Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Mayor

Massive Mall near Abbotsford Interchange stirs debate

with 7 comments

Vancouver Sun

Of course this is exactly what opponents of the Gateway always said would happen. 

Artists rendering of a proposed $170-million, 600,000-square-foot shopping mall near Abbotsfords Mount Lehman interchange.

Artist's rendering of a proposed $170-million, 600,000-square-foot shopping mall near Abbotsford's Mount Lehman interchange.

“The potential regional draw for that centre is enormous,” Abbotsford Mayor George Peary said in an interview about the $170-million, 600,000-square-foot Shape Properties development, dubbed Abby Lane.

“It’s huge and it’s got amazing freeway access. I think this will be the largest mall in the region. It will be relatively easy for people to get there from Langley, Chilliwack and Mission. Millions travel that freeway and they’re all potential customers.”

And for the Mayor that seems like a Good Thing. For many however, it seems like a very Bad Thing indeed. For a start the freeway between Langley and Abbotsford runs through what is currently green space. In many parts of the world that is seen as a desirable quality – and there has been legislation (in the UK and other places) to stop “ribbon development” and the gradual coalescence of places into “megalopolis”. That indeed has been one of the main principles in regional planning of both Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

But also very significant is the recognition of the traffic generation this kind of development produces – which is something that the Gateway proponents have tried to ignore or at least downplay: “it happens anyway”. Well you might try telling that to the stores that will close in those places. The amount of time and money that people have to spend shopping is finite. The money that gets spent in Abby Lane won’t get spent elsewhere. You can see this all over North America – in fact, thanks to the economic decline of recent years, the process has accelerated. There are already too many shops – and older malls and town centres have been in steady decline. Even in good times that happens – and one of the features of North American buildings is their very short design life. So when the two new plazas at No 5 Road and Steveston Highway opened, the shopping centre at Shell and Williams closed, was demolished and is now town houses.

Obviously if in future more people from Langley and Chilliwack decide to shop in Abbotsford that is a longer car trip than happens now. That means more pollution – both common air contaminants (the stuff that causes our current air quality advisory) and greenhouse gas emissions – that’s the stuff that means the glaciers melt and the pine beetle thrives. It is not only the polar bears that suffer! And note that this is happening beyond the reach of the Gateway project – which ends at the Langley boundary – although a new hill climber lane is being built westbound out of Abbotsford at present. So of course there will be even more pressure to widen the freeway through Abbotsford and upgrade the interchanges. That is the lesson of everywhere that has widened freeways – it creates the “need” for more widening and is never ending.

Well never ending up to now. Because the other thing that the Mayor is ignoring is that peak conventional oil has passed – and peak oil is close too. So there will not be lots of cheap gas for all those car trips. And maybe in future even the charms of yet another corporate clone big box “power centre” will be much less if if costs too much to get there. This development might not be such a good idea after all. It will certainly cause others to close – but in the not too distant future we may well not be quite so keen on shopping. We may prefer to find happiness in other ways – and relearn how to make things last longer.

It is certainly a choice – and the last election showed that most people are not yet willing to make that change voluntarily. Which means when it does come they are not going to be very happy about it at all. And  George Peary could well be the target of their wrath.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 5, 2009 at 11:44 am

Robertson wins Vision vote

with 2 comments

Frances Bula, Vancouver Sun

This is a big surprise, and shows the difficulty of accurately predicting how these things will go. All the speculation revolved around the use of second preferences, which turned out not to be important.

Robertson easily defeated Vision councillor Raymond Louie, who would have been the city’s first Chinese mayoral candidate if chosen, and park-board commissioner Allan De Genova.

He got 3,495 votes out of almost 6,800 cast, while Louie got only 2,244, drawing heavily from a variety of ethnic communities. De Genova got 981.

I think the lesson here is that the other two had a track record that held both of them back, and Roberston has a better chance of winning the backing of COPE, which avoids the risk of a left wing split and increases the likelihood that Peter Ladner will not get the Mayor’s chair. The NPA is fractured, but will doubtless now be galvanised into an anti-Robertson campaign.

It does seem a bit odd to me to see an MLA wanting to become a Mayor – I would have thought the more usual path is the other way around. After all both Gordon Campbell and Mike Harcourt were both Mayors before they became Premiers.

I must admit great distaste for people who organise blocks of voters based on their ethnicity. This seems to me to take us back to some of the most corrupt times in municipal government – Tammany Hall and all that. But also the idea that people can be both told how to vote, and marched around like troops from one party to another on the whims of the organisers based on what they claim they can deliver to their constituency, is wholly contrary to what I understand to be the meaning of the words “representative democracy”.

Robertson’s team does deserve credit for getting a much greater involvement of people who were formerly left out of local politics and especially younger people. This is an important message to the old guard at the NPA, who have assumed that they “owned” Vancouver, but whose time may now be up. I hope.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 16, 2008 at 8:58 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

The Globe and Sam

with 9 comments

I was praising, not so long ago, the decision by the Globe and Mail to open up its web site. Now you can read the opinion pieces as well as the news. But in the case of Gary Mason maybe that is not such a great gift. In today’s piece he spends a lot of space to say that he does not like Sam, but does not know why. And he projects that onto the people he says he talked to. Not exactly insightful analysis.

Perhaps he should have looked over the shoulder of his colleague on the news desk Rod Mickleburgh who writes down what people say to him.

NPA Park Board Commissioner Ian Robertson

“People kept telling me they had supported the NPA in the past, but they weren’t going to support the party in the fall if Sam was leader. He just disappointed people. He didn’t deliver on their expectations.”

Urban planner Michael Geller, a new NPA council nominee

“I do believe Sam would not have won this fall,” Mr. Geller said. “I don’t know why, exactly, he didn’t do better. Some of the people around him may have been giving him bad advice.”

Which actually doesn’t get us much further.

Mason does point to some of his blunders – but mostly it is about attitude. Sam doesn’t listen – not to the people around him or the people who will not vote for him. He is convinced of his own rightness. He needed to bear in mind that famous Oliver Cromwell quotation “Consider the possibility you might be wrong.” Mason says he “flip flopped” but surely it was his determination (I was going to write “pig headedness” which is bit unfair) that gets him into trouble. EcoDensity was something he tried to patent for himself – and he got tied into knots when people said they did not trust developers. He was unable to accept that Vancouver citizens have been accustomed to being consulted about what happens in their neighborhoods and it worried them that they would not be in future. The cancellation of the trial of bike lanes on Burrard Bridge is also a good indicator of someone who does not want to be proved wrong. He would not let experience show that his assertions were wrong. But most of all the slogan “Sam’s strike” – fair or not – stuck. It went on for far too long, and Sam was blamed for that. Even though he had recognised that his early comments weren’t helping and he had backed off and left it to the negotiators, as was right and proper.

I think he will show up again before too long. The BC Liberals need some new blood in the leg after the retirement of a number of senior people. I cannot imagine Sam as anything but a politician, and he has been scandal free, so there is no reason why he would not take another run at a seat somewhere else. Just as long as he doesn’t try to copyright the word “plucky”.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 10, 2008 at 10:47 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Little difference observed between Ladner and Sullivan

with 4 comments


It is understandable that COPE and Vision would take this line. But for the NPA this is a difficult choice. Right now they do not want to appear divided – even though they are. But as Ladner pointed out, if the NPA doesn’t deliver change, then Vision will. The current party line is that there was no difference in policy and it is all about personality. But some of those policies are really difficult to defend – including EcoDensity and the daft plan to widen Burrard Bridge.  I think that the people of Vancouver want to see more than a different face and a more approachable manner. What the NPA seem to be saying is to put style over substance, and I think the small percentage of Vancouver residents who can be bothered to vote will regard that as insulting to their intelligence. I also expect NPA supporters to stay home – just like they did when they had the opportunity to choose a candidate for Mayor and so many didn’t.

But the best quote of the day is from

Al De Genova, a former NPA park board commissioner who is now seeking the Vision Vancouver mayoral nomination, was even more adamant that Ladner is unlikely to depart from the Sullivan policy book.

“I can say it in four words: Nothing has changed,” he said. “Peter has been toeing the party line for the past six years on council.”

In my view a basic qualification for municipal office is the ability to count – even if you have to use the fingers of one hand to do it.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 10, 2008 at 7:30 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Breaking news – Sam’s gone

with 2 comments

Peter Ladner has won the NPA nomination for Mayoral candidate.

Much more as this gets absorbed by the media – but I am pleased that Ladner won, even though I would not vote for the NPA even if I could.

The Province has him saying “I will go off into the sunset”  but on Global News this evening he was more upbeat saying he was looking forward to “having a life” again.

In Sunday’s vote by NPA members, Ladner outpolled Sullivan 1,066-986.

which is pretty close and not exactly what was expected – even by Ladner himself.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 8, 2008 at 6:34 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Sullivan finally agrees to a debate

with 2 comments

Frances Bula, Vancouver Sun

This is what passes for news this morning. In fact its one of those announcements that’s not an announcement, as there is no date and no location. So no debate yet.

It is as fractious as the Democratic nomination. The incumbent had to, reluctantly, agree that the nomination should be open. But he really does not want to have a process that might actually have some substance. And his supporters have even managed to get Peter Ladner to make a loyalty oath to the political party that is not a political party. In terms of decision making there really is not much to choose between them. Peter Ladner lost all credibility for me when he reversed himself on the Burrard Bridge bike lanes. He had been up to that time an advocate for cycling. But of course what Sam wants to do is spend ridiculous amounts of money to protect (in his mind anyway) car capacity. The conversion of GP lanes to bikes being an important shibboleth for the DVBIA and the car driving community that would actually have no impact on car use, as it is the intersections on either side that control traffic flow. Indeed, such is the symbolic value that Sullivan would not even allow a trial conversion, for fear it might actually work.

Ladner’s case for running is the Sullivan is not electable, given his record. Which might well be true, but Ladner’s is not much different. Which is why the debate is so important to him, as it is the first opportunity for him to distinguish between his policies and those of the current Mayor. And of course that is exactly what Sullivan and his supporters fear most which is why the only date suggested for the debate so far is the morning of June 8, the day when NPA members vote on the candidate.

I think this whole process has damaged the NPA more than it has damaged Sullivan – who’s hopes of re-election were slim and are now that much worse. Because there is nothing of substance here, and it seems to be only about personalities. Forget the people who hold NPA membership cards , and think in terms of the wider electorate. My bet would be that the  people of Vancouver are tired of the NPA and its assumption that it will rule Vancouver for as long as it likes. I suspect – hope – that there is a desire for change at 12th and Cambie, and that this charade will only hurt the NPA’s turnout, whatever the outcome.

And the Burrard Bridge is not the only issue – or even the most important one. But my suspicion would be that fear and loathing are going to be – and EcoDensity may be Sam’s achilles heel.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 26, 2008 at 7:19 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,