Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for February 17th, 2009

Patchwork policing leaves no one in charge

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Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail has a neat quotation from an unnamed  police chief

“If you were to design a policing structure for the region, would you design one like ours? Not in a million years.”

I have been advocating a metropolitan police force for Greater Vancouver on this blog for some time. This most recent thought has been spurred not so much by the recent spate of gang killings as the provincial government’s hastily thought out “strategy” for dealing with it.

But here’s the question that no one seemed to address at the Premier’s news conference on Friday: Who’s in charge of eradicating gang violence in Metro Vancouver?

It’s a question put to me by a Metro Vancouver police chief last week. I didn’t know the answer.

“No one,” he said.

You can’t have a successful strategy for anything without someone in charge. And in this case, there’s no one responsible because of the patchwork nature of policing in Metro Vancouver.

My point would be that it is not just for dealing with gangs that we need a co-ordinated policing system. It is every aspect of policing. The only people who advocate for the present system are the mayors who like the idea of having a police chief report to them and not some remote regional authority. But we can no longer afford this small town mentality.

Anymore than we can afford the arrogance and incompetence that has characterised the RCMP in recent years, and is now on daily display. If the Premier had actually been giving this issue any thought at all in the last couple of years – and there have been plenty of reasons why he should have – he would have seen that the need for change is inescapable. A provincial force for BC and metropolitan police forces for the Vancouver and Capital regions would be my first choice.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

An open letter to the Premier from Anna Rose

To the Honourable Gordon Campbell, Premier of British Columbia,

I am a BC resident who is extremely concerned about the so-called “Run of the River” Power Projects.  I live in the community of Gray Creek, and through my window I can see Kootenay Lake about 100 m away.  I grew up on another part of it.  I eat fish from it, I kayak on it, and observe close-up, among many wildlife species, the great blue herons that are rated “of special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.  I memorize the names of the creeks that flow down the narrow forested valleys into the lake, get my water from one of them at the edge of this property, and hike up them.  “Ecosystem” is not just a theoretical concept to me.  I have a deep appreciation and understanding of this one in the Kootenays from years of personal experience and self-directed learning.  Therefore, when I first heard about the large project north of here, which plans to divert water from Glacier and Howser Creeks through tunnels totaling 16 km, cut new roads and build power lines in territory important to grizzlies (another species-of-concern), I felt alarmed, outraged and incredulous.  How could our elected government let a huge corporation wreck a living ecosystem in our crown land, just for monetary gain?

Each week I hear of another megaproject, worse than the last.  The proposed Bute Inlet Project would divert water from 17 rivers, and require 142 bridges, 267 km of roads and 443 km of new power lines, all in a wilderness that is home to a dozen species of wildlife at risk and 18 species of plants at risk.  There are 6 other projects proposed near Bute Inlet.  We don’t know what the cumulative effects might be.  The only good news is that resistance to these over-sized projects is growing all across BC.  Experts, such as Dr.Gordon Hartman, retired from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, are speaking out.   He calls the way the government has allowed the situation to develop “totally irresponsible …reprehensible … It is not progress to just go out and build more dams, build more this, dig bigger holes … Progress for me would really mean changing our whole mental state about our relationship to this planet.”

Experts in other areas tell us that the projects are inefficient and not needed for BC’s own power needs.  Power will be sold to the US, and our BC Hydro will suffer due to new regulations.  MLA’s point out how the process of granting licenses is increasingly undemocratic.  The provincial government’s Bill 30 blocks objections from the municipal level.  Public hearings are few and far between.

One of the best public education websites I found is www.watershed-watch .org. I agree with what that group of scientists and citizens, initially prompted by the further threat to the endangered salmon species, is calling for our provincial government to do:

-re-think the energy planning process.  Provide incentives for energy conservation

-incorporate regional and provincial land use planning to decide which areas are
environmentally and geographically appropriate for energy projects

-make long-term data collection and adaptive management a legal requirement for
all water licensees

-be more open to public input.  Let it have a real effect on whether projects move
forward or are rejected.  Repeal Bill 30

-do not let the Glacier/Howser and Bute Inlet projects move forward, due to the
uncertainty around whether environmental risks and impacts can be adequately
measured, mitigated and monitored

Let us be stewards of this precious land, not exploiters with short-range vision.

Respectfully,

Anna Rose

Written by Stephen Rees

February 17, 2009 at 10:50 am

Posted in Environment

Vancouver port may be left waiting for its ships to come in

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Last week I got a phone call from Pete McMartin at the Sun. Some time ago he had receieved an email from someone who has been reading this blog and also heard me speak at various anti-Gateway gatherings and suggested there was a story here he could cover.

The result is this article to-day and two more to follow later this week. There is nothing here that regular readers have not seen already – and he cites many of the resources that I have been quoting. But he has also been talking to Stu Ramsey and, of course, the Gateway proponents as well. But I do not think I am trumping his punch line if I tell you what we talked about at the end of the conversation – which had been interrupted  more than once and had to be re-started each time. I was impressed by the time he was devoting to the issue and the questions he was asking. I told him truthfully that I read his column every time it appears. I was, for example genuinely impressed by the column he wrote for Valentine’s Day (after our conversation) which dealt with that fluffy subject in a very constructive way. I told him I thought he was not only a good writer, but that he was getting better.

This provoked, of course, a surprised response, so I explained that he seemed to have abandoned his “Tim the Tool Man” persona – the redneck from the burbs who drives everywhere. He said his point was that people who do not live in Vancouver need to be given some real choice in terms of travel. Which of course is precisely the main point about Gateway. If we blow the budget on freeways there is not much left for transit expansion – which anyway will come after the roads are built and the sprawl that goes with them.

So I am very hopeful about the next two articles. The port expansion was always a risky bet. Even if the Panama Canal expansion and the opening of an arctic seaway were not on the cards, the prospect of continued container traffic growth was based on unrealistic expectations. The US economy could not indefinitely be run on deficits. Trade could not forever grow based on increasing US  consumer demand fuelled by real estate speculation. The whole enterprise assumed that there would be no effective competition for trade from US ports – when in reality they already had increasing spare capacity due to over construction of new terminal facilities.

I also take the view that the BC Liberal government knew that. The port expansion was merely a ruse – just as the Olympics are – to justify yet more real estate expansion based on low density suburban development. Which is the preferred method of making money for many of their most influential supporters. “Follow the money” as Deep Throat said. The Sea to Sky expansion was about housing development in Squamish – and other sites along the route. The South Fraser Perimeter Road is about changing land use in North Delta. The Highway 1 expansion is not about traffic congestion on the Port Mann but about yet more single family homes and big box stores all over the valley.

Kevin Falcon likes to assert that “the development will happen anyway” but he knows as well as anyone else that in real estate, location is what matters. And it is not just where the development occurs (preferably, for him, on land his friends already own or know how to scoop up ahead of the bulldozers starting work) but also what kind of development. Because you do not get high density transit oriented development if there is no transit.

The timing of these articles is also fortituitous. Because there is an election coming up – and because a lot of people who would normally vote Liberal are getting very worried. The recession is the big picture background, in the foreground is the Olympics and its massive cost overruns. The False Creek Athlete’s Village fiasco has made a huge impression. And there are many places where doubts about development – and that includes P3 hydro projects, waste disposal, salmon farms, oil and gas drilling – the list gets longer by the day – where it seems the developers are the only people who get the ear of government. Many communities are apalled by their experience of the “streamlined” processes produced by Mr Falcon in his previous post, as their concerns  even when they can be voiced are so blatantly ignored.  And the power lines in Pete’s home town are just one of a number of egregious examples.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 17, 2009 at 10:44 am

Posted in Gateway