Food for thought on “Metro Vancouver 2011 Sustainability Congress” (25-June-2011)

Metro Vancouver reports that its 2011 Sustainability Congress (starts 9 am, Saturday, June 25) registration is now full (500 registrants), but that anyone can follow live webstream and by Twitter (#MVSC11). See www.metrovancouver.org for details. Promotional materials say that “Against a backdrop of two divergent future visions of our region, distinguished community leaders and congress participants will weigh in on the impact of five global uncertainties that are profoundly shaping our lives and our region – Energy, Food, Climate Change, Dematerialization and Security.”

On the topic of sustainability and this Congress, MetroVanWatch has some important observations to offer. First, it is laudable and of utmost importance that Metro Vancouver pursue the topics of sustainability. So far so good.

Second, for environmental and social sustainability, an organization must have high standards of transparency, public accountability, and public participation. Checks and balances are needed. Independent analysis is needed. Information must be provided in a timely way. Consultation must be meaningful and timely. We believe that these critical elements have been sorely lacking in the development of the Regional Growth Strategy. The RGS is the most important document ever produced by Metro Vancouver, but is in a dispute resolution process this month and next as the Board of Directors attempts to force Coquitlam to accept the RGS without changes. Coquitlam Council unanimously rejected the RGS in April. We hope that to put words into action, the Metro Vancouver staff and Board will engage in discussions in good faith with Coquitlam, continue with the non-binding dispute resolution process, and keep it open to the public. We also hope that the public and all elected officials watch this process (it’s too important to leave it up to the Board alone).

Third, from this Congress, we can all now see that the organization does have the capacity to offer live webcasting and Twitter, and to advertise important events. We believe that all meetings of the Metro Vancouver Board and its committees should be webcast live and archived for anyone to view. This is not rocket science, and it is not expensive. Instituting these measure immediately would go a long way to earn back the public’s trust in Metro Vancouver, especially as it seeks more power under the RGS. We also have seen from Metro Vancouver’s advertising of this congress, that they do have the knowhow to let the public know about important events. Contrast this to notification about the public hearing for the RGS, in local papers just a couple days before the hearings, without conveying the importance of the meetings (example of advertisement: advertised very minimally). Only a handful of people attended each of the four meetings, none held in Vancouver.

Fourth, the RGS does pose threats to sustainability, as described in this November 2010 article in The Straight in which Elizabeth Murphy shows how the RGS promotes and enables urban sprawl (threatens green space and farmland), among other problems.

Finally, and equally important, we wish the Congress success, and that Metro Vancouver makes strides toward true sustainability, based on good governance.

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Citizens concerned about public benefits arising from decisions at Vancouver's City Hall.
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