With just eight weighted votes (just two Directors at four votes each) above the required 85 for a two-thirds majority, the Board of Directors of Metro Vancouver on May 23, 2014 narrowly approved the controversial Southlands development in Tsawwassen, Delta. This decision is a test case for the Regional Growth Strategy, and for Metro Vancouver itself.
Let’s look back on the insightful words of David Cadman in 2011 to Vancouver City Council. He predicts exactly what may have happened with voting on Southlands. The public needs to take the long view, connect the dots, and hold our politicians and public servants accountable. And this is the year to do it.
During the City of Vancouver Council debate on March 3rd, 2011, before Council decided to ratify the Regional Growth Strategy, then-Councillor David Cadman in just five minutes eloquently summarized the key shortcomings of the RGS compared to the Livable Region Strategic Plan it was to replace. Here are his closing remarks, on video.
Here is a summary of what Cadman said in 2011:
I cannot support the Regional Growth Strategy. I worked for 19 years with the Regional District, developed [the LRSP]. The essence was “protect the Green Zone” – build a compact metropolitan area that will be serviced by good public transit…
What gives me most misgivings about the RGS … is what this will do to the Green Zone. (He refers to prior losses of agricultural land in Tsawwassen and Maple Ridge, and threats to most of the forested land on the North Shore.)
The ability to change the boundary is going to mean an enormous amount of pressure on adjacent lands either for industrial purposes or for sprawl. We are going to eat away at the agricultural land that — in the future, when we hit peak oil and cannot afford to transport a morsel of food three thousand kilometres to our plate — is going to be absolutely essential to feeding this region.
By lowering the threshold of some of these lands for modification, my fear — and I have seen this at the Regional Board — is that effectively we will have municipalities say “I will support your removal [of land from protection] if you support my removal.” And they will be able to put together the votes to do that. I think that will really undermine this [Regional Growth] Strategy.
Regional Growth Strategy is the wrong strategy at the wrong time.
If you have a Green Zone, that’s what people understand. If you have an Urban Containment Boundary, well you can always vary the containment boundary. You will always get pressure from municipalities to change it.
City Council went on that day in March 2011 and ratified the RGS anyway, with Councillors Cadman and Anton opposed. The RGS passed by a 5-2 vote, with Mayor Robertson and Councillors Chow, Jang, Meggs and Reimer in support. (Ironically, Deal, Jang, Meggs, and Reimer valiantly voted against the Southlands decision on May 23, 2014 — except for Robertson, who rushed out just before his name was called — yet it was they and others who rushed the RGS into existence in 2011 were the collective architects of its creation.) This is how things have unfolded. Politicians set up this system, and now it is functioning just as designed.
MetroVanWatch urges everyone to keep the spotlight on the Regional Growth Strategy, as well as this Southlands decision, and the processes leading up to it. November 15, 2014 is the civic election day in British Columbia, and the stakes are even higher this year, with the term now being extended to four years.
Each Metro Director should who voted on Southlands should be held up to the spotlight for review and accountability. So should the very processes in each municipality that led to each of their votes. Can each Director point show how their vote reflected the interests of their community and the region? The public has the right to ask and to get answers to exactly how and why each municipality voted on Southlands. And exactly what was said during that 40-minute closed portion of the meeting? If you have insights to share on all of this, please comment below, or send us an e-mail to citizenYVR@gmail.com. MetroVanWatch offers whistleblowers confidentiality.