Stephen Rees's blog

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

The real impact of the SFPR

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Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail picks up the story released yesterday by Donna Passmore

Province warned Gateway project would hurt wildlife

MARK HUME

May 8, 2009

VANCOUVER — Before it began construction of the controversial Gateway transportation project, the provincial government was warned by its own environmental experts that the development could cause “permanent and irreversible impact to wildlife and ecosystems.”

According to documents obtained under Freedom of Information requests and released yesterday by a group opposed to the project, the government ignored the advice of Ministry of Environment scientists and went ahead with the highway, making only modest changes to construction plans.

“I don’t think they addressed the concerns raised by their own scientists in any meaningful way,” Donna Passmore of the Gateway 40 Citizens Network said.

By dint of sheer persistence, much of correspondence between the provincial and federal agencies reveals that the proponent (the Ministry of Covering BC in Concrete) was well aware that the South Fraser Perimeter Road would be an environmental disaster and that the proposed mitigation was useless. Yet the BC Liberal government pressed on ahead anyway. Even rushing to get pre-load started before contracts were signed in order to claim “victory” before the election.

Environmentalists and activists have been saying that the SFPR  did not meet even the present government’s weakened standards. Scientists raised serious objections. So did the people impacted by the project. The misrepresentations of the facts by Minister Kevin Falcon and Premier Gordon Campbell have continued – with both of them claiming that there were “extensive environmental reviews”. Of course what they did not say was that the results of those reviews were ignored and they hoped that if they were buried, no-one would have the patience to dig them up again. Well Donna has – and her timing with this release could not have been better.

Delta South has looked like a very unsafe seat for some time. The Delta hospital closure was just the first of a series of decisions unpopular with residents. The Tsawassen treaty, the power lines, the port expansion and the SFPR all made people in Delta feel they were being ignored and dumped on. The emergence of a popular local politician – Vicki Huntington – to run as an independent in what has been a easily held Liberal stroghold showed how much contempt the party has for its own supporters. The gamble was that the locals would not vote NDP – but that did not mean they will not vote against the government.

Wally Oppal was handed the poison chalice. He had a safe seat in Vancouver but was persuaded to run in his home riding. Maybe he has just had enough of politics  and is seeking this way as earning an honourable retirement – taking the bullet for his party. 

I would like to think that this event will have wider resonance. Because the trashing of environmental protection has been a hallmark of this government. They started – under Minister Falcon in his previous job – with gutting the regulations. Then they also cut the responsible ministry by 50% – and eliminated the positions that were supposed to protecting us and our environment. And then they started the swathe of projects – the Gateway, the IPPs and all the rest – that are now comprehensively trashing “the best place on earth”. And every time anyone objected they learned that objection was useless. All the time the same Minister claimed a thorough environmental process was followed. He knew that was not true – and now we have the evidence. He was lying. Not spin, not half truth but deliberate deceit. The BC Liberals are saying that they deserve to continue in government because they can be trusted. We know they do not keep promises – BC Rail proved that. We know now for certain they are liars. They have managed to dodge the legal consequences of BC Rail by prolonging the court case for as long as possible. Five years and counting. But they cannot now dodge the judgement of the ballot box. If we re-elect the Liberals we only have ourselves to blame. 

(By the way if you would like six large pdf files of documents I will be happy to forward them to you.)

Written by Stephen Rees

May 8, 2009 at 8:31 am

Posted in Environment, politics

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