Harold Steves decries potential loss of farmland with South Fraser Perimeter Road project
Veteran Richmond city councillor and long-time farmer Harold Steves believes the B.C. Liberal government’s proposed South Fraser Perimeter Road is a “crime against humanity”.
Steves, a former Richmond MLA and cofounder of the Agricultural Land Reserve, was addressing a January 16 town hall meeting organized by the South Fraser Action Network, an umbrella group incorporating opponents of both the road and the Gateway Program, of which the road is a part.
Richmond city councillor and farmer Harold Steves tells the crowd at a January 16 townhall meeting in Delta that the South Fraser Perimeter Road is a "crime against humanity" because it paves over land that could be providing food for British Columbians.
“The fact that we are building this road, the fact that we are destroying this land—destroying our ability to feed ourselves—is a crime against humanity as great as any of the other ones that we have witnessed in the previous 100 years or so,” Steves told the crowd of about a hundred. “By not coming to grips with climate change, by not coming to grips with the loss of our farmlands and the loss of habitat, our politicians today are every bit as guilty as every one of the despots that has gone before.”
B.C. transportation minister Shirley Bond refused an interview with the Georgia Straight.
The South Fraser Perimeter Road is a planned 40-kilometre transportation route that would run along the south side of the Fraser River from Highway 1, then around Port Kells in Surrey to Deltaport Way in South Delta. The provincial government claims it will reduce truck traffic and increase the movement of goods and services throughout the region.
Steves said peak oil means global oil production will soon go into decline—some analysts claim this has already happened—because the resource is finite. He told the Straight that the Vancouver Port Authority told Country Life in B.C. newspaper that it needs 1,070 hectares for its expansion. Add that to the 100 hectares for the highway and that’s almost 1,200 hectares of land that could be used to provide food for British Columbians, Steves said.
“The onus is on us to preserve as much of the land as we can and to provide as much of our food production at home so we are not”¦[buying] food from other countries where that food is needed by other peoples,” he said.
Stephen Rees, who ran as the provincial Green candidate in Richmond East in 2008, told the crowd that so far sand has been used to stabilize the marshland on which much of the proposed route sits. Construction has not started yet, Rees noted.
Rees said civil disobedience might work to stop the road if it mirrors the huge outcry that led to the shelving of the proposed private-power projects on the Upper Pitt River.
“If they can do it, we can do it, and they [Gateway] must be stopped,” Rees said to huge applause.
An oft-repeated refrain during the meeting was “It’s not a done deal.” This was in reference to comments made by former B.C. transportation minister Kevin Falcon that Gateway was a “done deal”.
Independent Delta South MLA and former Delta councillor Vicki Huntington talks to the Straight about her opposition to the South Fraser Perimeter Road. Huntington, daughter of late Progressive Conservative MP Ron Huntington, said the road is nothing more than a "behind-the-scenes effort to develop land".
Speaking to the Straight outside the meeting, independent Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington said the road “is a project that can still be stopped”.
“The road doesn’t have the necessity for moving goods that [Greater Vancouver] Gateway Council has pretended that it has, and I tend to agree with those people who think that the primary reason for the road is a behind-the-scenes effort to develop land,” she said. “They can do so with massive profits, because what they are doing is buying relatively inexpensive farmland and industrializing it—flipping it—at enormous profit.”
Responding to Steves’s “crime against humanity” claim, Huntington said, “We might look back in history and say that it is, or it was, if it’s allowed to be completed.”¦We haven’t learned a thing. We haven’t tried to do anything differently with less impact. We’re doing it the easiest way, the cheapest way—the most profitable way to very few people.”