By Eric Doherty and PJ Lilley
Premier Christy Clark and her new minister of transportation, Blair Lekstrom, have a surprise for people across much of the Lower Mainland—big cuts to transit service scheduled for Earth Week. TransLink, which is controlled by cabinet appointees, has posted a long list of transit service cuts which came into effect today (April 18).
Many of the cuts to bus service read like this one regarding the #152 to Coquitlam: “All trips after 8 p.m., service reduced from 30 mins to 60 mins.” There are numerous variations on the theme—cutting evening bus service after 8, 9, or 10 p.m. to only once per hour. Once per hour service, which is never completely reliable, is a great way to convince transit riders to go out and buy a car. (A selection of the transit service cuts has been posted here.)
Last week, on the evening of April 13, TransLink once again tried in vain to convince New Westminster residents that they should welcome more traffic into their neighbourhoods. One of their consultants even tried to convince the audience that building more roads is the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but few seemed convinced by his suggestion that more roads will lead to less pollution.
For months, TransLink has been trying to convince New Westminster council to approve the next stage of the Gateway Program, the first bit of the North Fraser Perimeter Road in New Westminster. Just the first short section is expected to cost about $175 million, with the New West section of the NFPR expected to cost as much as $1 billion if it is ever built.
Meanwhile, the province is pushing ahead with spending an estimated $1.2 billion to $2 billion on the new South Fraser Perimeter Road freeway. The clearcuts along the banks of the Fraser River are getting bigger every day, and bulldozers are starting to cut into the sensitive river banks. Most of the areas along the edge of Burns Bog and through the farmlands of Delta are already under layers of preload sand, which needs to be left for years to compress the ground before construction can begin in earnest.
In New Brunswick, the Conservative government has just cancelled their Gateway freeway expansion despite a signed contract. Even our freeway-loving B.C. Liberals have put the six-lane replacement for the four-lane Pattullo Bridge, budgeted at about a billion dollars, on hold. The age of cheap and stable oil prices is over, and even conservative politicians who don’t take global warming seriously are starting to notice.
But the price of oil is not the only thing that is changing. From Egypt’s Tahrir Square to Madison, Wisconsin, people are getting up off their couches and taking to the streets to demand change. In North Africa and the Middle East the focus is on establishing real democracy and ending the neo-liberal economic policies that have plunged so many into dire poverty while crooked millionaires become billionaires. In the U.S., people have started fighting back against the draconian attacks on basic human rights such as collective bargaining. Here in B.C., in one of the historic centres of environmental activism, we need to look at building a movement for climate justice. We face an immediate climate crisis, and projects like freeways that increase our dependency on cars and tar sands oil are climate crimes that must be stopped now.
Like previous moments of global unrest, such as 1968, we are living through one of the rare tipping point moments where big changes can happen astoundingly quickly. The outcomes of such historical moments can never be predicted in advance, but the potential for an avalanche of change is in the air.
This is the situation in which local Council of Canadians chapters and StopThePave.org, endorsed by over 20 other groups, have decided to call for a mass direct action against freeway expansion on the second anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly decision to create International Mother Earth Day—Friday (April 22) .
Earth Day has become known as a day to quietly plant trees in parks. We will be planting trees on Mother Earth Day, but not in a park. Instead we will reforest a freeway construction site on the banks of the Fraser River, and some of us will set up camp and stay to protect the trees and stop the construction of the SFPR freeway. There will be a variety of ways people can get involved and demonstrate their support, including roles with little or no legal risk. All are welcome to participate.
Please join us at 2 p.m. on Friday at Annieville Supermarket (10996 River Road, Delta). (Take the #640 bus from Scott Road SkyTrain station or Ladner Exchange.) A group bike ride to the action will leave from the Vancouver Earth Day Parade at noon and free buses leave at 2 p.m. Full details are available at StopThePave.org.
Eric Doherty is a member of the Council of Canadians’ Vancouver/Burnaby chapter.
PJ Lilley is a Surrey mother and member of StopThePave.org.