Port and writer exchange versions of the truth

I write today to respectfully request that a correction be printed in the Georgia Straight as a result of errors made in the article by Daniel Wood [“Delta projects threaten farms and wildlife”, January 17-24].

Port Metro Vancouver strives to provide timely access to members of the media at all times. Professional journalists have a responsibility to present the different sides of a story, often including different interpretations of the same set of facts. That set of facts, however, should not change.

In Daniel Wood’s story, printed as news, there are a number of errors, incorrect facts and outright misrepresentation of what Port Metro Vancouver’s president and CEO, Robin Silvester, said.

Having sat in on the in-person interview, I have taken the liberty of providing a detailed list, with requested corrections as below:

1. In the article, it reads: “Silvester told him: ‘You don’t have to worry about food security for B.C. Give us the land in Delta and we’ll use it to import food.’ ” Mr. Silvester did not say that. It appears Mr. Wood used a quote provided by Mr. Steves as fact and attributed it to Mr. Silvester. Again, Mr. Silvester did not and has not said that. Port Metro Vancouver respectfully requests that this be printed as a correction.

(Daniel Wood’s reply: Since I’m quoting Harold Steves’s account of what Robin Silvester said about the unimportance of agricultural land in the Fraser Valley, shouldn’t the port complain to Steves?)

2. Another point in the story reads: “Delta will see a lot of benefits. And with the new Tsawwassen First Nation treaty—and their new lands—it’s synergistic for the Natives. They have land we need for trains, for trucks, for container storage, for warehouses.” Mr. Silvester does not use the term Natives nor did he say it to Mr. Wood during the interview. He does concur that the overall message about the synergy between the Tsawwassen First Nation and Port Metro Vancouver is accurate, but remains seriously concerned that the writer quoted him with language he finds offensive. Please ensure this is also corrected. In fact, several of the other quotes Mr. Wood attributes to Mr. Silvester are not quotes Mr. Silvester made and not phraseology he uses.

(Daniel Wood’s reply: My notes say Silvester used the word “Natives” to describe the Tsawwassen First Nation. If Silvester finds the word “Natives”, as the letter says, “offensive”, I suggest he Google the phrase “Native American”. In the search results, he’ll find scores of Native American organizations listed. Offensive? Poppycock.)

3. In the article, the cost of PMV’s proposed Roberts Terminal 2 is wrongly stated as $10 billion. The actual estimated cost (this is an estimate since delivery, if approved, is 2024), is approximately $2 billion. The writer inflated the estimate significantly, and Port Metro Vancouver requests that this also be corrected.

(Daniel Wood’s reply: There are a variety of estimates around the cost of the Terminal 2 project, ranging from $2 billion to $10 billion. The most common numbers are $4 billion to $5 billion. Uncounted in this costing are these additional costs, all critical parts of the terminal’s supply chain: the new South Fraser Perimeter truck route [$1.3 billion], the new BCR train line [$700 million], the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge [$3 billion], the expansion of the terminal causeway, the massive intermodal-railyard-warehouse complex on old Agricultural Land Reserve land in Delta, and the upgrade of port facilities on Tilbury Island [$1 billion]. All these are directly connected to the Terminal 2 project. Just $2 billion? The last time a megaproject was under budget was probably when pharaohs were busy.)

4. The “fact box” printed with the story contains additional errors about the project, including the capacity number, which will double if T2 is built, not quadruple as stated. For accurate detailed project information, please contact me or visit our Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project website.

(Daniel Wood’s reply: The port’s own figures say Deltaport now annually handles 640,000 TEUs [one TEU equals one container truck]. And it hopes to handle 2.4 million TEUs when Terminal 2 is finished. That’s almost quadruple. The port can lowball the facts, but it doesn’t seem willing to acknowledge the damage the project will inflict on the Fraser estuary.)

Finally, I would like to point out that there has been more agricultural land lost to residential development in the past three decades than to industrial development. Further, there has been very significant loss of industrial land, largely due to municipal governments rezoning formerly industrial properties. Port Metro Vancouver has put forward the idea of establishing an industrial land reserve, similar to the agricultural land reserve. The concept was considered when ALR was first established but never executed. The reintroduction of this idea has been publicly supported by Mr. Steves.

(Daniel Wood’s reply: Port Metro Vancouver’s response to my article is a classic “bait and switch” ploy. Instead of dealing with the consequence of the Terminal 2 development for Delta’s migratory birdlife, salmon habitat, and the former ALR farmland, it sticks to a message track. It hopes, it seems, no one notices the lack of explanation of why the Terminal 2 project requires $500 million to mitigate or rectify environmental damage done by the facility’s construction.)

> Marko Dekovic / Manager, government affairs and strategic communications, Port Metro Vancouver