Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Last week, newly-appointed provincial New Democrat transportation critic Marine Karagianis told us the fact she isn't from Vancouver will actually help her hold Lower Mainland transportation initiatives to account. And Society Promoting Environmental Conservation campaigner David Fields seems to agree. Speaking with Public Eye, he said, "I haven't had a chance to speak with her directly. But her comment that being an outsider gives her a certain freedom in dealing with issues in a new way makes me optimistic. And I think that - give what I know of her record - she seems to be on the greener side of the NDP. So there's a good opportunity here that the NDP will come out on the side of right" and oppose the Campbell administration's controversial Gateway Program.

23 Comments

It’s interesting that when it comes to improving the hwy system through John Horgan’s riding; he is all over Kevin Falcon to make all kinds of capacity upgrades and yet when it come to making capacity upgrades in the lower mainland; the NDP suddenly cannot come up with a position.

I wonder if Mrs. Karagianis or any of the NDP actually had to spend each and every day trying to get across the Port Mann the NDP might be able to finally come up with a position. The ongoing inability to do this is an abysmal failure in leadership. Maybe “out of respect” for all of the people stuck in line ups every day they will not come up with a position until after the bridge has been built.

For perhaps the first and last time, you're essentially right, Kevin. I read Karagianis's appointment to the transportation critic's position as a clear signal from Carole James that the NDP will be taking the position that the essential elements of Gateway are necessary, though the P3 approach is dangerous and there needs to be improved routing and mitigation measures as regards the South Fraser Perimeter Road. Certainly everyone knows that the government's of Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark were on record as of 1995 to the effect that Port Mann would be twinned and that Highway 1 would be widened to eight lanes.

The positions promoted by those opposing Gateway are not a matter of environmentalism, in my opinion. It's a response designed to maintain a high level of perceived political conflict in order to keep the direct mail fundraising efforts going with a good head of emotional steam. More importantly, it's designed to pander to the real economic interests of their contributor base, which is heavily comprised of upper middle-class and upper-class residents of Vancouver's Westside. These people don't want to spend one nickel of their tax dollars on highway improvements that will mainly benefit Fraser Valley residents, and they are deeply fearful of any transportation improvement, be it either highways or genuine rapid transit, that might make residential properties in Surrey and Langley more competitive with those in Point Grey and Kerrisdale. Not coincidentally, the Westside and downtown are also the physical location for all the environmental NGO offices.

For those wishing to find some genuine information on the economic costs and consequences of automobile use, there's an article in the current June issue of the Journal of Economic Literature, published by the American Economic Association. It's titled Automobile Externalities and Policies, by Parry, Walls, and Harrington, all of Resources for the Future.

Interesting spin by Fields, who decides not to acknowledge that the most noticeable aspect of Karagianis taking this position is that she's replacing an MLA who was probably too publicly anti-Gateway for the comfort of NDP leadership...

" ... she's replacing an MLA who was probably too publicly anti-Gateway for the comfort of NDP leadership... "

Would it not be more accurate to say that the previous transport critic, David Chudnovsky, was a critic not of Gateway in total, but simply the Port Mann-Highway 1 portion of that plan? And would it not be more accurate to add that his position was not only uncomfortable for the NDP leadership, but for the majority of voters across Canada as well as in his own riding of Vancouver-Kensington?

"... the P3 approach is dangerous and there needs to be improved routing and mitigation measures as regards the South Fraser Perimeter Road."


Interesting to note that the current P3 on Hwy 1 through the Kicking Horse Canyon is scheduled for completion by Labour Day... over *six* months prior to the anticipated completion date.

In any event, my sense is that most of the general public is neither aware or are politically ambivalent to P3's. Remember, the NDP were responsible for introducing the P3 concept to the provincial arena in the first place.

As for the SFPR, the corridor has been established and property acquisition is nearing completion. The only problem that I had was the fact that the ministry seemingly "gave in" to some erroneous residential complaints in East Ladner, whereby the chosen "South Option" will consume an additional ~43 acres of farmland and have an added cost of ~$40 million.

Interesting to note though, that the NDP was responsible for upgrading the 2-lane "Colwood Crawl" on Hwy 1 (which runs through Karagianis riding) into a 4-lane freeway!

With the NDP's dubvious position on the Tsawwassen FN treaty apparently reflecting itself in an 18-point lead for the Liberals... could their upcoming Gateway position cause even a further slide in the polls???

Well, maybe, if you want to take it that far. My point remains that Mr. Fields' hope that shuffling Chudnovsky away from the portfolio indicates the NDP could be preparing to oppose Gateway seems more than a little misguided.

Hard to say Bob, but I think the constant inability to make a decision on anything is not helpful for the NDP. What’s worse is the few times Carole James does make a decision, if there is any controversy she immediately flip flops and takes the cowardly way out.

It will be interesting to see how the vote ends up on the Tsawwassen First Nations treaty this fall. Lali defied James on the last controversy and finds himself still in the shadow cabinet so for those NDP MLA’s who don’t agree with her lame after the fact position on the treaty may look to either skip the forced vote or openly defy her and vote in favor of the ALR.

Either way it is loose- loose for Carole James. If she is so supportive of the deal she should have said so upfront. Waiting until after the fact and secretly hoping it would be voted down was a hi-stakes gamble that she will continue to pay heavily for.

Kevin:

As someone who DOES spend time crossing the Port Mann bridge day in and day out for a profession, I'm thankful that I'm paid by the hour. However, twinning the port mann was never part of the original gateway concept. The Golden Ears Bridge was designed to take away a portion of traffic headed to the tri cities area. Twinning the Port Mann will not relieve congestion in the long term. Rather, it will just put more cars on the road, and make the Private vendor more money in tolls.

As a professional driver, I find it repugnant that we have to pay tolls period to use these soon to be great infrastructure marvels. At the end of the day however, those added costs (plus no doubt a nice chunk for the pockets of the trucking company owners) will be passed along to the consumer of the goods that we are transporting throughout the lower mainland.

In effect, the tolling of all new projects will result in inflationary pressures at the gas stations, department stores, and just about anything and anywhere else where ground transportation is involved on getting the goods to you. And I'm sorry Kevin, but I don't care what you say, but there's going to be gridlock at every other Non Toll bridge (ie Patullo, Alex Fraser, Knight Street Oak etc.)

But like I said, I'm paid by the hour, and I have no qualms about going through mission and back in that way, to save my company the money on the tolls. Its not my truck or my fuel.

I fervently hope that Nicholas Simons is a stronger critic of MCFD than was Ms Karagianis.

What is left to be said about that sad Ministry that hasn't already been said?

Is Campbell so concerned about the way he might look if he were to admit to having made a mistake that he is willing to continue to put the children and youth of BC at risk into the future? How long before they are to matter again?

What will it take? Another child death? Is Campbell's ego so great that he is willing to risk blood on his hands?

The juxtaposition of MCFD and Transport will present Ms Karagianis with an opportunity to raise some interesting questions.

For example, why BC never has enough money to invest in its humnan capital when there's billions available for physical mega-projects? Why are governments automatically able to cover massive unbudgeted cost-overruns for physical projects, but not a penny extra to address crises at MCFD, CLBC and other social services unless some external agent stands up and makes an embarrassing fuss about the life-threating consequences?

Why is traffic congestion, capacity to host more conventions, or the cachet of hosting a major international event more important than the safety, welfare and/or gift of a productive life for tens of thousands of kids, families and disabled adults? Don't both contribute to the economy?

How can we live in these gleaming cities, with ever bigger and more beautiful buildings and homes, overflowing flower baskets, manicured parks and well-maintained roads, while behind the scenes our social infrastructure rots and loses a little more capacity to meet the needs of our less fortunate citizens every day? Is it simply a question of visibility (the ribbon butting, the solid reward of a shiny new asset vs. the PR challenge of showing a normal life as an extraordinary achievement)? I don't know about the other social services, but whether it's child care, special ed supports in school, community living or early intervention therapies, there's more waiting lists, less support available and more desperation on almost every front compared to 10 years ago.

Dawn Steel, you are quite right in you comments.
Program cuts for social issues seem acceptable to the folks who want bigger roads, bigger stadiums, Trade centers and of course the Olypic venues,with a very expensive highway in between. All of which burn up cash in big bunches.

Now we find ouselves back to the old socred days of paving anything that doesn't move. We always seem to have the money to do so, with little questions allowed .

Sure traffic will grown along with the roads, people live in the sticks because their possibilty of buying downtown was lost quite awhile ago. Let's improve public transport and a few commuter trains would be a good place to start. Our BC Rail which was making a profit for the citizens of BC until sold off, sorry just leased for about 900 years , suddenly start having some pretty awful accidents. The BC Ferries, bought way back when by WAC Bennett is still getting subsidized but to some outside of government group. Now it seems the ferry accidents and incidents are often in the news. New one yesterday. seems a fery lost power and hit a dock? wonder how much money from the BC citizens will be needed for this little bump? BC is great for those with the cash. Others best not get sick, need social programs and we go around seeing Olympic license plates on some folks cars. Our priorities seem wrong and if the Opposition critcs keep pounding, maybe somethings might change. Trying to shame the Campbell and Co. group seems to get us no where . THose that have it, intend to keep it, those without, well tough on them seems to be the attitude.

"Interesting to note that the current P3 on Hwy 1 through the Kicking Horse Canyon is scheduled for completion by Labour Day... over *six* months prior to the anticipated completion date."

"As for the SFPR, the corridor has been established and property acquisition is nearing completion. The only problem that I had was the fact that the ministry seemingly "gave in" to some erroneous residential complaints in East Ladner, "

It's not the slightest bit interesting that some supposed schedule is being surpassed on the Kicking Horse project. How is this any kind of meaningful P3 where there is no tolling involved?

As long as the road has not been built the route can be improved and mitigation strategies improved. That will be the key role played by the environmental assessment.

A few points:

BC Rail (and previously PGE) did not make government money. The company had ongoing deficits in almost all years. The provincial government had to write off of billions in debt.

The deal the government cut with CN is quite interesting. Normally in Canada a railway owns the land the tracks are on, but not in the BC Rail deal. The upshot of this is that there is no way CN can choose to build something else on the lands as has often happened with other railway lines.

BC Ferries is still government owned. It is still under direct government scrutiny. It is in the same status us other business oriented Crown Corporations such as BC Hydro.

Why is BC Ferries having all these problems? No idea, but if it is to be blamed on the ownership structure, then it is a problem with being government owned......

"However, twinning the port mann was never part of the original gateway concept. The Golden Ears Bridge was designed to take away a portion of traffic headed to the tri cities area. Twinning the Port Mann will not relieve congestion in the long term. Rather, it will just put more cars on the road, and make the Private vendor more money in tolls."

You're absolutely wrong on both counts, Kegler. The twinning of Port Mann is the integral element of Gateway, identified by the NDP Govt as early as 1995, long before there was a committment to the Golden Ears structure, which was moved west from a 232nd Street alignment to a 200th Street alignment in order to service the CP intermodal yard in Pitt Meadows.

If you're buying into the fake theory that freeways and bridges magically generate more traffic, you've been conned by junk science of most unethical kind. There are various "advocacy" groups around Vancouver who happily peddle this transparent nonsense and who pretend to know, based on supposed expert authority, that this is the entire accumulated science on the subject. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fake studies done in the US that purport to link growth in traffic to growth in highway capacity excluded growth in population! Once population growth was included in the statistics, the perverse positive relationship between freeway capacity and congestion disappeared, and was replaced by the negative correlation that common sense would suggest.

Not one of the Gateway critics has disputed the BC Stats population forecasts for the GVRD and the Fraser Valley. They apparently want the private business and household sectors to expand endlessly without an concommitant or proportionate expansion in the region's highway and freeway capacity. Politely speaking, they are living in a dream world. Putting it just a bit more bluntly they are attempting for reasons I have talked about above (raising funds and pandering to their upper class contributors) to impose a gridlock nightmare on the region.

They seek, ... they say, ... to avoid excessive air pollution and green house gases, even though a report done for the Gateway project made it clear that the completion of these highway expansions would add immaterially to overall GHG production, and despite the fact that road traffic produces less than one fifth of GHGs in this country. What they really seek to do is to force working class residents of Surrey, Langley and Maple Ridge to park their Fords and Chevs so that their creme de la creme Westside supporters can keep on driving their Benzs and Jags.

'For example, why BC never has enough money to invest in its humnan capital when there's billions available for physical mega-projects? Why are governments automatically able to cover massive unbudgeted cost-overruns for physical projects, but not a penny extra to address crises at MCFD, CLBC and other social services unless some external agent stands up and makes an embarrassing fuss about the life-threating consequences?'

Part of the answer lies in the decision Campbell et al took to change the name of the community services sector to the "contract sector". Language is everything and taking away the important and defining word "community" and labeling it with a term used in Big Business changed the way people think about this work.

Another part of the answer lies in HOW money for children and youth is spent. Spending scarce dollars on a very generous Living Allowance for a senior public servant who is already very well paid is a shameful waste. In the meantime, many of the experienced and committed to children and youth folks have left the ministry or have been fired. Invest in Human Capital and value/nurture it? I hardly think so.

Fear, confusion and exhaustion among its staff is the order of the day at the New Ministry of Child and Family Development of British Columbia and this is a serious crisis that the Premier has chosen to ignore hoping, evidently, that it will just go away. It is not going to go away.

Making it work requires much more than just traipsing around the province talking the talk. We've been listening to the talk for 18 months now and believe that the walk needs to be out the door. MCFD is on the verge of imploding.

Thanks to Budd for providing a link to a peer-reviewed academic article detailing why the Gateway project is a massive public policy mistake. As the article points out, the external costs of automobiles are $1.76 US per gallon, assuming a car gets 20 miles per gallon. That is $0.46 per litre. In other words, that is the amount of tax car drivers should be paying per litre if we want to cover all the external costs associated with driving, like air pollution, accident deaths, and global warming. This does not include infrastructure costs such as parking, highway construction, and maintenance. So basically what this says is that society provides a massive subsidy to car drivers well in excess of taxes currently paid by drivers.

With Gateway, what we are going to do is make this subsidy worse. By making it easier to commute, and by encouraging more people to lock themselves into an automobile-dependent lifestyle, this subsidy will increase. Instead of reducing real costs of commuting through highway construction, we should be doing the opposite- higher gas taxes and road tolls. There- I even have a peer-reviewed academic article to support me.

Budd- Your whole argument that Gateway opposition is a conspiracy launched by Vancouver landowners who fear the cheap valley land is laughable. Opponents know what this is really about- more air pollution, more carbon dioxide emissions, and more sprawl. That this will undermine the ALR is also clear- the direct impact of the bridge has been to increase land values up the valley, creating a direct financial incentive for farmers wanting to sell their land for new cookie-cutter subdivisions whose new residents will have to drive four miles from to buy a jug of milk. If there is a conspiracy, it is suburban developers being the largest donors to Kevin Falcon whose back he is about to scratch in return.

There is no defence for Gateway from a public policy perspective, as your article clearly demonstrates. The only defenders are people living in the valley whose land values will increase and so have a financial incentive to support it, or people who are too pathetic to suck it up and ride the bus and/or made the foolish decision of getting a cheaper house in the burbs distant from jobs and services and who now think society should bail them out for making this foolish decision. But like I say, the Bangladeshis will pay for our behaviour, not us, so who gives a crap. Right?

Bernard, I still figure you are wrong. BC Rail showed profits for more years thn it did not show a profit. When in Opposition Campbell said he might sell it, lost the election, next time around said he wouldn't sell it, got elected and promply sold it or long term leased it.

The Government sunsidizes BC Ferries but under the weird system the ferry corporation cannot get lower lending rates nor can it get away from paying the federal taxes on boats bought offshore. The supposedly hands off to a corporation by government comes in handy when something goes wrong. The Minister jumps around a lot on the subject.

The latest used ferry they bought( Sonia) got off the hook with the excuse that thye couldn't find one in a hurry. That boat has been in for overhaul twice that I am aware of. Was it a great deal for BC? I wonder.

Hey Budd, it's Dagmar.

"What they really seek to do is to force working class residents of Surrey, Langley and Maple Ridge to park their Fords and Chevs so that their creme de la creme Westside supporters can keep on driving their Benzs and Jags."

I couldn't agree more. The people who always say "you can't build your way out of traffic" either live in the West End where you only have to walk a block or two to work or else the people on Commerecial Drive who only have to walk a block or two to get a loaf of bread and rolling papers. As for the rest of us who work and pay the bills, we have a right to not wait in traffic for over an hour each way.

“If you're buying into the fake theory that freeways and bridges magically generate more traffic, you've been conned by junk science of most unethical kind.” Budd Campbell

I completely agree with this comment. If this were untrue than why we would not all simply have single lane; alternating traffic roads? Because we know roads must be of a sufficient capacity to meet the needs of the population. I’ll grant that the NDP did an important job rebuilding the Island Hwy, in spite of the overpriced Union labor used to build it. Is there gridlock all over Vancouver Island now as a result ? No. The slowest most congested section of the Coquihalla used to be the two lane section just west of Merritt, now that it has finally been upgraded to a full four lanes has gridlock been created as people like Dagmar suggest ? Absolutely not

What is more funny; once you finally manage to get through the Port Mann bridge; and enjoy the benefit of the added HOV lane that the NDP added, suddenly the traffic gridlock ends and things move smoothly again. Why some idiots cannot see that extending this HOV lane in both directions all the way across the Port Mann would not help move traffic along and at the same time open up the possibility for bike and bus transportation is beyond me.

Interesting that people like Dagmar; who get paid hourly to sit on the Port Mann traffic jam oppose it moving faster. I suppose he enjoy’s getting paid to sit and do nothing and if the bridge traffic moved faster he would have to actually get more actual work done. Not to mention that the majority of real commercial truckers actually get paid by the mile and get screwed by the current gridlocks. Considering the NDP did good by undertaking the Island Hwy project and adding the HOV lane, why would they not be consistent in continuing to advocate for increased HWY capacity? Maybe the Burnaby based Derrick Corrigan crowd has become too powerful within the party and without any real leadership to take a firm direction; they continue to drift aimlessly down the polls as a result.

To show you that the Port Mann twinning is not well thought out, one only needs to look at the traffic congestion westbound after the Port Mann. As previously stated, I drive professionally in and around the lower mainland. In this grand thought out scheme by Kevin Falcon, no one has addressed the infrastructure improvements needed to accomodate the twinning of the Port Mann bridge in the Coquitlam/New West/Burnaby/Vancouver/North and West Vancouver components of HWY 1.

All Falcon talks about is the bottleneck on the southside of the Port Mann, which is a valid point. However if $$$ went towards transit improvements and efficiencies, and incentives for people in the burbs to park and use that transit, it would have been smarter. The last few days westbound on hwy 1, the traffic has been clogged from the Port Mann bridge all the way to the Cassiar Connector.

So unless you twin Hwy 1 from basically Abbotsford to Squamish, all the Port Mann twinning is going to do is add to the bottleneck. More vehicles sitting and polluting. Thank goodness I'm paid by the hour to sit in it.

perverse logic, unethical studies, Bud, only someone who does not understand how supporting infrastructure for more cars and traffic will invite more cars and traffic because people have no choice, as there is no adequate public transit and other alternaives.It is called the car culture.i am certainly not blaming people as I said they do not have a choice except to drive to make it to work or buy groceries etc. Just drive out to surrey Cloverdale and examine that development that invites you to have to have a car.Your obsession with this project is clouding your judgement and I think you are the one with the perverse logic.

"Thanks to Budd for providing a link to a peer-reviewed academic article detailing why the Gateway project is a massive public policy mistake. As the article points out, the external costs of automobiles are $1.76 US per gallon, assuming a car gets 20 miles per gallon. That is $0.46 per litre."

Those aren't the figures that appear in the article by Parry, Walls and Harrington. They calculate, based on a per gallon basis, even though some taxes should be levied on a VMT (vehicle miles travelled) basis that one would have to add $2.10 to each American gallon to cover all externalities. Interestingly enough, the most expensive externality is congestion, taking up half the total, clearly implying that if these tax revenues were to be raised, a significant portion of them should be devoted to highway expansions and improvements. Greenhouse warming is only 6 cents and local air pollution is a much more significant 42 cents. [These figures are in Table 2 of the article, on page 384, which Brendan clearly didn't read].

These figures stand in sharp contrast to the unethical and intentionally misleading junk science and guilt psychology peddled by the anti-Gateway lobby.

"Budd- Your whole argument that Gateway opposition is a conspiracy launched by Vancouver landowners who fear the cheap valley land is laughable. Opponents know what this is really about- more air pollution, more carbon dioxide emissions, and more sprawl. That this will undermine the ALR is also clear- the direct impact of the bridge has been to increase land values up the valley, creating a direct financial incentive for farmers wanting to sell their land for new cookie-cutter subdivisions whose new residents will have to drive four miles from to buy a jug of milk. If there is a conspiracy, it is suburban developers being the largest donors to Kevin Falcon whose back he is about to scratch in return."

Brendan is right that suburban and ex-urban prices would increase, but at the expense of a marginal decrease in urban prices. That's what this debate is really all about. You can say it's a conspiracy by suburban owners to raise their values, or that the opposition to it is a conspiracy to keep urban prices from falling. There's probably something of both going on. The difference is that the suburbanites have never voted down a needed rapid transit improvement or denied Vancouver any of its other essential public services.

Budd- The $1.76 figure was from the 2006 discussion paper online. It has since been revised and now shows the $2.10 figure as you correctly point out. Thanks again. That is $0.55 per litre that should be levied in gas taxes, on top of what is already levied for infrastructure. And that doesn't include noise, loss of natural habitat to highway expansion, lowered property values for areas beside highways, pervasive subsidies for parking, and other externalities such as loss of pedestrian facilities since no one cares to walk between strip malls.

As for your argument that the congestion taxes would mean more money for highways, you can't put the cart before the horse. How much capacity will be needed once a $.55 tax is added is not known- it could be less. Let's put these peer reviewed taxes on the price of gasoline and see what happens to traffic- in addition to your suburban land prices.

The whole other question you are ignoring, which the article clearly addresses, is why gasoline taxes should not also be used to raise general government revenue, not only to cover the numerous, currently unpaid for external costs, but also the costs of government, such as health care and education. Why should we pay taxes on income for these services, and not gas? Clearly there is nothing wrong with income, why tax it for general revenue, and not gasoline? Using this argument, taxes on gas should be even higher.

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