Gateway project is a go, promises premier
By Jeff Nagel
Feb 28 2007
Premier Gordon Campbell vowed last Wednesday to push ahead with the $3-billion Gateway program in the face of critics who say the road expansion plan undermines his new commitment to fight global warming.
“We are going to build the Gateway project because it’s critical to the social, the environmental and the economic health of British Columbia,” he said, speaking before the Surrey Board of Trade.
The government’s throne speech pledged a 33 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
But critics found little backing that up in last Tuesday’s budget.
“This new budget has $103 million extra in it for climate change” Campbell countered, listing extended rebates for hybrid cars, energy efficient furnaces and a series of steps to cut emissions.
The premier also noted the province is helping build the $1.9-billion Canada Line.
“That will take about 14,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the air,” he said. “There were a lot of people who tried to stop that.”
He also said the province stands by its commitment of $170 million for the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam.
He added Gateway and the Port Mann Bridge twinning opens up the ability to run buses across the Fraser River.
“I understand the issue,” Campbell said of criticism Gateway focuses too heavily on cars.
“If all we were doing was building a road that would be one thing. But that’s not all we’re doing.”
Although Campbell highlighted plans to put electronic tolls on the Port Mann as one way to cut congestion and emissions, he said there are no plans to change provincial policy to allow regional tolling or road pricing.
“At this point we’re not there,” he said in an interview. “But we’re glad to hear people’s suggestions.”
Campbell also spoke in favour of denser communities and said more must be done to curb urban sprawl.
“For each of us we’re going to have to change some of our behaviours somehow,” he said. “We’re all going to have to take responsibility – government, industry, individuals, families, communities.”
The throne speech suggested Victoria will use funding as a lever to persuade cities to allow denser development and more social housing.
“We’ve got some sprawling communities,” Campbell said. “We have to create compact networks for transportation. Compact networks for living, for commercial activity, for learning.”
Campbell held up his own experience when as mayor of Vancouver the city allowed high-density development in the former Downtown Warehouse District, now known as Yaletown.
“I remember people saying ‘People will never live there. People won’t go there,’” he said. “I remember telling them ‘We have to give people an opportunity to walk to work or they won’t walk to work.’ And people pooh-poohed it. And we did it.”
High-density redevelopment now promises to transform other parts of the region, he said.
“We’re starting to see that evolve in Surrey City Centre,” Campbell said. “We’re watching it evolve in Coquitlam. Further up the valley we may see it in a place like Abbotsford or Chilliwack.”