Stephen Rees's blog

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

Susan Heyes awarded $600,000 in lawsuit over Canada Line

with 9 comments


Good. Not great – she did not get all she was asking for and the court “dismissed her complaint against the City of Vancouver and the B.C. and federal governments”. But at least she has been vindicated

a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that the Canada Line project acted with cavalier disregard for the impact of its business decisions on the plaintiff.

“Cavalier disregard” is actually a hallmark of major projects in BC – and has been for some time. This government, after all, actually set out in its first term to remove all those annoying legal requirements (which had not had really that much impact) like environmental assessments as part of its”deregulation” mission. 

I hope that this decision becomes the leading case which allows for many others wronged by acts of commission and omission by the Canada Line – and other similar projects – to get some measure of redress. It is not that I want to see transit projects made much more expensive – I just want to see them done properly. If a project is approved on the basis of being in a bored tube it should not be allowed to switch to cut and cover without some due process. Obviously that was a material change with great significance for the community along the route. The idea that no one had to take responsibility for that is obviously untenable. What is frustrating is the the people who cause this kind of thing to happen have been let off the hook instead of being held to account. And I hold those responsible to to be the Government of British Columbia as well as Translink (who had the Line forced upon them but still voted for it) and the private sector partnership.

You can read the whole of the reasons for judgement as a pdf

Written by Stephen Rees

May 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Posted in transit

9 Responses

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  1. The line was approved by Environment Canada from the terminal to about the Oak street bridge in 1991. The Environmental approval was to follow Grant mckonickie way between the old C.P. Air hangar and the road.
    The original plan weas to go down the middle boulevard. The next problem was putting The West Coast express ahead of the line. That was done.
    When Richmond voted to become part of the line the buses had to go. Then the federal government had no way of forcing abandon the Arbutus line and Cambie would be the alternative. That was a ballant lie. You cannot replace a federal rail line with a municipal or regional rail line.
    The federal line is inter-city across the country and is chartered like the banks. The Cambie line was not built for the 2010 Olympics either. You can call it the Canada line and fake federal juristiction as a replacement for the C.P.R. a couple of blocks over.
    The line was never necessary, as we had done without a north south rail route since 1958 and the last tram run. That was B.C. cenntenial year.
    For example the former Social Credit government named Skytrain the Expo line forExpo 86. It should not be called the Canada line but the Olympic line of the 2010 winter Olympics. This line is not a Canada line and it is not an Olympic line. Its a regional rail connector of minimal importance with a terrible amount of damage done to Hayes and her group.
    When Van Horne had people building the C.P.R. he often built railway towns and Vancouver was the biggest the C.P.R. ever contracted from Ottawa to build. Cambie St. was the first street built by the railway after there engineer Cambie. The line should be called the Cambie line to honour our heritage and the man who layed out this city. After all at the side of Victory Square the cobblestones and tablet lay in his memory. Indeed we have betrayed our forefathers great deed of joining the nation together by steel rail and make a nation called Canada. That is the only reason it is called the Canada line.
    I think we could all sign our names to that and get along once again.

    Bryan Vogler

    May 27, 2009 at 9:21 pm

  2. It is interesting that the judge, Mr. Pittfield called the RAV P-3 a charade (sent to me by Susan Heyes by mistake)! Interesting.

    I can now see many more lawsuits happening and either TransLink will appeal (which maybe fraught with danger) or settle out of court. 100 lawsuits could be has high as $50 million and begs the question why InTransit BC did not provide a compensation package for local merchants like what was done in Seattle.

    Certainly a compensation package would have paid out less that what the court is willing to levy.

    I see in the mainstream media’s blogs (the sun will not print mine) there is much hate leveled at Susan.
    there should not be because this was a clear case where one parties actions devastated another parties income – old English Civil law going back to “Ancient Lights”.

    The prem and his gang, TransLink and the city tried to pull a fast one and now have been caught out and forced to pay.

    D.M. Johnston

    May 27, 2009 at 9:36 pm

  3. I agree 100% with Malcolm. Other towns have compensated their merchants for unusual disruptions due to transit construction, including Bordeaux (France) when they built the 3 lines of a LRT system at once between 2000 and 2003. There is more than $ at stake there. Am I too old fashioned for believing that the members of an elected government have the moral responsibility to treat all the citizens in a fair manner? drastically disrupting the lives of a few for something that will benefit many doesn’t mean that these few victims should be pushed away and left to wither. Nor is the reasoning that the merchants on Cambie will/might eventually reap “huge” benefits. Ordinary people with moderate incomes (that includes owners of small businesses) cannot live with hardly any income for a couple of years.

    During the Middle Ages many Lords gave up a piece of their land to build a “new town” in an area contested by another Lord. whoever was willing to come there and build a home, a business etc. was granted civic freedom and rights. These new towns (they often were called and still are called New town a elected council and a charter of rights. Many of these charters noted that the town’s citizens willingly gave allegiance to Lord XX as long as he respected their rights in return, and both the Lord and the first Mayor signed the document. Perhaps we should have the next B.C Premier acknowledge and sign a similar document in front of a crowd in Vancouver, Victoria etc.

    Red frog

    May 28, 2009 at 11:04 am

  4. At the most, merchants in these situations should be given loans to help them with the hardship for which they should have to qualify based on their business’s prior performance and longevity.

    Merchants should have to repay the loans after construction is complete. Particularly in situations like this where the merchants themselves will be direct beneficiaries of the project.


    May 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm

  5. Shane – I suggest you read the Reasons for Judgement. It is clear that there was culpable behaviour on the part of the defendants. The plaintiff was mislead by their statements. She made a decision to take out a lease based on information they provided which turned out not to be the case. If there had been an open process with full disclosure of information and proper consultation, the defendants would have to pay now.

    I would also argue that individuals need to be held to account. As it is the penalty will be paid by all of us – one way or another.

    Stephen Rees

    May 28, 2009 at 2:08 pm

  6. Very few Cambie, Yaletown or Granville merchants will benefit from this new line for years to come. Burying potential customers underground means the only ones who’ll benefit will be those within easy walking distance of a station and who advertise heavily to lure customers to the surface. Most of Cambie Village will be lucky to get back to pre construction levels by 2011. After that, the survivors will start to reap the benefit of increased housing density spurred by the rail line.

    I applaud Susan for having the energy to pursue justice. No sane merchant would have stayed had they known what was going to happen. Even in the areas where the method didn’t change from bored tunnel to one-section-at-a-time cut & cover to dig up the whole street, merchants suffered. Successful businesses in Yaletown were destroyed even though that section was bored tunnel because the road closures were extensive and long lasting.


    June 2, 2009 at 4:24 pm

  7. As a result of this judgement if it stands the contest of appeal the Canadian Raiway Act should be amended so that in the future federal railways have to give up unused portions of railways like the Arbutus Line to regional governments for progressive growth of an ever expanding population demanding transportation corridors.
    It is signifigant to note the federal rail rationalization has eleiminated thousands of miles of unused track across Canada saving the railways billions of dollars. It then becomed an insult to public integrity of Canadians whom have a line like the Arbutus Corridor not used and not abandoned for further public use as a transportation corridor.
    This historic line was divider between The City of Point Grey and the CPR land grants given to it to develop Vancouver. These grants have long expired.
    During the depression Pt.Grey ceded to the City of Vancouver for financial reasons. The line was doing a booming business with freight and streetcar contracts from BC Electric. By the end of the 1950’s the streecars were gone replaced by regional buses of the BC Hydro and Power Authority.
    In the 1960’s the historic Van Horne and James Hill conflicts came to an end with the Granville Island rail industrial site closing because of a huge fire.
    This land was the furthest west these two railway tycoons competed for business. Hill of the Great Northern and Van Horne of the CPR long past away now have their property preserved as a historic site from funds from Canadian Mortgage and Housing
    There is no reason not to believe then, the Act should not be changed and be more consistant to the citizens demands.
    Today, the same line under the Burrard Bridge with the old infrastructure still intact could be used for a seperate bike path strung on the Burrard Bridge side running to the foot of Hornby.
    The bridge is gone and abandonded and theif the Act were changed the City of Vancouver could move to replace the tressle with a bike bridge
    The sidewalk seperation on the bridge is against Workers Compensation rtules for bus drivers. It has no guard rails

    Bryan Vogler

    July 5, 2009 at 11:15 pm

  8. Dear Mr. Rees
    I was over Vancouver Island on the weekend. I looked at the E&N Railway tracks from Duncan to Shawnigan Lake. I feww weekends before that I looked at the Victoria station and the bridge which will be replaced
    In 1990 a Supreme Court Judge ruled against Via Rail and there boss The Minister of Transport to keep it going forever.
    The only train I saw was one Via Rail car half empty when it pulled into Duncan. A rather depressing sight
    The people in Victoria Langford and Duncan as well as some in Shawnigan Lake want this track to be commuter rail, or light rail with tilting boggies.
    The train is now running into Victoria at night, opposite to what the people want. They want a train that will take them to Victoria in the morning and come back at night.
    Via Rail has an obligation to supply passenger service and as a government railway will not give the service the public demands. They are still defying the intent of the judges order.
    On the Island Via Rail made no improvement to service after 15 years to 20 years of non-compliance to a federal law.
    I feel there is over enough commuters to do this 70 mile stint. Your thoughts

    Bryan Vogler

    October 27, 2009 at 5:36 pm

  9. The timetable of the E&N has not changed since I first came to BC 15 years ago. There have been rumours of closure on and off, and constant lobbying for a commuter service – as there has been for light rail on a different alignment. There was also a huge investment in widening Highway #1 that was supposed to solve the problem of the “Colwood Crawl”. I do not think it did. VIA Rail is a federal institution and does not respond to provincial or local initiatives. It is shambolic. Other countries, outside of North America, have long recognized the need for passenger rail services and have supported them. This approach is long overdue in Canada and the US. Since there has to be a legally mandated service on Vancouver Island it should at least meet some real need.

    Actually after I wrote this reply. The Victoria Times Colonist published a story about how more VIA trains may operate on the E&N next year

    Stephen Rees

    October 28, 2009 at 9:44 am

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