The Metro Vancouver (GVRD) regional body serves 21 municipalities, one treaty first nation, and one electoral area — and 2.3 million people in BC’s Lower Mainland. It promotes regional cooperation and is growing in power and influence. It runs on the taxes we pay, but is not directly accountable to the public. MetroVanWatch gives citizens and communities the tools to be actively engaged in decisions that will affect them. Read more about us here. A CRITICAL QUESTION for candidates in the 2014 civic elections should be “If elected, will you work to have Metro Vancouver immediately introduce live and archived web video of ALL Director and Committee meetings”?
In 2011, the Board of the Metro Vancouver (the Greater Vancouver Regional District, or GVRD) enacted the powerful “Regional Growth Strategy” Bylaw (RGS). This important policy is intended to guide important land use decisions in our region of over 2 million million people in 21 municipalities (plus one Treaty First Nation, one electoral area) to the year 2040. (Related partners include TransLink, and regional districts of the Fraser Valley and Squamish-Lilloet.) The RGS is designed to replace the Livable Region Strategic Plan, but there is a big difference between the two. The LRSP is more like a set of guidelines. The RGS is a bylaw, a legal document with teeth and a power structure. And it will be at the top of the hierarchy. In time, municipal planning (regional context statements), official community plans, and site-by-site zoning will all have to comply with the RGS.
The mission of MetroVanWatch is to support the creation of socially, environmentally, agriculturally sustainable “Metro Vancouver” region, and an accountable and fair institution (which is controlled by the GVRD Board and staff) by promoting open discussion, dialogue, and sharing of information across the region. We do this mostly by promoting dialogue and the sharing of information with all stakeholders in this large region, with a special emphasis on the diverse perspectives of fellow citizens. We are concerned with the issues that affect the whole region, and we wish to respect the local knowledge, local autonomy, local expertise, and local wisdom of local citizens and groups. Metro Vancouver sometimes moves very quickly on complex policies and decisions, making it difficult for citizens busy with their own lives to see the big picture and keep up with policies and decisions that will intimately significantly affect their pocketbooks and lives. The Metro Vancouver bureaucracy and municipalities have ranks of lawyers, communications experts, and consultants. Individual citizens and even large public interest groups have little to compare. By offering this website as a public service as as space to share information, we hope to balance the odds a bit.
The RGS Bylaw is a very complex document. It requires a large commitment of time to analyze and truly understand its implications. The text changed frequently, especially over the final months of drafting, with most of the work apparently being done by the appointed planner(s) in each municipality. We don’t feel the process has adequately involved the public interest. We believe the RGS has been poorly explained to the public, to major stakeholder groups in the region, and even to elected officials who do not happen to be on the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors. Information has not been actively provided in a timely way. It appears there is a rush to get the RGS approved before election season, as civic elections will occur in November 2011. Yet we feel the RGS is so important that the decision should NOT be rushed.
MORE ABOUT MetroVanWatch.ca
MetroVanWatch is a new citizen’s watchdog over Metro Vancouver (Greater Vancouver Regional District, or GVRD). The website went live on February 7, 2011. We are working to network with like-minded citizens in every municipality in the region. This is a citizen-based effort launched initially to respond to the very time-sensitive challenges imposed by the RGS ratification process. We accept input from citizens and experts–anyone with a desire to promote a meaningful public discourse. Our budget is zero, and this is completely a volunteer-run initiative.
(Disclaimer: We do our best to ensure the accuracy of all information posted on this website, and will make corrections if any errors are pointed out. We also try to keep all the pages up to date, but due to the fact that this is zero-budget and entirely volunteer, we apologize for any pages that may be out of date.)
Whatever happens with the RGS ratification process, we will later consider whether or not MetroVanWatch should continue, depending on what is needed next from the perspective of our civil society and its relationship with Metro Vancouver. MetroVanWatch is a sister site to CityHallWatch, which focuses on Vancouver.
The coordinator of this site is Randy Helten, a freelance language translator who has spent the last twenty years working in Vancouver and internationally on issues of sustainability, environment, corporate social responsibility, and more. We work with many others who provide commentary, analysis, guidance and input. We have hosted a few meetings on the RGS since the beginning of January and through them have gathered a fair amount of information from people who are familiar with Metro Vancouver and its processes.
Time is very short, so the citizen response is forced to be very quick. More material is being added to this site every day. We will fill in more details, time permitting, as we move forward.
To be truly effective we believe the organization needs to be more transparent and accountable. But yet much To be effective and efficient we believe that , but we have concerns about its governance, high costs, and Regional Growth Strategy. The Board of Directors raced quickly and quietly to get the 30-year RGS enacted as a powerful bylaw in 2011. Citizen engagement at the most critical final stages was blocked. The RGS gives great powers in land-use decisions to this unelected body that has an annual budget of over $600 million. TransLink (also with an unelected board) has been given equal status to a municipality in land use decisions. Despite nice statements and glossy pictures, the RGS poses serious problems for green space, agriculture, public accountability, and more. MetroVanWatch supports strong civic engagement in each municipality and collaborative efforts in the quest for true sustainability across the region. Each municipality now has two years to adopt a parcel-by-parcel “regional context statement” (detailed land-use plan). The best summaries of our concerns are here (Straight article (RGS greenwashes unsustainable development) and here (short YouTube video of former Vancouver councillor David Cadman on the RGS). We urge citizens to study the issues and engage their elected officials.