Thursday, January 22, 2009

Maquarie's Offices In Lock Down

Maquarie Banks offices in downtown Vancouver were in lock down mode Thursday as about 60 activists rallied outside against the bank's involvement in the controversial Gateway project.

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

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Public barred from Gateway Announcement

Residents of Surrey and Vancouver were blocked from entering the site of an announcement regarding the controversial Gateway Program on Monday.

The announcement was held on private property behind barbed wire fences. Some in attendance speculated this was a deliberate attempt to keep the public from attending an event about the project which is becoming increasingly unpopular.

The announcement was billed as the official launch of construction on the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) portion of the program. But it contained little new information. The Federal government promised support but did not offer any specifics in terms of funding.

The Prime Minister painted the project as part of his government's economic stimulus package. But opponents pointed out that transit projects create seven times as many jobs as highway building.

Dozens of protesters turned out to meet the federal and provincial government officials as they entered the site. Protesters pointed out that the project will do irreversible harm to Burns Bog, destroy sacred First Nation sites, increase particulate pollution, destroy farmland, increase greenhouse gas emissions and harm neighbourhoods.

Light duty vehicles are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the the Greater Vancouver area.  Sustainability experts point out that the massive highway expansion project directly contradicts the province's climate change goals.

When Stockwell Day was driving through the entrance one of the protesters yelled "Hey, Stockwell prorogue Gateway."

Concerning the Province's plans for the SFPR, Environmental Stewardship Branch of Envirnoment Canada wrote that "...that the changes are not sufficient to alleviate its concerns related to the impacts of the Project on Pacific Water Shrew (PWS), hydrology, aerial deposition, and ecological integrity of Burns Bog."

The Gateway Program is opposed by the Livable Region Coalition, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, SPEC, a group based south of the Fraser called The Gateway 40 network, the majority of members of Burnaby city council, all members of Vancouver city council, the majority of GVRD (now Metro Vancouver) directors, dozens of urban planners and many environmental groups . Environmentalist David Suzuki, Professor Anthony Perl (Director, SFU
Urban Studies Program), UBC  professor Larry Frank (chair of
sustainable urban transportation systems), UBC Professor Peter
Boothroyd, UBC Professor Patrick Condon, Gordon Price and UBC Professor Bill Rees have all expressed opposition to the Gateway Program.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Nature good for the brain

An interesting article on studies that show spending time in nature can help the brain function: How the city hurts your brain - Apparently even children with ADD function better if they spend time in nature.