5 Green Fights For The Future of British Columbia

Port Mann bridge, pre-twinning. Image: Jenn Pentland

Highway Expansion

Since the 1950s Vancouver residents have managed to fight off any highway expansion into the city. The multi-billion dollar Gateway Project, which includes a plan to twin the Port Mann bridge at a cost of $1.5 billion, is the latest in a long line of planned highway expansions in the Metro Vancouver area. The opposition group, GatewaySucks.org, explains the project from their perspective.

The Gateway Project is the most environmentally threatening highway mega-project in British Columbia's history. It WILL affect our region's air quality and hasten global climate change. And it WON'T reduce traffic congestion.

There has been virtually no meaningful public consultation on this project, nor have any environmental assessments been completed. The Province has just announced plans to "streamline" the environmental assessment process in order to break ground on target.

The project is being touted as a "solution to traffic congestion," although every traffic planner knows there is NO evidence to support this approach. All evidence proves that increasing road capacity does not decrease congestion – in fact, it makes it worse.

In fact, Gateway was never intended to ease commuter traffic – it was conceived to move goods, not people. It's true intent is to facilitate trade with Asia. The appeal to local drivers is a simple ploy to garner votes.

The provincial government is pitching the Gateway project as a way to ease "growing regional congestion" and "improve the movement of people, goods and transit throughout Metro Vancouver." And as for the green side of the project, provincial transportation minister, Kevin Falcon, has said, "When you get traffic moving, it is actually a lot better than having traffic sitting and idling for 13 hours a day pumping emissions out in the atmosphere." I should point out that Falcon received at least $80,000 in campaign contributions from property development, management, construction, and transportation companies before and during his 2005 election campaign.

Why is the Gateway project bad for BC's environment?
There will be more cars on the road, with conservative estimates that the project will induce just shy of 200,000 tonnes of increased greenhouse gas emissions per year. Oh yeah, and farmland will be paved over, and progressive public transit solutions have been overlooked.

Why is the Gateway project good for BC's environment?
I'm drawing a blank.

Glen Valley Organic Farm on ALR land. Image: Jenn Pentland

Farm Land and BC's Agricultural Land Reserve(ALR)

Back in 1973 the provincial government in BC established the forward looking Agricultural Land reserve. It protected 18,000 square miles (5% of BC's total area) of land to be reserved for agricultural production. The Agricultural Land Commission, which oversees the ALR, explains its inception.

ALR boundaries were based on the capability and suitability of the land, its present use, local zoning and input from public hearings.
The primary objective of the original Land Commission Act was to preserve agricultural land and encourage the establishment and maintenance of farms.

At the time it was created the ALR was supported by regulations that protected and supported farmers as well. This part of the equation has been lost, and many sustainable agricultural advocates feel that the ALR has lost its strength. The BC Food Systems Network believes that ALR reform is an important part of food security for BC and includes an explanation in their Primer for Provincial Candidates and their Constituents (pdf) in the run-up to the current election.
The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is a provincial policy designed to benefit agriculture in BC, by reserving land for agricultural purposes and regulating development. The ALR should be maintained and strengthened. However the ALR, while restricting uses of farmland, no longer has companion policies that support the ability of farmers to earn a living wage for producing food. At the same time many other policies, including food safety regulations (on meat and other products), water and waste regulations and more, make farm and food businesses more and more challenging to operate sustainably.

In his report called Farmland Forever (pdf) Charles Campbell writes about the importance of the ALR for BC.
In B.C., large urban centres lie next to the best farmland, protecting agricultural land benefits in many ways. It puts farms close to their marketplace and their labour force. It encourages good land stewardship, provides wildlife habitat and can help mitigate the damage that humans inflict on their environment. It enhances food security, which faces increased pressure from population growth, the erosion of agricultural land elsewhere, rising transportation costs, and potential calamities ranging from pandemic disease to climate change. As we plan for Canada’s future, not just decades but centuries ahead, the Agricultural Land Reserve is an enormous asset.

Why is the ALR bad for BC?
As it stands now, the process of excluding (removing) land from the reserve is controlled by local governments which have a vested economic interest in developing land for purposes other than agriculture

Why is the ALR good for BC?
It reserves land for agricultural purposes and takes the land out of speculation. It is a cornerstone of food security for BC.

More on British Columbia
British Columbia Introduces Smart Carbon Tax
Accelerating Sustainability: New Super-Green Research Lab
Bravo! Coastal Rainforest in British Columbia Now Protected
Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Buses Planned for 2010 Olympics
Grain Shipped Under Sail Reduces Carbon Footprint
295 MW of Wind Power Could be Coming to British Columbia, If The Financing’s There
Digging Up Vancouver Island to Pave California

Tags: Agriculture | Canada | Carbon Taxes | Farming | Fish | Oceans | Rivers | Transportation


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