November 7, 2013

The End of the Region as we know it – 2

Back at the beginning of October, I wrote a post titled “The End of the Region as we know it?” – with a question mark.

It’s time to remove the question mark.

Metro Vancouver, with its origins in a vision crafted a half century ago – Cities in a Sea of Green – is being dismantled by the provincial government.

First, the end of transit expansion.  Even if the referendum proceeds, even if it passes (which is doubtful), it will likely be crafted in such a way as to provide only the minimum that can be supported – nothing like what is needed to realize a Compact Region of Complete Communities, joined by Rapid Transit, supported by a Frequent Transit Network: the essence of the regional plan.

Second, the Province is doubling down on Motordom, spending billions to build over-scaled infrastructure to open up South of the Fraser and locking it into car-dependence.  I make the Connections here: “The road to hell is paved.”

Third, it is doubling down on risk with respect to climate change.  The Massey Crossing will accelerate growth on some of the most vulnerable lands to sea-level rise in Canada: wetlands, farmlands, lowlands, in order to make the west-coast a major carbon-transfer point for coal, oil, bitumen and natural gas.  Any pretense that the regional strategy of sustainability, economically or environmentally, matters at all would be washed away in hypocrisy and carbon.

All that is needed, finally, is to dismantle the Agricultural Land Reserve.

And so, fourth: ‘Sacrosanct’ Agricultural Land Commission eyed for breakup – in today’s Globe and Mail.

British Columbia’s “sacrosanct” Agricultural Land Commission will be effectively dismantled and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission will assume new responsibilities for land use decisions if a proposal prepared for cabinet is adopted, according to confidential government documents.

Information obtained by The Globe and Mail shows that B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm is preparing to ask cabinet to endorse a plan to “modernize” the ALC, an independent Crown agency, which has overseen and protected about four million hectares of farmland for 40 years. Under the plan, the ALC – long a thorn in the side of developers who want to free up farmland – would move within the Ministry of Agriculture, apparently ending its autonomy from government. …

“The Agricultural Land Commission legislative mandate is too narrow to allow decisions that align with the priority for economic development,” is the message Mr. Pimm will deliver, according to a document labelled Cabinet Decision Summary Sheet.

The document provides a point-by-point description of the steps Mr. Pimm wants to take. It calls on cabinet to allow him to “develop the necessary policy, regulatory and legislative amendments” he needs to implement dramatic change. …

Mr. Pimm spent 25 years working in the oil and gas industry before being elected to the provincial legislature. His appointment by Premier Christy Clark as Agriculture Minister was seen as an early sign the Liberal government didn’t want the ALC to hinder energy resource development.

Mr. Pimm is also proposing to give local governments more control, calling for “community growth applications [to be] decided by local governments.”

The ALC was established in 1974 as concerns grew in B.C. about the 6,000 hectares a year of prime agricultural land then being lost to development. Now about 500 hectares are removed annually. …

The provincial direction is clear; the regional vision is irrelevant.  Soon the regional plan may be dead.

The question now is whether the generation that inherited this vision and its benefits cares enough to fight to save it.

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  1. The intent seems pretty clear, as does further work to advance the site C hydro project. Liquidate resources as quickly as possible, ship them to markets at the least possible cost by the most direct routes, and reward the car-driving base in the process. The political strategy seems to be to jam these moves through as quickly as possible while potential opposition is distracted. The implications for effective regional growth management in southern BC are dire if the ALC is gutted.

    1. How exactly does Site C fit into that category? One can’t simply be against every kind of development, especially relatively green hydroelectric.

      1. The consequence of site C is the inundation of a significant amount of ALR land in the Peace region. It is questionable if the site C dam is even needed to meet provincial electricity demand, especially if more effort is made through conservation strategies. What site C would provide however is a significant new source of power to fuel LNG production.

  2. Considering the above, does remaining part of BC still serve the interests of Metro Vancouver? Is it time for Metro Vancouver to secede and form a separate province?

    1. I can’t see the Fraser Valley wanting to secede. The people there may have different jobs than those in say, Quesnel, but they share most of the same beliefs when it comes to giving the province away to corporations to do as they wish.

      Vancouver Island (and the Gulf Islands), on the other hand, is a very different place. Even though they have a lot of resource industry jobs they’re the “greenest” land mass in North America. Talk of separating from BC comes up regularly across the water. We started as two separate British colonies so there’s historical precedent for making the islands a separate province. I work in a fairly specialized field so I would find it difficult to move to the Province of Vancouver Island before I’m 65, but should they secede during my golden years I’ll be there in a flash.

    2. More like the Downtown Peninsula, Kits and The Drive should secede. You won’t find as much common ground as you think between your views and those of the majority in South Vancouver and the the rest of the suburbs. Perhaps if Point Grey had so publicly slapped the Premier, the city would have more clout at the table.

  3. Gordon – I have been blissfully inactive (not inattentive, just inactive) since retiring from local government, but this would get me active again (except for running for office!). Are you aware of any groups forming or other means of strongly opposing the ALC assault? We cannot let this happen, and I suspect petitions will be a part of it, but not nearly enough.

  4. The question is not whether our generation cares enough to fight to save the regional vision, but whether our voices will even be heard. Unlike the generations which came before, ours has no history of protests or rallying that made any difference to the causes we stood for. Why should this be any different?

    The highways will continue to criss-cross the landscape. The pipelines will continue to shuttle toxins through our most pristine regions. The land we’ll depend on to sustain ourselves for the generations to come will still fall prey to short-term economic gain.

    And we, my generation, will listen to those who call us apathetic – the same ones who support the very causes we oppose – and finally agree with them. Our hands will be thrown up in the air, and we’ll have finally learned not to give a damn about anything.