrial sites:

    Click to access sfpr-envwg.pdf

    Ron C.

    September 29, 2008 at 12:24 pm

  8. Ron, your comment misses the point. The SFPR has been justified as a limited access, truck only freeway essential for dealing with growing container imports from Asia. All of that has now been shown to be false. At no time did the proponet suggest that the road would be general purpose, aimed to provide a quick linkage to avoid two tolled alternates, with lots of access to allow for currently nonconforming land uses to be come industrial developments.

    If the government had admitted that it would have raised a whole bunch of issues – like why wasn’t the damaged land being restored? In other parts of the world the value of peat bogs as a carbon sink and water purifier is beginning to be acknowledged. The Bord na Mona in Eire has been transformed from a fuel and garden supply company to a major ecological restoration expert.

    Whatever the sins of earlier Delta councils (andthe problem of unregulated waste dumping on the ALR is a continuing problem, in Richmond as well as Delta) a policy that says ‘let’s allow the despoilers efforts to be made permananent’ should at least be allowed some public discussion. But as with the whole of the Gateway program, all the consultation and environmental assessment has been a sham – a shadow play to satisfy the legal niceties but certainly not an open and comprehensive review.

    The SFPR also skirts Burns Bog and has had to be relocated to reduce its impact of farmland – which has some of the best soil quality anywhere – not just Canada. Note I said “reduce” not “eliminate”. Since they are proceeding with work now any arguments about what this road is for or will achieve are in any event academic. The damage is going to be done and will be irreparable. But it is the callous disregard for the need for public input that gives rise to people deciding that they have been left with no alternative but means that put them in conflict with the law. Never mind that the government which made those laws for its own convenience cannot even be bothered to comply with its own rules – and relies instead on spin.

    Stephen Rees

    September 29, 2008 at 1:10 pm

  9. Remember that the Environmental Assessment process is intended to mitigate the environmental impact of a project – it is only in rare circumstances where the impacts cannot be mitigated that an Environmental Assessment Certificate will be refused. Demanding the “elimination” of impacts is a very polarized view.
    It is in very rare circumstances that you can 100% prevent an impact from occurring. i.e. habitat compensation (such as that for the Canada Line) isn’t 100% “prevention” – it’s exactly the opposite – it’s an authorization to do damage, and you buy your way out of it – just like emission credits/emissions trading.

    It’s like what a friend of mine with DFO says in regards to in-river projects – the DFO authorization establishes “how many fish [the proponent] is allowed to kill”.

    Ron C.

    September 29, 2008 at 3:28 pm

  10. Yes Ron I am well aware of the deficiencies of the BC EA process – and of CEA as well. They are next to useless.

    There really is no point participating – which is what the LRC and many others have been doing – because no matter what questions are asked, or failings demonstrated – the proponent simply repeats what was in the initial submissions. And a certificate was always going to be issued no matter what.

    But that doesn’t make it right or even sensible. The Gateway fails almost any test of rationality. Yet the BC government, courtesy of its carbon tax, likes to pretend it is green. It is hypocrisy of the highest order.

    Stephen Rees

    September 29, 2008 at 4:27 pm

  11. Public input is taken into account depending on the circumstances. For example, for the Canada Line, the original plan during construction was to maintain 4 lanes on Cambie – which required that the boulevard and median be paved over in sections along with the removal of a good number of trees (i.e. the roadway on each side of the median is only 3 lanes). Following the public input, the plan was changed to have just 3 lanes on Cambie alternating one lane and two lane sections) which used only the existing roadway – with less disruption to the median and boulevard trees. The project wasn’t halted because of an impact – the impact was mitigated.

    Ron C.

    September 30, 2008 at 11:23 am

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