Brian Lewis, The ProvincePublished: Thursday, January 25, 2007
But it won't contain Cupid's usual candies, flowers or chocolates.
Instead, the red three-ring binders they'll hand the premier will contain what they hope will be thousands of signatures from voters asking that Campbell halt his government's plans to build the $800-million South Fraser Perimeter Road along its current route.
Published in local newspapers last weekend, the petition also asks Campbell to study the group's viable alternative route for the road that will serve Deltaport's expansion.
"We've been trying unsuccessfully for four years now to get Victoria to think outside the box on this issue," says spokesman Greg Hoover, a Tsawwassen construction-company owner.
Hoover and Olav Nass, a retired Delta road-construction supervisor, have devised an alternate truck-only route from Deltaport that follows the existing railway line. It would link with Highway 99 and Highway 91 to the east.
This route has key advantages over the SFPR: It prevents destruction of about 230 acres of farmland, it avoids serious environmental impacts on Burns Bog and it avoids expropriation of up to 100 homes and neighbourhood destruction in North Delta.
The five citizens' groups organizing this "Have A Heart, Mr. Premier" campaign have support from some surprising places.
Liberal MLA Valerie Roddick (Delta South), who will introduce the petitioners to the legislature on Feb. 14, backs their cause to the point that she also feels the SFPR is in the wrong place. A strong farm advocate, Roddick is concerned that Delta is giving up too much farmland to build the SFPR.
"My personal preference is to widen both Highway 99 and Highway 91 to accommodate the additional trucks from Deltaport," she tells me.
"Between the SFPR and the [pending] treaty settlement with the Tsawwassen First Nations, we're going to lose about 1,000 acres of farmland in Delta. That's starting to impact our critical mass."
Another backer is former premier Bill Vander Zalm, who lives on Arthur Drive in Ladner. He's sent a letter to the petitioners.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Hoover-Naas proposal is far superior in every respect," Vander Zalm wrote. "It will be by far the least disruptive, provide the safest route and save much farmland."
Hoover is grateful for such support but knows that despite growing opposition to the SFPR -- upwards of 25 public groups now oppose it -- persuading Victoria remains an uphill battle.
Nor can any help be expected from the Vancouver Port Authority (VPA) itself.
Speaking to the Delta Chamber of Commerce yesterday, VPA president Gordon Houston made it clear that issues of Deltaport road infrastructure are solely in Victoria's domain.
Adds Hoover: "We accept that the Deltaport trucks are coming, but we don't want them driving down our Main Street. Give us a route we can tolerate."
Or, as Vander Zalm's letter to Campbell warned: "The right decision will be a credit to you . . . the wrong choice will label it 'your fast ferry.' "
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