An Open Letter to Premier Campbell
November 28th, 2008
Premier Gordon Campbell
Box 9041, Station Prov. Govt.
Victoria, BC V8W 9E1
Dear Premier Campbell,
I wrote you a letter last February with heart-wrenching details about the destruction of small family-owned businesses along Cambie Street and the terrible human costs as a result of the disastrous way in which the Canada Line project has been undertaken.
My letter was duly forwarded by you to the Minister of Transportation for response. Over half a year later, I received a response from Minister Falcon simply reiterating the same old arguments the government has been using since the outset of this project.
Your government continues to insist that you are simply a funder of the Canada Line and are not responsible for the project. However, it was you who forced municipal authorities to vote three times on this project until it was finally approved. This was not only undemocratic, but it clearly puts your government in the driver’s seat on the project.
The Canada Line is the biggest P3 project ever undertaken in Canada. It is not simply another public works project. It is unprecedented in its scope, duration and impacts. It is a new construction model that exhibits serious problems in both its implementation and in the chain of command.
My neighbourhood at Cambie and Marine Drive was virtually barricaded for more than a year with no safe or reasonable access for residents or for emergency vehicles. Every access route along Cambie - including 59th Avenue on which both an ambulance and fire station are located - was simultaneously closed. Fire trucks and ambulances faced major detours and delays. (A city transportation report dated January 20th, 1998 states: "59th Avenue is a primary access point for many residents east of Cambie, and is the only through east-west street south of 49th and north of Marine Drive.")
For months before I had a car accident, I dealt with both City and Canada Line officials about our access nightmare. The lack of safe traffic management resulted in many car accidents in addition to my own. The Canada Line blamed the City saying that they decided the traffic patterns, while the City told me that they had insisted on a bridge to maintain access to our neighbourhood at 59th. So just who was in charge?
The promises of minimal disruption and two to three months of construction at any given location were broken in every instance. Canada Line contractors were given freedom to do what they wanted, where they wanted, how they wanted, for as long as they wanted, with absolutely no oversight or accountability. This is an unacceptable flaw in the P3 structure and as the award-winning champion of these projects, the buck has to stop with you. Your government now insists that all projects over $20 million must use the P3 model, so the implications are far reaching.
Your government has always stressed that those who have been so inconvenienced by Canada Line construction will benefit in the long-term, but many businesses and residents along the Canada Line will be priced out of the area due to rezoning and redevelopment. The 70 families including 90 children in my townhouse complex at Cambie and Marine Drive were recently faced with reno-viction notices from the new owners who purchased the complex a year and a half ago.
In recent weeks we have learned of government bail-outs of large corporations working on Olympics projects. The City of Vancouver provided a $100 million dollar loan to Millennium Development and your government handed over more than $50 million to cover Canada Line losses as result of investments in the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the U.S. In both instances, the first we learned of these corporations’ difficulties was when the money was handed over. In contrast, we’ve watched small family-owned businesses along the Canada Line dying a slow and painful death for the last three years while your government has repeatedly turned its back on them.
Your government insists that helping the small businesses and families destroyed by your project would set a dangerous precedent and yet, you don’t hesitate to set a costly precedent by bailing out large corporations.
The last two bi-elections and the recent Vancouver election are a clear indictment of your government’s attitude towards, and treatment of, the citizens and small businesses in this province. The Canada Line disaster will remain a blot on your government’s record until it is remedied.
There must be full compensation for the small businesses and promises to all of us that this disaster will never be repeated in the Province of British Columbia.
A23 – 445 SW Marine Drive (at Cambie)
Vancouver, BC V5X 2R9