Speakers at the rally highlighted what they called the "twin meltdown" of climate change and the global financial crisas. Maquarie bank has been selected as as part of the perferred bidder team but has yet to sign a contract. Recently it has been revealed that Maquarie is having difficulty securing financing for the project.
“The Premier has more than enough reasons to rethink the Gateway Project, the international banks balking at financing the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge is only the latest,” said David Fields of the Livable Region Coalition. “ The twin meltdowns of the economy and the climate signals that we need to do it differently, that we must have economic policy and investments that support the environment. Gateway is a waste of money that has been proven to worsen carbon and other air pollution, we need transit first.”
According to the BC Treasury Board, for every million dollars spent, transit projects create more jobs than road projects by 7 to 1. A report released yesterday by Sustainable Prosperity ranked investments in public transit as the top green economic stimulus option for Canada, whereas freeway and bridge expansions were ranked as third from last.
“Back in September, 2004, BC’s Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon first announced a price tag for the twinning the Port Mann Bridge of $800 Million. The most recent numbers, as quoted in Project Finance Magazine, was $2.3 Billion, almost triple the original estimate,” said Ben West, Healthy Communities Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee.
Now, Macquarie Bank, one of the Gateway project’s financiers, has failed to meet a January 8th deadline for signing off on the project’s financing. It has been reported that Macquarie is struggling to raise the $2.3 Billion it would need due to the global financial crisis and doubts about its business practices. The federal government will table a budget on January 27th that may pass the bill for the full cost of the Gateway project onto taxpayers.
“Investing in transit first is not only the greenest and economically appropriate option for Metro Vancouver, it is also very popular with the public,” stated Fields. “A recent public opinion poll shows that residents prefer transit to freeway expansion by 2 to 1.”
A May public opinion poll conducted by Synovate on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation and The Livable Region Coalition found that 69% of Metro Vancouver residents support redirecting money from freeway expansion to public transit in order to fight climate change. The same survey found that 60% of residents, or 2 to 1, support projects like the Evergreen Line and SkyTrain expansion to Surrey over the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and expanding Highway 1.
Photos by Eric Doherty