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.

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