April 22, 2014

SCARP symposium: “Disasters – Natural and Otherwise”

Karenn Krangle, the rigorous reporter from Novae Res Urbis, did comprehensive coverage of the two-day symposium called “Planning the Metropolitan Vancouver Region: A Critical Perspective,” organized by the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC last week.  There will be more to come as the videos are released.

Here are the extensive quotes from her coverage of my comments on the opening panel following SCARP honorary professor John Friedman’s major address.  This as forceful as I’ve been publicly (next to Price Tags):



Gordon Price, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, said some recent decisions made provincially or regionally indicate we’re operating on the assumption that disasters are not going to affect our day-to day-lives.

“Think about what the [provincial government’s planned new] Massey bridge means,” he said. “There’s something that’s going to cost us roughly the cost of the Broadway subway — $2 to $3 billion. “It’s going to put immense pressure on the land south of the Fraser — that’s what transportation infrastructure does.”

Price noted that a good part of the land in that area is below sea level (or, relatively soon, will be – ed).

“Now, what kind of people would spend that kind of money to do that at this point? It’s the people who don’t take catastrophe, whether it’s slow-moving or one that could occur in the next half hour [seriously],” he said. “Not only that, they’ve moved into denial — denial at the highest level, because those are serious commitments that have been made.”

Price said goods movement, particularly of fuels, is shaping the regional growth strategy and who we are becoming. He said he is distressed to see that the area south of the Fraser, the region’s fastest growing, is “becoming motordom by default.

“And it’s again shaping decision-making in places you would not expect it.” Price said the Tsawwassen band’s Tsawwassen Mills development is one of those decisions.

“What it says is the aboriginal peoples, who speak of their seven generations and their love and respect and connection to the land, are prepared to, with the right dollars in front of them, build the worst manifestation of a car-dependent growth that we’ve seen in about a generation and they’re doing it on an international flyway and they’re doing it below sea level and they’re doing it on the edge of the region,” he said.

???????????????????????????????Price noted the Tsawwassen Mills site’s proximity to the agricultural land reserve (right, under development).

He also argued that Metro Vancouver is becoming one of the largest “carbon transfer points” on the planet. “If you can dig it up, put it in a pipe and get it to a port, we’ll sell it, so you can burn it somewhere else,” he said. “Oil, certainly. Bitumen, maybe. Natural gas, for sure. And coal, thermal coal.”

Price said the provincial government’s planned referendum on transit is not just about transit but “potentially a moral crisis.

“Because if that goes down, who can we say we are? We’re a carbon dealer to the planet, one that’s prepared to open up the ALR and lands below sea level, motordom by default and basically nullify the regional plans and the meaning of the region itself.

“No more compact region. No more complete communities. No more of them being joined by rapid transit. No more region that means anything.”

Price, referring to the fact that the regional body was created in 1948 after the Fraser River flooded, said Metro Vancouver has proven it can handle natural disasters, but it now has to prove itself in a different way.

“We’re going to redefine ourselves by this vote, and everything else that follows,” he said.

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  1. We cannot plan the world around disasters that may happen 20 year or 200 years from now. 2/3 of Holland is below sea level and that has worked very well. Parts of Delta and Richmond are below sea level. So what ? Perhaps the dykes ought to be increased by another 1 m. That can be done in time.

    Many people like space, or a yard, or distance to their neighbors, and space requires efficient transportation, for example by car. It is not practical to take a train or bus from Delta to Vancouver, Surrey or Richmond. Cars are the only logical choice.

    Not everyone wants to live in dense cities. Some do, and many do not. Some folks prefer to ride a bike, or to walk, or to ride a bus and some prefer to ride a car. As such it is politicians’ jobs to accommodate people’s choices, namely: all of them ! Riding a bike is not morally superior to riding a car. It is just another choice. A bike also takes less groceries and family members or works poorer when it is raining.

    A reduction in the ALR in a fast growing region like Lower Mainland ought to be discussed. Does it really make sense to grow blueberries on land that costs up to $10M an acre ?

    Bus and transit riders vote NDP, perhaps 70%+. Is it really a surprise that investment into more buses or public transit is not preferred by the Liberals ?

    Yes, I wished they build a subway to UBC, and in time, it will be built, once car use is so bad that people demand it. MetroVan could easily convert Broadway or 4th to 2 lane roads or give priorities to buses, btw. Why is this not done ?

    Yes, the referendum is a smoke screen because Metrovan needs more public transit and more roads/bridges/tunnels, and that is why we elected politicians to make those decisions or tradeoffs.

    What would you do, Gordon, as a transportation minister or premier ?

    We could also allow ride sharing apps as opposed to catering to taxi unions or bus driver unions ! Many solutions, by the private sector, are available to ease congestion. Not all transportation solutions have to be provided by the public purse. Many private solutions exist that ought to be explored in an age of limited, and perhaps even shrinking, public sector !

    The May 2013 provincial vote was not for more public investments, but for less. For less government, not more ! So let’s plan within this context !