A question of objectivity

Transportation is a headlining issue in the Lower Mainland right now. The Campbell administration is in the process of restructuring TransLink. And it's laying down up to $3 billion worth of road and bridge improvements as part of its controversial Gateway Program. But the provincial New Democrat's new transportation critic, Esquimalt-Metchosin legislator Maurine Karagianis, says she thinks the fact she's not from Vancouver will actually help her hold those initiatives to account.

In an interview with Public Eye, Ms. Karagianis said, "It's probably better that I - as a critic - am not directly involved politically in the local communities over there. I think it allows me to bring more objectivity to both those issues and to look at them from a much broader perspective and look at them without the local politics and local attachments interfering with my views. So I think it does give me a better opportunity to look at this in a cold-blooded way and to look at it in a practical and political sense without a lot of background in the community affecting my thinking one way or another."

That being said, Ms. Karagianis added she has "great concerns" about Gateway because "it doesn't have any sustainable solutions attached to it." Although she intends to "continue to meet with the communities affected and gather information" in advance of the fall, when she says the party will finally announce its position on the 19-month old highway-expansion program.

Ms. Karagianis took over the job of transportation critic from Vancouver-Kensington legislator David Chudnovsky earlier this week as part of the New Democrat's shadow cabinet shuffle. The party is presently split on whether to support Gateway - with Mr. Chudnovsky being seen one of the caucus members opposed to the program.

13 Comments

Hopefully Maurine Karagianis will bring to the discussion of the Gateway suite of road and bridge projects the Vancouver Island NDP perspective which became public policy during the construction of the Inland Island highway. Highway improvements are an integral and indispensible part of an overall transportation plan for a province whose population and economy are expanding.

A government that is sensitive to labour and equality issues will use public construction projects, including freeways, as a means to advance training of women and Aboriginals who have not traditionally worked in the construction sector. That's what Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark did with the Island Highway project, but their approach is intensely disliked by right wingers, including Phil Hochstein and some pundits, such as Vaughn Palmer, who thought the project was just too expensive.

There are elements of Gateway that need to be improved and re-designed, but those are mainly the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and the widening of Hwy 1 to eight lanes - that is, one more lane in each direction - is only contentious with Vancouver and Burnaby real estate interests who fear competition in the residential property market and a loss of industrial and commercial development to the outer suburbs. There simply is no environmental impact to speak of, since this project will all but entirely be built within the existing right of way.

Claims about greenhouse gas increases, made by some of the Westside environmental NGOs, have not been supported by any academic researcher in any peer reviewed journal. They have been put forward only as polemics by so-called environmental organizations, who in this debate are acting to represent the real economic interests of their direct mail contributor base, wealthy upper middle class residents on Vancouver's Westside. These people want to fight global warning by forcing working class people in Surrey and Langley to park their Fords and Chevs, so that the creme de la creme can keep on driving their Benzs and Jags over the Burrard Street Bridge, ... the very same Burrard Bridge where they won't even hear of bike lanes, let alone a toll or congestion charge!

What the heck is she talking about? Is she slagging Chudnovsky? (very classy) Since when does living in a community/region and caring about it make a politician biased? Is Karagianis seriously saying that she'll be a good critic for Gateway because she really doesn't care about Lower Mainland communities? Isn't "background in the community" (or at least input from the people who actually live in the affected areas) something the NDP should be listening to rather than being "cold-blooded" about?
Karagianis made very little sense as MCFD critic, and she's starting off the same way in Transportation. It's an important area, so I hope she starts putting a little more time into considering her arguments and statements before she makes them...

"A government that is sensitive to labour and equality issues will use public construction projects, including freeways, as a means to advance training of women and Aboriginals who have not traditionally worked in the construction sector. That's what Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark did with the Island Highway project, but their approach is intensely disliked by right wingers, including Phil Hochstein and some pundits, such as Vaughn Palmer, who thought the project was just too expensive."

The project was too expensive, since Harcourt and Clark insisted on above average union pay scales for the workers on the project. And just how many women and/or Aboriginals climbed into the Caterpillars for a day's work on that project?

"There are elements of Gateway that need to be improved and re-designed, but those are mainly the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and the widening of Hwy 1 to eight lanes - that is, one more lane in each direction - is only contentious with Vancouver and Burnaby real estate interests who fear competition in the residential property market and a loss of industrial and commercial development to the outer suburbs."

Not exactly, Budd. It addresses the congestion which is spewing tons of hyrdocarbons into the air by slow moving vehicles, plus the Trans-Canada is a a major traffic route through the region.

It's getting too expensive to live in the Vancouver-Burnaby-New West area, and people do like the benifits of more open suburban areas.

Well, it's good to see that paranoia continues to hold some tight to the old "development is progress" myth.

And, of course, the Lower Mainland, which just happens to be shaped like a bowl, will never be tainted by auto pollution because some peer-reviewed journal would have already told us so, right?

Hey let's hope some peer-reviewed journal can rid us of climate change just as quickly.

And of course, it's a class conspiracy with the west side's creme-de-la-cremes probably out to keep the local golf course away from the Indians, while enlaving workers in Surrey and Langely to urban transit.

Surely there is a car dealer or two amongst those west side cremers who don't mind selling gas guzzlers to people in Langely or Surrey.

But I'm just a little bit confused about this other conspiracy. The one between the wealthy land owners in Burnaby and the David Suzukis of the world.

It makes me wonder if there isn't perhaps a conspiracy underway right now between the auto/oil industry and some of the louder proponents of expanding gridlock from six to eight lanes.

Frankly, it really doesn't matter who in the NDP caucus is appointed transportation critic if the NDP leadership can't formulate a policy some five years after the fact.

As you well know, Red Dog, The Inland Island Highway was not overly expensive, unlike the Coquihalla. Your statements to the contrary are simply a function of your anti-union and anti-labour bias. Reports were issued on female and minority hiring, but I don't have a ready link to them, unfortunately.

Perhaps that's the real reason why people claim the project was too expensive, ... they just didn't like the employment equity aspects, but instead of coming right out and saying that, they make up stories about costs, by which they meaning the costs of hiring Indians and women.

As for your last two sentences, I have no idea what you're on about and neither do you. If you read what I posted you would see that I am in favour of the Gateway highway projects, except that the SFPR part needs to be re-designed to reduce environmental and residential impacts.

"As you well know, Red Dog, The Inland Island Highway was not overly expensive, unlike the Coquihalla."

Budd, the fact remains that both projects were
expensive, and in regards to the Inland Island Highway was a bit overly designed for the Courtenay to Campbell River section. There's over design on the Coquihalla too.

The NDP should have learned lessons from the
bad management of the Coquihalla Project but did not since they squealed loudly about the cost overruns.

Your statements to the contrary are simply a function of your anti-union and anti-labour bias. Reports were issued on female and minority hiring, but I don't have a ready link to them, unfortunately. "

It would not cost any more to hire female and minority people as it would for anyone else.

Union people aren't exactly the only ones who
are best in the business.

As for anti-union bias, save it, Budd. I've worked
in union environments (Teamsters and BCGEU) and
enjoyed the company of co-workers. In fact one of
the Teamsters made sure he picked up the donuts
and delivered them in his truck on the way back to
the trucking terminal where I worked so that this
office dude could snack on them, while writing
out the paper work.

But I would bet that there were not alot of female
and minority workers on that project to make them
equateable to the volume of other kinds of workers.

"Perhaps that's the real reason why people claim the project was too expensive, ... they just didn't like the employment equity aspects, but instead of coming right out and saying that, they make up stories about costs, by which they meaning the costs of hiring Indians and women."

Nothing of the sort. It was more to do with Clark
setting union scale wages, not the contractor as
a gift to his union buddies.

"As for your last two sentences, I have no idea what you're on about and neither do you. If you read what I posted you would see that I am in favour of the Gateway highway projects, except that the SFPR part needs to be re-designed to reduce environmental and residential impacts."

Kind of hard to do, Budd since you have the river on one side, and the cliffs on the other around Annieville, and of course then there's the farmlands south of Highway 10, but there's nothing
but farm around that region. Widening Highway 17
is not the best option available, since it would
cut Ladner in half.

The route takes up only about 50 feet on each side of the centreline, and livestock culverts can easily be put in.

You're just on the environmental bandwagon again,
playing the same song, Budd.

If we need to find more construction jobs for women and Aboriginal people, how about getting on with the promised seismic retrofitting of all those aged BC schools that will collapse and kill tens of thousands of school children in the next moderate earthquake? If we're talking about infrastructure for a developing province, wouldn't having a next generation be a worthier priority?

And Bud, I'm puzzled by your suggestion that concerns about Gateway derive solely from Vancouver/Burnaby real estate interests jealously protecting their turf. Everyone I know in that field seems quite happy to make their profits wherever they can get them, so I expect they'd welcome new opportunities opening up in the suburbs. (In fact, I understand that one of the first rules of success is to not put all your money into one market).

I don't claim to be an expert, but from what I've read about Gateway, there seems to be a lot more than that at stake. Like what happens when all that extra traffic from those expanded lanes piles up in Burnaby or at Boundary Road with nowhere to go? Should we expand public transit or passenger trains instead or do we need them all? Or how to protect our province's extremely limited reserves of farmland? Or what's happening with the "Liveable Region" plan that made this such a good place to live in the first place? These also relate to bigger questions of sustainability vis a vis the assumptions underlying the Gateway vision -- i.e. expansion of the traditional economic model that depends on massive, carbon-intense transportation of goods and components at a time when everyone is finally starting to confront realities of climate change, etc.

I don't think anyone's seriously suggesting ignoring the plight of frustrated commuters or trying to freeze what we've got in time forever. But this is clearly a time of great uncertainty and there seem to be a lot of questions that people don't want to confront. Rushing blindly ahead just to keep all those development dollars rolling in doesn't seem to be a wise approach to policy and planning or to investment, IMHO.

Can you tell me, Red Dog, what is wrong with paying union wages to people working on public sector construction projects? We pay union wages to the line public service, why not those building permanent 100 and 200 year assets for the Crown? The only reason is that you want to increase contractor profits at the expense of their labour force, not that you wish to save the Crown a nickel.

As long as the SFPR is not yet built, its design can be improved and it's impact on Burns Bog and on residents of North Delta can be reduced. It may cost more money, but that is not money wasted, it's money spent doing a better quality job. It's the same debate as on the Highway 99 project, where a tunnel that would have spared recreational lands would have increased the overall project costs by about 10%.

That the Gateway program will increase greenhouse gases is obvious. Instead of five lanes of congestion we will have ten in another decade. More sprawl, more automobile dependency, more of the same. Lets just listen to dopes like Budd and try to build our way out of it. We've gotten this far with advice like his, why stop now? After all it's the Bangladeshis who are going to pay for our greenhouse gas addiction with permanent flooding, not us. we don't give a crap about them. Why should we change our behaviour? Heaven forbid we can't own our big suburban lot and enjoy our god given right to drive anywhere and everywhere, preferably with SUVs.

Seems like Carol (a.k.a. The wet noodle) James has given everyone the bird with this appointment. She continually proves she hasn't got a clue about anything. She will see the NDP's worst defeat since the Clark/Dosanj debacle.

God can't anyone in the NDP get her to quit?

This appointment is just another reason to vote Green!

"Should we expand public transit or passenger trains instead or do we need them all? Or how to protect our province's extremely limited reserves of farmland? Or what's happening with the "Liveable Region" plan that made this such a good place to live in the first place?"

In answer to your question, Dawn, I believe that we do indeed need both more highways and more fixed rail transit, a combination of heavy rail such as the West Coast Express and a network of freeways connecting the outer suburbs.

Farmland can be preserved by the ALR if there is the political will to do so, and if urbanites understand that the ALR protects farmland, but not necessarily farmers. That requires additional policy measures and supports.

Some public projects such as the SFPR will inevitably involve some deletions from that reserve, as do other policy developments such as the Tsawwassen Treaty. If it were up to me, I would have voted against that Treaty, but I do understand that this could be inflammatory given the Band's acceptance of the deal, that in the hands of anti-treay process Indian leaders like Phillip Stewart such a rejection would be interpreted as a white government stonewalling and frustrating Native people's all over again. I expect that is why Carole James and a clear majroity of the NDP decided to reluctantly support that treaty despite the objectionable ALR exclusions.

The much ballyhooed "Livable Region" plan is a sick joke, signed off in the early 1990s by Mayors Gordon Campbell and Gordon Hogg. Under its guidance Greater Vancouver, though still a regional economy with fewer head office jobs than Calgary, has rocketed upward to having the highest housing prices in the nation. How is that "livable"? How is that a "good place to live"?

Who said economists have no sense of humour. I wonder how much the Board of Trade or the Real Estate Board paid them for this.

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