Archive for December, 2008

New Democrats slam Campbell’s plan to bulldoze prime Delta farmland

For Immediate Release
Dec. 9, 2008

DELTA –The Agricultural Land Commission’s decision to reluctantly hand over prime Delta farmland to Campbell government bulldozers reveals the extent to which the integrity of the farmland protection process has been destroyed, say New Democrat MLAs Charlie Wyse and Guy Gentner.

The commission has reluctantly agreed to remove 90 hectares from the Agricultural Land Reserve so the Campbell government can proceed with its preferred route for the South Fraser Perimeter Road, despite widespread public opposition. The commission said it “deeply regrets that suitable highway alignment alternatives to the use of prime agricultural land were found not to be acceptable from transportation and environment perspectives.”

The news follows last week’s discovery that construction along two sections of the proposed route started before any decision had been finalized.

“The way the Campbell government has pushed through its chosen route for the highway demonstrates an appalling arrogance. They’ve shown that they’ll do whatever they want, when they want, regardless of rules and community opposition,” said Gentner, the MLA for Delta North.

“As far as I’m concerned the commission has been strong armed into a decision that is the beginning of the end of the farmland protection process,” said Gentner. “Campbell’s route for the highway threatens one of the best soil bases for farming in all of B.C., and its removal shows the duplicity behind the Premier’s ‘green agenda’.”

Agriculture critic Charlie Wyse says the decision to fragment the farmland will deteriorate the agriculture economy in the area.

“Farmers have said they are deeply concerned that the highway will threaten irrigation and drainage systems that support agricultural production,” said Wyse. “The Transportation Minister won’t say how he plans to mitigate the impact his project will have farmland, the Burns Bog ecosystem, and neighbourhoods in Delta or how his government will enhance agriculture elsewhere in Delta.

“On the one hand the Campbell government has made promises to British Columbians to be more prudent in spending and help the economy, while on the other, the cost of the project has skyrocketed and the agricultural economy stands to suffer.”

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Media contact: Leah Herman (604) 802-8376

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ALR Conditional Approval

Gateway Campaigners and Farmland/Food Security Advocates –

 

Within hours of the Vancouver Sun hitting the paper boxes on Friday morning (with Larry Pynn’s story about construction on the South Fraser Perimeter Road starting before the ALC approval), the ALC responded by conditionally approving the decision.

 

Here’s the direct link to the decision:  http://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/application_status/Docs/38351d1.pdf

 

Given the timing, I can’t help but wonder if the Commission (which is supposed to be arms’ length from government) was in any way pressured to issue its decision to take the heat off.

 

This decision appears to rely on two problematic foundations: community need and net agricultural benefit.

 

Was the Decision Influenced by Politically-appointed Panel?

Another side of the decision, is that it was made by the South Coast Panel – a panel made up of Liberal party supporters. John Tomlinson (Langley) was a provincial Liberal constituency executive, fundraiser and generous donor. Michael Bose (Surrey) while generally very pro-agriculture, was nominated by former Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. I see some positive signs of Michael’s finger prints on the decision, and particularly the requirement that the Hamming farm be given replacement land of equal agricultural capability. That echoes of the City of Surrey’s agriculture by-law (probably the most progressive in the province) that requires for every acre the City excludes from the ALR, it adds 2 acres of equal agricultural capability.

 

Community Need

The 2005-2008 Service Plan for the ALC specifies the conditions under which the Commission may “exclude” land.

 

The Commission also may exclude suitable agricultural land to meet community needs in cases where no alternatives exist

 

But the Agricultural Land Commission Act does not treat roads and highways as exclusions: they are considered a “non-farm use” and although the land is essentially permanently lost to agricultural productivity, the land is still counted as being in the ALR. (One of the founders of both the ALR and the Farmland Defence League, Harold Steves estimates that approximately 30% of the Fraser Valley’s ALR is under “non-farm use” )

 

http://66.51.172.116/Portals/0/Downloads/Community_need_and_the_ALR_legal_review.pdf Is the link to a legal opinion commissioned in 2007 by Smart Growth BC, which concludes that “community need” is beyond the spectrum of the Commission’s authority. Since this opinion was issued, the Commission have ceased to use the language “Community Need” but continue to write decisions, such as the SFPR decision, that are clearly influenced by considerations of community need.

 

Net Agricultural Benefit

The ALC stated that the mitigation measures (and particularly the drainage) will vastly enhance agricultural productivity throughout Delta, turning the South Fraser Perimeter Road into a benefit to agriculture.

 

Although we have never obtained a legal opinion specific to ‘net agricultural benefit’, it is believed that this consideration is beyond the scope of the ALC, for much the same reasons as the ‘community need’ benefit.

 

Net agricultural benefit was offered – and strenuously fought – by Harold Steves and the Garden City Lands Coalition on the application to exclude Richmond’s Garden City Lands. Environmental lawyer Bill Andrews wrote a legal opinion for the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee in their fight against Ron Toigo’s removal of 28 acres of ALR for upscale housing development in the middle of the Tsawwassen Golf Course.

 

Harold Steves’ basic assertions on this issue is that agricultural drainage is, like any community service (roads, health care, etc) paid for by the tax payers and must not be a bargaining chip to enable the destruction of farmland.

 

What are the real costs of the mitigation measures?

http://www.vancouversun.com/Commission+gives+reluctant+okay+farmland+loss+highway/1051335/story.html  December 9th Vancouver Sun – Farmland Defence League

 

  • The ALC told me that the costs of the mitigation measures they made conditions of their approval will cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars.  It is interesting that the BC government is only offering up $26 million. Gateway 40 reps – myself (Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition) and Don Hunt (Sunbury Neighbourhood Association) are having lunch with Bruce Ralston (North Surrey MLA and NDP Finance Critic – and a former very successful agriculture critic), and you can bet we’ll be discussing this.

 

  • Whether $26 million or $100 million, this is money that was not part of the public discussion of the South Fraser Perimeter Road. Is there some infinite pot of money – particularly in this economy – to throw at these projects?

 

Drainage Plans to Ignore Sensitive Environment of Burns Bog and Fraser River

It is extremely important for the habitat conservationists among us to note the qualifying statements of the Commission around drainage, and specifically that drainage is to serve the interests of agriculture and NOT environmental concerns. This could be the death knell to Burns Bog, whose hydrology – and relationship with the Fraser River – is certain to be seriously impacted by the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

 

It also poses serious concerns for other non-farm properties. When Highway 99 was built, it altered the flow of ground water in Richmond (these issues persist throughout our valley flood plain). The Farmland Defence League has been extremely concerned that the SFPR will cause flooding. Not flooding on the farms, which is great, but how are homes and businesses adjacent to the road to be protected – or are they?  There is no talk of money to protect those investments.

 

No Consideration of Changing Global Food Security Situation

It is regrettable that the ALC continues to rely on its own historic decisions, and does not appear to have given farmland preservation elevated priority given the seemingly daily diminishing global food security situation.

 

Pollution

In response to questions about how the ALC intends to mitigate against agricultural losses from elevated pollution levels, they said they didn’t look at that issue, but relied on the Environmental Assessment Certificate. Those of us who went through that process know it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

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Campaigns update Dec 08

AGRICULTURAL LAND COMMISSION & SFPR 

Larry Pynn (Vancouver Sun) wrote a major piece in Friday’s paper on the farmland impacts, quoting NDP Ag Critic Charlie Wyse as stating that the NDP are opposed to SFPR.  Within hours of that item hitting the newsstands the Commission approved “with conditions” the exclusion of the lands. 

 

CAMPAIGNING TO MAY’S PROVINCIAL ELECTION
We continue to campaign aggressively. When we launched Gateway 20 (approaching Gateway 50) we said that the goal was the May 2009 provincial election. That remains the case. We just watched in Vancouver how a coalition of environmental interests defeated Peter Ladner (preserving the greenest member of the NPA, Suzanne Anton).  Now, similarly, we are seeing how coalitions of political moderates have de-throned the big business interests of Stephen Harper. We must similarly call on our provincial politicians to unite to defeat the most ecologically dangerous government in BC history: the Campbell Liberals.

 

DOOR-KNOCKING IN FALCON’S & CAMPBELL’S RIDINGS 

The only way that we are going to stop Gateway is to defeat the Liberal government. In particular, we need to defeat the two worst enemies of the environment: Kevin Falcon and Gordon Campbell.  I AM CALLING ON CAMPAIGNERS WITH ALL GROUPS to sign on for door-knocking days and send teams of people to Cloverdale and Vancouver Point Grey, to knock on doors and tell the voters in those ridings how their elected official is devastating the environment, health, etc,  in your community.

Campbell is a considerably easier target, as Mel Lehan is a very high profile, visibly hard-working and highly electable opponent. 

I need door-knocking teams to start working these ridings – every weekend from January to May.  We need

GATEWAY/Deltaport Teams (Delta-Surrey) 

CAUSS/Silverdale Teams (Mission)

Farmland Defence League Team 

VALTAC/TRAHVOL teams (Tsawwassen)

Fraser River Coalition 

 Similarly, we ask our member groups with representation in those ridings to arrange forums for each of the groups (the easiest example to come to mind is Karl’s environment committee at Unitarian Church). These don’t have to be meetings of hundreds of people – collectively, we can make a lot of headway speaking to mixtures of small and large groups.

I am working on a big rally in the premier’s riding – in partnership with labour and environmental groups – for closer to May, and, as recently reported, an  Echoes of Stop Gateway Rally at the East Delta Hall – probably in late February/early March. 

Thanks everyone!

Donna Passmore

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Are Surrey and Delta children sick of Gordon Campbell’s Policies?

Dear BC’s Alzheimer’s Society and BC Medical Association

 

I am writing to invite your boards and staff to come to Delta and Surrey to tour the sites of a couple of Gordon Campbell’s pet projects.

 

I don’t know whether or not BC’s Alzheimer’s Society is aware of Gordon Campbell’s vast credibility gap when it comes to his interest in protecting BC residents from Alzheimer’s.

 

I am aware – from the linked sites – that the Campbell government has spent $85 million of taxpayer’s money on Alzheimer’s research. At face value that would be highly laudable investment. Unless the same government’s other policies impose Alzheimer’s on residents – including our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

 

Given the millions of taxpayer’s dollars the Liberals have spent on Alzheimer’s http://www.bcliberals.com/EN/health_care_and_health_prevention/bc_liberals_commit_$15_million_for_alzheimer’s_research/

 

http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2005-2009/2007OTP0149-001232.htm   BC gov’t commits another $70 million to Alzheimer’s Research

 

The credibility gap comes from the Alzheimers-inducing environment BC’s premier is imposing on the residents of Tsawwassen.http://www.saveourrivers.ca/private-power-in-bc-mainmenu-48/tsawwassen-mainmenu-68  

 

http://www.powerwatch.org.uk/docs/aboutus.asp

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18990717  is the PubMed (scientific journal) study on power lines and Alzheimer’s

 

As you are undoubtedly aware, there is also powerful science connecting diesel exhaust to brain stress that leads to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/100164.php   

 

I don’t live in Tsawwassen, but my environmental and agricultural advocacy has me spending considerable amounts of time in Delta. Much of the past 4 years of my life has been dedicated to fighting Gordon Campbell’s proposed expansion of Deltaport and the his beloved truck superhighway, the South Fraser Perimeter Road (anticipated to carry traffic volumes of up to 10,000 diesel trucks per day).

 

Last Friday I took the Leader of BC’s Green Party for a tour of the South Fraser Perimeter Road.  I attach this link to photos of the tour, and I ask I particular that you note the proximity of this cancer-causing, Alzheimer’s inducing road to Surrey’s elementary schools. As you will see from the attached article that was published in the Surrey Now, the road will be within dangerous proximity to 17 schools, more than 80% of which are elementary schools.  Bridgeview Elementary School is less than 300 feet from the truck highway – putting our tiny students and our hardworking teachers directly in harm’s way.  It is even worse at IQRA Elementary, the Muslin Elementary School, which his less than 100 feet from where the truck is planned.

 

http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2006/114-4/editorial.html Ship’s Trucks and Train’s – Environmental Health Journal

 

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/570575_7  Medscape article on diesel particulate as a trigger for Alzheimer’s

 

What does diesel pollution cost us?  Interestingly, BC’s Ministry of Transportation sees pollution-induced illness as an economic opportunity (see attached). For a saner perspective, I turn to the Union of Concerned Scientists http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/solutions/cleaner_diesel/sick-of-soot-solutions-to.html who estimate that diesel pollution costs their taxpayers $21.5 billion PER YEAR.  Rough extrapolation – California’s population is about $36 million, BC’s is only $4 million – just over 10% of California’s. Do we want a transportation system that is the leading source of $2 billion annual health care tab?

 

Gordon Campbell’s actions imply that he does. That he’s okay with Surrey and Delta’s children paying with their health for his unsustainable transportation and energy plans.

 

I urge your associations to allow the Gateway 40 Citizens Network and our friends in Tsawwassen to show you how our communities are being impacted by Gordon Campbell. 

 

I can be reached by reply email or at 604-536-2790

 

Donna Passmore

Gateway 40 Citizens Network

Farmland Defence League of BC &

Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition

 

Copy: Mothers Against Power Poles

          Tsawwassen Residents Against High Voltage Overhead Lines

          Mayor and Council, Corporation of Delta

          Mayor and Council, City of Surrey

          Gateway 40 Citizens Network

          Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition

          BC Environmental Network

          Members of BC Legislature

          Jane Sterk, Leader, BC Green Party

          BC Medical Association

          Fraser Heights Community Association
          Bridgeview Community Association

          Sunbury Neighbourhood Association

          East Ladner Residents Association
          BC Teacher’s Federation
          Surrey Teacher’s Association

          Surrey School Board

          Delta Teacher’s Association

          Delta School Board

          Dr. Urbain Ip, Medical Director, Surrey Memorial Hospital
        Jim Sinclair, President, BC Federation of Labour

          CUPE BC

          Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition
          Valley Transportation Advisory Committee

          Surrey Environmental Partners
          Boundary Bay Conservation Committee
          Delta Now

          Citizens Against Urban Sprawl Society
          New Westminster Environmental Partners
          Livable Region Coalition
          David Beers, Editor, the Tyee
          Matthew Burrows, the Georgia Straight
          Bill Tieleman,  24 Hours
          Jeff Nagel, transportation writer, Black Press/Surrey Leader
          Tyler Noble, CKNW

          Mark Hume, Globe and Mail
          Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun

          Labour Environmental Alliance
          British Columbia School Personnel Association
          Environmental Educators Specialists Association
           School Plant Officials Association of BC
           Multifaith Action Society
           Interfaith Centre

Ahavat Olam Synagogue

Unitarian Church of Vancouver, Environment Committee

Unitarian Church of South Fraser
            Editor, Ecopsychology

20/20 Vision Society

            BC Family Practice Oncology Council

            Dr. Michael Seear, Oncology Department, BC’s Children’s Hospital
            UBC School of Environmental Health, Faculty of Medicine

            BC Lung Association

            UBC Centre for Health and Environmental Research

            Human Early Learning Program


MEDIA RELEASE  (Guy Gentner, MLA North Delta)

For Immediate Release 
Dec. 4, 2008

CAMPBELL IGNORES LAND COMMISSION AND PLOWS AHEAD WITH ROAD CONSTRUCTION

DELTA –The Campbell government’s decision to plow ahead with highway construction through Delta farmland before the Agricultural Land Commission has made a ruling is reckless and arrogant, said New Democrat MLA Guy Gentner.

News outlets revealed today that the Campbell government has started construction along two sections of proposed route for South Fraser Perimeter Road even though route even before ALC has not yet ruled on the removal of protected farmland on other sections of the route.

“Campbell is ramming through his preferred route for the highway even though it is harmful to farmland, the Burns Bog ecosystem, and neighborhoods in Delta,” said Gentner, the MLA for Delta North.

 “Campbell is refusing to listen to people in the region,” said Gentner. “He is recklessly proceeding with his pet project before he has proper approval. He doesn’t even have a finalized budget, and his financing isn’t in place.”

Gentner said there is widespread opposition to the route Campbell has selected because it destroys farmland, hurts neighborhoods, and threatens the sensitive Burns Bog ecosystem. He called on the government to develop a comprehensive transportation plan for the South Fraser.

“Instead of piecemeal pet projects, we need a comprehensive transportation plan that is based on the priorities for people in the South Fraser region,” said Gentner. 

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