Bernadette Keenan: A voice crying for the wilderness in Surrey North

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      By Bernadette Keenan

      The banner at the Vancouver Rally for Democracy said “Voice of a million” and even though Elizabeth May’s voice was hoarse, she spoke of wanting to participate in the leaders’ debate to be a voice that would speak to topics the other leaders would not discuss, such as First Nation’s concerns, women’s issues, health care problems, and that elephant in the living room that no one else wants to talk about—climate change. It looms over us, threatening to destroy us but there is little discussion about it as if there is a chance ignoring it may cause it to leave quietly without causing us any problems.

      Hearing Elizabeth May list these issues helped me to focus more clearly on exactly what I, a single mom with a penchant for recycling and a soft spot for homeless cats, am doing running in my fourth major election campaign in less than three years. I too am running to be a voice raising issues that might otherwise not be talked about during the election.

      Federal funding is helping support the destruction of my community and other neighbourhoods as preparation for the South Fraser freeway, also known as the South Fraser Perimeter Road, continues with:

      Ӣ Clear cutting trees and forested areas;

      Ӣ Demolishing homes (some of them among the most affordable available);

      Ӣ Damaging or even destroying unique ecosystems and endangered species habitat;

      Ӣ Burying rich agricultural soil under tons of preload sand, likely contaminated, dredged from the Fraser River bottom; plus

      Ӣ Disturbing sensitive salmon bearing streams.

      This is all taking place without the benefit of a comprehensive federal environmental assessment since chicanery and renaming of portions of the planned route mean the proposal is under the 40 kilometre threshold that triggers a federal review.

      There are several serious consequences at stake here of concern to my friends and neighbours and to all Canadians, such as:

      Ӣ National food security, if agricultural land is paved over;

      Ӣ Further reduction or even elimination of salmon returns if the South Fraser watershed is over industrialized and poorly protected;

      Ӣ Increased homelessness as marginalized individuals are forced out of affordable housing with no national housing policy or program to provide for relocating them;

      Ӣ Identifiable negative health impacts to residents near the proposed route, if the trucks start rolling, particularly children and seniors, our most vulnerable citizens; and

      ”¢ That same elephant in the room, climate change, that can’t help but rear it’s ugly head (no disrespect to elephants in general) if last century’s pavement solutions, projects that promote fossil fuel dependency, are relied on to address today’s complex transportation and urbanization needs.

      People from my neighbourhood, Bridgeview, other parts of North Surrey, from Delta, across the Lower Mainland, other provincial and national regions, even from international locations are concerned enough about these issues to organize mass direct actions, the most recent scheduled to start on April 22 on Mother Earth Day.

      I am running to be the voice for these people since other politicians seem silent about this project and to be the voice for those that have no voice, the animals, including several endangered species that are losing habitat, or even worse their lives. Like the salamanders hikers discovered, smashed in the tracks of one of the machines used for clear-cutting the South Fraser Witness Trail close to Surrey Bend. Pretty sure they were related to the little guy (scroll down to the picture of the purple mitten) I had told my daughter to put back in its chosen home a few weeks earlier.

      As a candidate my mandate is to raise my voice about these issues on behalf of everyone who cares. I plan to carry the freeway freedom fight forward to Ottawa, calling for a complete environmental assessment to be done to stop this project, in support of getting the funding for it transferred to transit transportation solutions.

      These greener options such as short-sea shipping, electric inter-urban trains, more buses, et cetera, will generate greener jobs and more jobs, two to three times the number a pavement project does, plus will be much healthier for the human, fish, and animal residents in the proposed path of the freeway. The Green approach will leave a wonderful space for hiking, biking waterfront trails, watershed enhancement, community gardens, local agriculture, sustainable development, affordable housing, and more.

      Happily another thing this approach could help deal with, would be that elephant in the living room, climate change. Stopping a freeway may have a ripple effect meaning less need for tar sands oil, northern pipelines, oil tankers down the coast, et cetera, with the result that unwanted elephant will be more likely to just disappear.

      Bernadette Keenan is the Green candidate for Surrey North.