Correspondence with Metro Van

Here we post portions of correspondence with staff or officials of Metro Vancouver. A careful reader may find alarm bells sounding as this is an organization which 22 municipal councils are about to hand over significantly more decision-making power under the Regional Growth Strategy. Bold text is selected by MetroVanWatch for emphasis.

Note that Mr Carline is Metro Vancouver Commissioner and Chief Administrative Officer. This is the top official in a bureaucracy not directly elected and not directly accountable to voters.
Metro Vancouver revokes right to speak to Regional Planning Committee on Feb 18, 2011, citing the [voluntarily implemented] Public Hearing process.

February 16, 2011

Mr. Randy Helten
Coordinator, CityHallWatch

Subject: Application to Speak to the Regional Planning Committee regarding the Greater Vancouver     Regional District Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw No. 1136, 2010

In a letter to you dated February 4, 2011, you were accepted as a regular delegation to the February 18, 2011 Regional Planning Committee.  I regret to inform you that your acceptance as a delegation was made in error and has therefore been revoked.

The opportunity to speak regarding the Regional Growth Strategy was provided at the Public Hearing held over five sessions:  November 24, 2010 (two sessions), November 30, 2010, December 1, 2010, and December 2, 2010.   The Public Hearing concluded on December 2, 2010 at 9:07 p.m. after which time written or oral representations are no longer accepted.

This is also to inform you that staff will clarify the location of the Urban Containment Boundary in West Vancouver when item 5.4 “Manager’s Report” is being considered at the February 18, 2011 Regional Planning Committee meeting.

If you need more information, please call me at 604-432-6283.


Paulette Vetleson
Corporate Secretary
Metro Vancouver accepts delegation to speak to Regional Planning Committee on Feb 18.

February 4, 2011                            File Number: CR-11-05

Mr. Randy Helten
Coordinator, CityHallWatch

Dear Mr. Helten:

Subject:    Application to Speak to Committee

Thank you for your application to speak to the Regional Planning Committee.  You have been scheduled to appear as a delegation as follows:
When:    Friday, February 18, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.
Where:    2nd Floor Boardroom, 4330 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC

Details abridged.

Assistant to Regional Committees
Phone: 604-451-6530, Fax: 604-451-6686

Metro Vancouver Commissioner rejects invitation to CHW meeting Jan 13 to respond to public questions.

On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 11:21 PM, Johnny Carline  wrote:

Dear Mr Helton:

(Hopefully we will meet soon and get past all this ‘mister’ stuff. Please feel free to address me as Johnny. Everybody else does.)

I won’t be able to attend your meeting nor will I be sending anybody else.

I ask you to compare the situation to a local public hearing process in Vancouver. Imagine a proposal that had gone through over 40 well attended public information/consultation meetings responding to input along the way. Imagine it had then been referred to a public hearing and that that process had occurred over four different nights, all publicly advertized. And then imagine the position of Vancouver staff if a group of individuals called them up two days before the Council meeting and said in effect: “ Hey, we missed all that process and we don’t agree with what you recommend. So we are going to hold our own public process tomorrow, the night before it goes to council and we want you to participate.”


[MetroVanWatch comment: The only public meetings in Vancouver on the RGS were well over a year ago (before Feb 2010). One was at the Wosk Centre when the first public draft was presented about 18 months ago, the second at Plaza 500 Hotel, where TransLink planners participate in the groups as residents, with only about 20 people in attendance. There were no public meetings in Vancouver on the current text of the RGS. When the RGS came to Vancouver Council, there was very little notice (about 2 business days, announced only by appearing on the Council agenda online). There were no public open houses or information sessions in advance. Each time the RGS was before Vancouver council there was only speaker, whose comments were not substantially incorporated into meeting reports and revisions of the RGS.]

CitiHallWatch requests, but is rejected a chance to speak to Metro Vancouver Board before its critical vote to finalize the RGS and send to municipalities for ratification within 60-days.

Request from CityHallWatch:
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 4:34 PM
Subject: Speaking to the Metro Board Friday Jan. 14, 2011 re: Regional Growth Strategy
Please accept this as my request to speak to the Metro Vancouver Board at the meeting on Friday, January 14, 2011, 9:00 am –  items G-1 related to the Regional Growth Strategy.

Response from Metro Vancouver:
Corporate Secretary’s DepartmentTel. 604-432-6250 Fax. 604-451-6686
January 12, 2011
Subject: Application to Speak to the Board regarding the Greater VancouverRegional District Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw No. 1136, 2010

Thank you for your correspondence received Tuesday, January 11, 2011 requesting an opportunity to appear as a delegation at the January 14, 2011 meeting of the Boardregarding the Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw.The opportunity to speak about the Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw was provided at thePublic Hearing which was held over five sessions: November 24, 2010 (two sessions), November 30, 2010, December 1, 2010, and December 2, 2010. The Public Hearing concluded on December 2, 2010 at 9:07 p.m. The Board does not accept written or oralrepresentations after the Public Hearing concluded. As such, I am unable to accept your application to speak to the Board. If you need more information, please call me at 604-XXXXXXX.

Sincerely,Office Manager,
[Corporate Secretary’s Department, Metro Vancouver]

[MetroVanWatch comment: BC Local Government Act does not require a public hearing to adopt a regional growth strategy, but Metro Vancouver decided to hold one. They advertised very minimally (the only text indicating the nature of the hearings was this: “a new regional growth strategy which will apply to all lands within the boundaries and jurisdiction of the Greater Vancouver Regional District”), held it in only four locations (not even Vancouver, despite its largest population in Metro Van), and only about 80 people attended from 22 municipalities. Many speakers spoke against the RGS, and many of their concerns were not adequately addressed in the final text.:

CityHallWatch repeats invitation/request for Metro Vancouver to send someone to public forum on Jan 13, 2011, to listen and respond.


Dear Mr Carline,
Ms Bowen has informed me that you have another commitment on Thursday evening. Please note that we are inviting you to designate ANY official from Metro Vancouver who is able to answer specific questions about the RGS, for the benefit of our civil society.

The invitation remains open and will not close, but I do encourage you to instruct someone to attend from Metro Vancouver in an official capacity. It would be a strong sign of Metro Vancouver’s commitment to true public engagement, before the board makes a decision on Friday.

I wish to thank you for articulating the Metro Vancouver approach in your earlier message to CityHallWatch: “…whenever a member of the public feels engaged enough to offer comment to Metro Vancouver, we all feel that they deserve a response to those comments.

So, while you may or may not agree with the response I have provided, I trust you will accept that it is offered in the spirit of civic engagement to which we all subscribe. Thank you once again for caring enough about this region to be engaged.”

It seems that if the RGS is passed on January 14, the irreversible process of transferring powers of local governments to Metro Vancouver and TransLink — neither of which offer citizens the luxury of direct elections — will have begun.

The participation of Metro Vancouver on Thursday evening would help reassure the 2.1 million people of Metro Vancouver that Metro Vancouver is truly an organization that is accessible to the public and truly committed to the spirit of civic engagement.

We look forward to your response.
Randy HeltenCoordinator
Metro Vancouver Executive Assistant tells CityHallWatch that Mr Carline is not available (12-Jan-2011)

2011Good Afternoon Mr. Helten:
Thank you for the invitation for Johnny Carline to attend the media briefing on Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy on January 13th at the Vancouver Public library.   Unfortunately Johnny has a another commitment that evening and therefore cannot attend. He will respond to your previous question regarding the legislation before the end of today.
Thank you,Executive Assistant

CityHallWatch invites Mr Carline to send an official to speak at public forum.
January 12, 2011

Dear Mr Carline,
I am writing to invite you to attend our media briefing at 7 pm, January 13, at the Vancouver Public Library. Please see the media release attached. We have formally invited Metro Vancouver to send an official to speak on record in response to a number of questions we will be posing. I would appreciate a response by 4 pm today. I would be happy to provide more information if you wish. Also, I still look forward to a response regarding the exact text of legislation you were referring to in a previous message.

Sincerely,Randy HeltenCoordinator, CityHallWatch


Dear Mr. Carline,
Most of all, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for your message, despite what I’m sure is a very busy schedule.

The issues are very complex, and I understand that many people have dedicated innumerable days to the process of crafting the Regional Growth Strategy since efforts first began.
And yet, this thirty-year guiding policy for the entire region of 2.1 million people is matter of such great importance that it should not be pushed through too fast. In the fullness of time, how will this process appear to objective observers? How will textbooks review it? I don’t know the answer, but you probably have a better sense of what it might be.

People I know tell me that the RGS first came to their attention only in the past month, after the Public Hearings ended, and if anyone had conducted a credible opinion poll last week, I suspect it would have shown that public awareness of the very existence of the plan was low. The public understanding of the actual implications of the finer details of the text (beyond the lovely photos and images) also appears to be low. Has Metro Vancouver and each municipality made a fair effort, in good faith, to engage the public? Why has there been a virtual no mainstream media coverage of the many implications of the RGS? Why was no public information session held on the latest draft document even in Vancouver, the most populous of the jurisdictions? Why not in more of the other municipalities? Did the meeting notices provide enough information about the implications of the RGS? How has Metro Vancouver dealt with the important concerns expressed in public hearings and other venues? Have any modifications been made to the draft RGS text to reflect them? In the coming week, I hope Metro Vancouver and the elected officials in each municipality can respond to questions such as these, with specific answers.
Over the life of this policy, about one human generation, elected officials will come and go at each level of government, and so will the public servants. What remains is the actual text of the document. How will it be interpreted and applied? Will it result in conflict among the stakeholders in our civil society when instead we need to work constructively together to address the challenging issues before us?

My sense is that Metro Vancouver’s decision to escalate the Board vote a week up from what we heard was to be January 21 (and even that, we felt, was too early) is not the type of decision that earns the public trust. And allowing a review period of only four business days seems too short for anyone — including not only Board members, but also all elected officials who are ultimately responsible to society for this policy. If the proponents of the Regional Growth Strategy are so confident in the text, why not permit more time for its review by everyone concerned? Can the Board decide on January 14 to do so?
The public must place a huge amount of trust in our elected officials and public servants. I hope that the actions and words of both groups in the coming six days will not only justify but also enhance that trust.

Much is made of the length of discussion time that has elapsed on the RGS. While the number of elapsed months is certainly important, I believe that more important is the quality of the discussion. And I hope that the public discourse between now and the Board decisions on January 14 regarding the Regional Growth Strategy are of the highest quality, worthy of one of the most livable regions in the world in the twenty-first century.


Metro Vancouver Commissioner and CAO informs CityHallWatch that because of the Public Hearing process [voluntarily adopted by Metro Vancouver], public officials are not supposed to receive further input from the public. See independent legal opinion on this topic.

On Fri, Jan 7, 2011 at 5:48 PM, Johnny Carline  wrote:

Dear Mr Helton:
I am responding to your e-mail to the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors at the request of the Board Chair. She is rightly concerned that after the close of a public hearing elected officials are not supposed to receive further input from the public. This is in legislation and its purpose is clearly to protect the integrity of the public hearing process from ‘lobbying’ outside of the public hearing process.
As Board members will also likely and rightly feel constrained from responding, because of the public hearing rules cited above, I will respond, not on their behalf because their views may not necessarily coincide with mine, but to indicate to you that your correspondence has not been ignored.

Let me first thank you for your input. The Board, my colleagues and I always appreciate citizens being concerned enough to offer comment, even where we may not agree with those comments. So thank you.

Now to substance: your e-mail raises two sets of concerns. The first is that the Board is rushing the process and not enough time has been allotted to hear the public or for the Board to consider the proposed plan. The second is a series of concerns about the implications of the plan itself.

The review of the existing regional growth strategy began in 2002. It reached the point of producing draft strategy papers in 2007 and since then there have been between forty and fifty meetings to which the public has been invited and have attended in large numbers. The process has involved an evolution of the strategy with iterative drafts. The last draft differed from the previous draft largely in terms of the technical aspects of implementation processes as a result of extended work with local municipal planning officials. The major policy initiatives remain largely unchanged. The public input has been exhaustively documented and made available to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors has been kept abreast of the changes that have occurred and the final draft provides a ‘black line’ guide to the final changes made as a result of the public hearing process. On January 14th, the Board will have the final draft before them and they have the prerogative to determine whether they are in a position to make a decision or not. My point is that the process has made every attempt to allow the Board members to make an informed decision in a timely manner and it has certainly involved more than four days.
The suggestion that the public needed more time was made to the Board’s Planning Committee and to the Public Hearing by Ms Elizabeth Murphy on more than one occasion. Similarly every one of the concerns raised in your position paper was raised by Ms Murphy at committee before the draft went to public hearing and again at the public hearing on more than one occasion. I am not certain whether Ms Murphy is a member of your group or not, but certainly if the position paper you circulated contains the concerns you wish the Board to consider, I would respectfully suggest that Ms Murphy has more than amply made the Board aware of these concerns through the several presentations she has made to committee and at the public hearing – all of which were documented, along with staff’s response, for the Board’s information and consideration.

I do understand that not all the concerns raised in your paper, and that were made  by Ms Murphy, met with the response from staff that you desired. There is disagreement on a number of these points. But that in itself is not reason to extend the process – otherwise we would reach infinite regress. On January 14th the test for the Board will be whether they believe they understand the concerns you have raised and whether they understand the responses made by staff to those concerns. The Board will have the opportunity to examine staff on the concerns raised and on staff’s responses to those concerns. At that point I believe they will be in a position to decide whether they can make an informed decision and what that decision is.
I am sure that in other circumstances both the Chair and other directors may have wished to respond to you directly. The public hearing process prevents them from doing so. And, again, I do not assert that their views necessarily coincide with mine. But whenever a member of the public feels engaged enough to offer comment to Metro Vancouver, we all feel that they deserve a response to those comments. So, while you may or may not agree with the response I have provided, I trust you will accept that it is offered in the spirit of civic engagement to which we all subscribe.

Thank you once again for caring enough about this region to be engaged.
Your truly
Johnny Carline
Commissioner and CAO
Metro Vancouver.


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