Harold Steves decries potential loss of farmland with South Fraser Perimeter Road project

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      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.”

      Comments

      18 Comments

      Shepsil

      Jan 21, 2010 at 12:00pm

      This YouTube video ties in nicely with the Gateway Projects and the current thinking on 'business & climate change'.

      For those of you who don't know Jeff Rubin, the former chief economist of CIBC has been at the cutting edge of peak oil theory/evidence for at least 6 years. In this speech, he talks about why transportation projects like our Gateway and the SFPR are all doomed to be out of date before they are built. That transportation costs, because of their integral oil dependence, are going to change our economies back to local ones where the more locally reliant businesses are the ones that have a chance of surviving.

      <object width="300" height="251"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/wYuLjGQQ-jg&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/wYuLjGQQ-jg&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="300" height="251"></embed></object>

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      Feeding mouths?

      Jan 21, 2010 at 12:25pm

      Don't you think 10 km^2 of new port space will come in handy when the US dollar collapses, and we need increased trade with China to keep everyone employed?

      Peak oil doesn't mean we will move around less, it means new fuels will replace oil as they become economically viable.

      Farming in our backyards isn't what keeps up what most people would consider a 'Canadian' standard of living. We're a first-world country, rich in resources, and we need roads to get stuff from A to B to Asia. The increase in productivity from new port facilities will probably be three orders of magnitude higher than the loss of 1000 hectares of farmland (a whopping 0.02% of our 47 000 km^2 ALR).

      Maybe you'd rather that we just cut ourselves off from the world, and instead of trading and being productive, we can all sit around in a field of organic hemp and knit each other macrame ponchos...

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      Eric Doherty

      Jan 21, 2010 at 1:52pm

      'Feeding' - peak oil does mean we will move stuff around less, because it will make it much more expensive to do so. Expensive, compact goods will still move large distances but more manufacturing will be done close to home. And we will consume much less disposable crap.

      There is a huge excess of port capacity in BC right now. We have modern port facilities sitting almost idle, such as in Prince Rupert and Surrey Fraser Docks. It would be very stupid to build more now. And roads are not an efficient way to move containers of goods - that is what short sea shipping and electric railways do best.

      And yes we can stop the South Fraser Freeway - see
      http://www.livableregion.ca/blog/blogs/index.php/2010/01/17/south_fraser...

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      Shepsil

      Jan 21, 2010 at 2:10pm

      @Feeding mouths - The concept one must understand about oil is that it was cheap, which also meant convenient. As the above YouTube explained, it is the one fuel that is used for all types of transportation and there is no cheaper or as cheap as fuel available. Which simply put, means we can no longer be shipping goods from China or New Zealand without paying the higher prices for the fuel, oil, it costs us. The cheapest goods are again going to be those we grow and manufacture close to home.

      For the full explanation, watch the above YouTube.

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      Evil Eye

      Jan 21, 2010 at 7:44pm

      Feeding mouths - here is the scoop, all American West Coast container ports have vastly expanded; in LA, the empty space is used to store unsold cars. All container traffic crossing the Pacific has diminished. There is a vast surplus of container capacity on the West coast.

      By 2014, just in time for the Gateway project to be open, the Panama Canal will have completed its widening program, to allow 'super' container ships.

      The railway grades out of Vancouver increase shipping costs.

      With global warming it will be cheaper to ship Chinese containers North, through Russia and ship them to Churchill Manitoba.

      In short, all the money being spent on Gateway and Port expansion will be for naught and the taxpayer will be left with big bills to pay for redundant highways and empty berths.

      Oh by the way, if the US dollar collapses, so does the Canadian dollar.

      In 20 years time people will scorn our so so short sighted politicians.

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      cooley

      Jan 21, 2010 at 9:23pm

      I'm glad they build while ff are cheap, at least it is built and will last 20 + years, the old road was worn-out. At least when we take our horse-wagon to the beach, we can go smoothly in the winter of 2030.

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      Feeding mouths

      Jan 21, 2010 at 10:24pm

      I think this guy grossly underestimates the move to alternative fuels and energy sources. Road vehicles are the FIRST place that new fuels will take over. The auto companies already have motor technology that can run on bio-fuels, hydrogen, and electricity. The only reason you don't see them on the road is because the companies know they won't sell, the fuel prices aren't competitive, and production volumes need to be large to make the vehicles cheap. If prices go up and stay up, the equation changes and they will roll out the new vehicles. North America certainly can't rebuild its cities overnight and no amount of enthusiasm for sustainable living can replace our millions of hectares of sprawling suburbs.

      His point about not having 15 years to develop new technology is a bit moot, because it would probably take longer to build up factories for, and to train and employ people for them, all the products that we get from Asia right now. Has everyone completely forgotten that in the boom times before the recession hit we were already facing a labour shortage??

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      Sylvia Bishop

      Jan 22, 2010 at 9:14am

      Food security, food sustainability and the protection of farmland is the most important we face today. 52% of our food is imported from countries with dubious pesticide and herbicide controls. We put ourselves at the mercy of the import market. I do not suggest we can produce 100% of our food supply, but we can certainly produce more so long as we have farmland to do so.

      Burns Bog, the "lungs of the lower mainland" will be ruined with the building of the SFPR. Another ecological disaster.

      Maybe protecting the environment is too big a concept for some. But breathing clean air, drinking pure water and eating safe food is something we can all wrap our heads, hearts and lungs around.

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      RodSmelser

      Jan 22, 2010 at 10:34am

      “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,”
      ======================================

      I realize Harold is an old trooper as a political speaker, not averse to a bit of hyperbole at times, but when I look at this quotation I have to wonder what the context is. If the context is understood to be purely provincial, that's one thing. If the context is understood to be the entire globe, that is world history during the 20th Century, well, ... where does that lead us? Is this still an acceptable rhetorical device?

      Rod Smelser

      glen p robbins

      Jan 22, 2010 at 3:51pm

      Mr. Steves is my idea of a Green Conservative--he fits the bill and certainly has the credentials

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