Harold Steves, a set on Flickr.
The father of the ALR, councillor for Richmond, local activist for defending the environment for 50 years was given a “toast and roast” at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery on Sunday night. The Cannery is notoriously cold but Harold got a warm welcome and a standing ovation at the end. He pointed out that setting an urban boundary by preventing development on agricultural land had forced the region to adopt a denser, more sustainable structure and prevent sprawl. At one time – 1939-45 – the region was self sufficient in food production and can be again: 42% of that food was grown in “victory gardens” and we can – and must – do that again. There are still many battles that have to be won over and over again: the threat to farmland has not abated, and the Green Zone, the estuaries and the stream banks originally intended to be protected have not been. Oil tankers are still a threat: both Richmond and Delta Councils oppose the development of an aviation fuel terminal at No 7 Road. This was a battle he fought fifty years ago – with a demonstration at the Peace Arch. Speakers then said that an oil spill “the length of Long Beach” was inevitable – and of course soon after the Exxon Valdez went aground in Alasaka and proved them right. The organisers of that demo went on to found Greenpeace. Half of the Lulu Island bog was bought by the city and is now Richmond Nature Park. The rest of that bog – the DND and Garden City Lands still remains to be protected. At one the those lands were the bread basket of the First Nation, and could be again. He also spoke about the Spettifore Lands and how misrepresentation of the land quality was used to take the land out of the ALR. Thirty years later – last month – used the same report to the ALC in front of Delta Corporation to oppose development of that site – nearly all of which is land of the highest agricultural quality.
I posted the above at 11:20 Sunday night while my memory was still fresh. It was so cold in the cannery that I was unable to make notes and I wanted to get as much of Harold’s address down while I could still recall it. The timing of the dinner had been arranged months ago to coincide with the anniversary of the ALR. Unfortunately that meant it also coincided with the NDP leadership convention, which meant many leading NDP members could not be present in person: Corky Evans and Jim Sinclair were two of the speakers I was most looking forward to. As a “roast” the evening was tame – I think those two would have added a lot of sparkle. Worthy of note were the number of people from other parts of the political spectrum – Vicki Huntington now an independent MLA who said she was from “a lifetime in the Conservative Party” and Langley Mayor Rick Green a former leading light in Social Credit while in Delta. Notably Green, while still Mayor, has been prevented from attending Metro Vancouver meetings by his council for successfully opposing the withdrawal of land from the ALR in Langley by CP Rail. Sadly also Rafe Mair – also a former SoCred but now a blistering critic of the BC Liberals – was unable to attend due to ill health. John Cummins former Conservative MLA for Delta – East Richmond was present but did not speak. Richmond Mayor Malcolm did speak – and quoted at length from one of the local opponents of the ALR who remained nameless, but apparently is well known for references to ALRmageddon – sadly a Google serach failed to identify the individual. Apparently the small piece of land he owns in Richmond is not even in the ALR!
UPDATE: The individual in question has now identified himself. He joins the select group who are not going to be allowed to comment on this blog – and comments on this post have been closed
It is a great tribute to Harold that he has been able to work so effectively to defend the land by working across party lines. All paid tribute to his commitment, integrity and diligence. Many examples were cited in addition to the ALR including the ongoing fight against Gateway (I am proud to say I have shared that platform with Harold) and the fight over the former BC Packers site, much of which I witnessed at first hand. Apparently a new initiative will be starting over the next three years to complete the transformation of the Steveston Waterfront which will continue the success of direct sales from fishing boats and the new Farmer’s market which up to now has been operating seasonally from the Cannery site.
Thank you to Donna Passmore for organizing this event and inviting me to it. I feel honoured.
The video below is by Damien Gillis