Premier Gordon Campbell believes the provincial Gateway Program will result in a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions across the region.
The premier made that comment in an interview on April 6 at the offices of the Georgia Straight, where the controversial program was one of the main topics discussed.
"I understand that some people will disagree with it," Campbell said of Gateway. "But it’s many, many things that are happening at once to make the region more livable, to reduce our impact and our greenhouse-gas impact, and to invest in public transit. And I think that when you take all those things together—as we move to California tailpipe emissions and those other initiatives—I think you will see actually a reduction in greenhouse gases."
The Straight asked for confirmation that Campbell meant Gateway as currently on the books would reduce greenhouse gases. Ministry of Transportation documents filed with the Environmental Assessment Office in 2006, and updated in 2007, predict that 176,000 tons of greenhouse gases will be added in the Lower Fraser Valley annually until 2021 as a result of Gateway.
"Well, you’ll have to define what you mean by the Gateway program," Campbell responded, before giving his definition. "I define the Gateway project as public-transit initiatives and as goods-movement initiatives. I define the Gateway project, frankly, as transportation to invite people from the rest of the world here. I define the Gateway project as port initiatives. I define the Gateway project as being a sustainable long-term economic strategy that says, ”˜Yes, we are going to reduce our greenhouse gases within that context. Yes, we’re going to have economic activity. Yes, we’re going to have jobs.’ And that’s going to happen across the region and across the province."
In a column that appeared on Straight.com on March 10, Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Maureen Bader criticized the cost of the Port Mann Bridge supersizing project—a major Gateway plank—as experiencing "scope creep". Bader wrote that the cost was initially $600 million, in 2004, and "ballooned" to $1.5 billion in 2006 when the span was to be twinned. Now the twinning has been scrapped in favour of replacing the existing bridge with a superstructure. Bader noted that the cost is now around $3.3 billion.
"As we embark on what may be yet another boondoggle, we should stop for a moment and ask why almost every government subjects taxpayers to their very own fast-ferry fiasco," Bader wrote.
In response to the "boondoggle" accusation, Campbell said: "I have no idea what she means by that."
The premier claimed the new bridge upgrade will provide taxpayers with "good value", adding that it will "reestablish a transit line for the first time in 20 years".
"I think it was a competitive bid and a well-done bid, and I think it’s going to be a great project."
The Straight asked where else in the world opening up more road space has resulted in reduced greenhouse gases. (Campbell has promised to cut B.C.’s total emissions 33 percent by 2020.)
"If it was only expanding road capacity, I think that would be a legitimate question," Campbell said. "First of all, it’s expanding transit capacity for the first time in 20 years, as I said."
Citizens still not satisfied with the premier’s analysis have a chance to vent this Saturday (April 11) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., in what has been billed a Highway 1 Day of Action from Eagleridge Bluffs to Chilliwack. Rail for the Valley and Gatewaysucks.org are organizing the event, which will see citizens display banners from overpasses over the entire route.
What is the Gateway Program?
> Replacement of the existing Port Mann Bridge with a 10-lane bridge and providing a restoration of transit across the Fraser River
> Widening Highway 1 from McGill Street in Vancouver to 216th Street in Langley
> Construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road, a four-lane road from Deltaport Way to the proposed Golden Ears Bridge
> Construction of the North Fraser Perimeter Road, which comprises improvements to existing roads, a stand-alone project to replace the Pitt River Bridge, and the building of an interchange replacing the Mary Hill Bypass and the Lougheed intersection