Why Christy Clark's bridge to Delta threatens the Agricultural Land Reserve
The B.C. government has produced a video showing a new 10-lane bridge replacing the four-lane George Massey Tunnel.
The computer-generated image of the bridge across the Fraser River is surrounded by farmland.
Set aside the fact that vehicle travel through the four-lane George Massey Tunnel has gone down significantly.
That's not the only location where this has occurred. Last week, the Seattle-based Sightline Institute's Clark Williams-Derry highlighted how out to lunch B.C.'s traffic planners have been in recent years on other bridge projects.
But this is just one consideration. The bigger issue is farmland.
Earlier this year, Straight contributor Daniel Wood wrote a cover story about how the expansion of Deltaport and related projects pose a serious threat to agriculture.
In the article, Richmond Coun. Harold Steves characterized what was happening as the "Richmondization of Delta".
That's because more than 400 hectares of farmland would be lost to port expansion and another 100 hectares to housing built on Tsawwassen First Nations land.
“That’s the best soil in Canada,” Steves declared to Wood.
Now, there's word from the B.C. NDP that the B.C. Liberal government has included the Agricultural Land Commission and the Agricultural Land Reserve in its core review of government services.
According to NDP agriculture critic Nicholas Simons, the province has ignored two previous reports, including one from the auditor general, on how to improve the ALC.
Simons worries that the B.C. Liberals' "goal is...more cuts that will undermine agricultural land protection in B.C."
Meanwhile, the Fraser Institute, a free market–oriented Vancouver think tank, has in the past condemned the Agricultural Land Reserve as a "costly failure". Directors of the Fraser Institute are among the province's strongest financial supporters of the B.C. Liberals.
These critics of the ALR could never convince former premier Gordon Campbell to scrap it.
But Clark, on the other hand, has never demonstrated as much interest as Campbell in land-use issues or climate change.
So it's entirely plausible that her plan for a new bridge—along with the core review—are designed to undermine the ALR.
This would open the door for a real-estate rush on Delta farmland similar to what's occurred in Richmond over the past 25 years.
This massive increase in urban sprawl would likely please many of her party's financial supporters. And it comes as the founder of the ALR, former NDP premier Dave Barrett, is ailing and not in a position to defend his legacy.
Pipelines and farmland
Recently, Clark did a one-on-one interview with CBC's Peter Mansbridge to loudly proclaim her concern for the ocean environment.
Proposed pipelines would lead to more oil tankers along the coast, posing a threat to B.C. waterways. But the main financial beneficiary of these projects would be the Alberta government, which would would collect oil royalties. So Clark has little to lose by putting up obstacles in the way.
It's a way for her to look green to voters at very little cost to her government.
But if she can throw the Fraser Institute a bone by, say, drastically reducing the ALR, perhaps that will get these corporate kingpins to cool their jets over pipelines.
It's not a far-fetched scenario.
And when those who value B.C.'s farmland ask Clark why she didn't mention this before the 2013 election, she could just smile and reply: "I told you I was going to focus on jobs and the economy, didn't I?"