NDP MPs Jenny Kwan and Fin Donnelly write to port authority about proposed pier expansion near CRAB Park

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      Since its creation in 1987, CRAB Park has provided Downtown Eastside residents with some of the city's most glorious views across Burrard Inlet to the North Shore.

      But people in the neighbourhood say that this is under threat by a Dubai-based company's proposal to expand its Centerm pier.

      DP World's plan would require infilling part of the waterfront to extend the terminal in front of CRAB Park.

      Earlier this year, activist Don Larson wrote an article on Straight.com raising concerns about potential changes to tidal flows and the impact this could have on the beach. The park is close to Larson's heart: he led the community fight to turn the area into greenspace in the 1980s.

      Earlier this week, NDP MPs Jenny Kwan and Fin Donnelly, Larson, and others with concerns had a meeting with Robin Silvester, president and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver.

      Port Metro Vancouver boss Robin Silvester listens to concerns from Jenny Kwan as CRAB Park founder Don Larson sits to her left.

      Following the meeting, the NDP released a letter (see below) expressing their "alarm" over the "proposal to infill 7 acres of the waterfront at CRAB Park".

      Dear Mr. Silvester,

      Thank you for agreeing to meet with myself, MP Fin Donnelly (Port Moody–Coquitlam), and representatives from the community Don Larson, Barb Daniel, Franke James, Alan Dutton, Ruth Foster, Rod MacVicar, and Dr. Elaine Golds.  We are disappointed to learn that the Board Chair Mr. Craig Neeser only meets six times a year and is therefore not available to meet with us.  As such, we have put our questions, concerns and issues regarding the Port in writing and ask that you provide a copy of this letter to the Board Chair.

      Currently there are a number of recent projects decisions or proposals under consideration by Port Metro Vancouver that is of great concern to the community. 

      For the residents of East Vancouver, we are alarmed by Port Metro Vancouver’s proposal to infill 7 acres of the waterfront at CRAB Park.  By way of background, you may be aware that members of the Vancouver East community have fought long and hard for the establishment of the community’s only public waterfront green space, CRAB Park beach in 1987.  This fight included staging a 75 day occupation of Crown land in 1984. When community members began to learn about Port Metro Vancouver’s proposed Centerm Expansion Project to infill 7 acres of the harbor, many of the local residents have begun to share with me their concerns. Many of them feel that this major expansion poses a real threat to CRAB Park.  They have also indicated their concerns that this expansion poses significant environmental risk to the area. In addition, they have raised the issue around increased level of heavy traffic on both land and sea along with concerns regarding the potential need to construct a 5th rail tack.

      To establish where the process is at and the intentions of Port Metro Vancouver in going forward, could you please clarify the following:

      Centerm Expansion Timeline

      • What is the up to date timeline for the Centerm Expansion project?
      • What is the consultation process as currently planned?
      • What are your plans for the next steps of the consultation process?
      • Will there be further public consultations prior, during and after the environmental impact assessment has been conducted?
      • Will you make public your findings of the community consultation process?

      Environmental assessments

      • Will the Environmental Assessments be independent?
      • Who is ultimately responsible for commissioning and conducting the environmental assessment?
      • Who will determine the scope of the assessment?
      • Will the community be able to provide input into the scope of the assessment?
      • Will endangered species in the area be included in the study?
      • Will an assessment be done to ensure only non-hazardous infill materials are used?
      • Will increased traffic on both land and water (in the inlet and through the coastal waters), and the resulting increases to air, water, and noise pollution be part of the assessment?
      • What plans are there to mitigate against the impact on noise, air quality and endangered species?
      • Is the nature of the cargo, for example, the materials that resulted in the 2015 fire considered in the assessment?


      • Can you advise what the current size, volume, and make-up of the cargo is?
      • What is the size of the container ships currently and will that change with the expansion?
      • Where will the container ships waiting to load or unload will be docked?
      • Are there any hazardous materials entering and exiting the Port area? If yes, how much in volume and frequency?
      • Will the amount of hazardous materials entering and exiting the Port area increase should the expansion move forward?  If yes, what hazardous materials and how much will they be increasing in volume and frequency?


      • Can you advise what the current traffic implications due to port activities are?
      • What is your projection in increase traffic in the area with the expansion?
      • What plans have, or will be made regarding the expected increases to shipping traffic in the area?
      • What plans have, or will be made regarding the expected increases to rail and road traffic in the area?

      Emergency Preparedness

      • As a result of concerns stemming from the March 2015 chemical fire at the Port, what changes if any have been made with respect to the safety and emergency preparedness plans of the Port?
      • What additional measures will be taken to ensure that if approved, the safety and emergency plans of the Port will be adequate for a larger Port with increased traffic?
      • What plans are there for clean-up in case of spills and accidents in a crowded harbor and how will traffic be coordinated?

      Climate Change

      • What measures will the Port implement to mitigate the effects of expansion on climate change?

      Port’s responsibilities and accountability to the public

      • What actions have you undertaken to ensure public accountability? 
      • Do you feel that the Port’s accountability measures are adequate?
      • What are the plans of the Port to consider the input of community groups in the application process?
      • How will impartiality be maintained?
      • How will you address the issue of conflict, perceived or otherwise, with the Port being both the proponent and regulator of the project?
      • In the opinion of the Port, what needs to be done in order to have community approval and social license to undertake this project?

      Aside from the Centerm Proposal, we have also heard from a wide array of people who are concern that successive governments have significantly increased the autonomy and authority of Canadian Port Authorities.

      The Port now enjoys sweeping powers including the right to override land use decisions and the right to assess and approve their own projects.  It is the opinion of many that we need to change the environmental assessment processes to make it completely independent, transparent, inclusive and consultative. As well, many feel that the Port needs to make consultation more meaningful in affected communities. This means constantly updating their website with feedback deadlines and public notices of input. Further, community groups and First Nations should be proactively engaged and their feedback publically shared along with the public application. The Port’s current process only assesses projects in isolation and does not consider the cumulative impacts of the many heavy industrial projects under review. Many also believe that the federal government should resurrect an organization like BIEAP to review cumulative impacts and restore the science based, democratic character of our environmental assessment process more generally. These views are shared by many. In short, we want to restore public accountability for the Port.

      Once again, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to have this meeting.  We look forward to your full response in writing to the issues that we have raised. As the Board is the decision making body, we feel strongly that the community should have access to discuss social license and the impact of the proposed project on the community before decisions are made.  We would therefore like to request a meeting with the Board of Port Metro Vancouver.

      Yours sincerely,

      Jenny Kwan, MP for Vancouver East, NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

      Fin Donnelly, MP for Port Moody–Coquitlam, NDP Critic for Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard