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Metro Vancouver pressures cities to give the region more control

May 20th, 2009 · 16 Comments

I hadn’t been paying that much attention to Metro Vancouver’s growth plan for the next 30 years. That’s partly because it’s been in the works for eight years and it’s hard to feel like it’s going anywhere.

And also because there’s a temptation to believe that it will have the same impact as the livable region strategy — a nice idea that gets forgotten the minute some municipality in the region gets an attractive proposition from a developer. So although the plan has some interesting ideas, in particular the plan to create an industrial-land reserve, it hasn’t generated much media attention.

That’s what Metro Vancouver’s head guy is worried about and so he’s out trying to sell the plan to municipalities with a heavy-hitting message: give us some power to give this plan some teeth, otherwise there’s hardly any point to passing it.

Johnny Carline was a Vancouver city council yesterday, warning that “if Vancouver does not support this, then I doubt the rest of the region will.” And if Vancouver doesn’t support it, the plan will become “basically a amagazine article that you wave around.”

Carline pointed out that more than half of the development done during the 20 years of the Livable Region Strategy happened outside the regional town centres where growth was supposed to be targeted. That’s proof, he says, that if the region seriously wants to make sure that growth happens efficiently — that it goes into areas well-served by transit and doesn’t go into agricultural or industrial land — the Metro Vancouver board should get the power to veto any approvals for rezonings from industrial that don’t get 50 per cent support from the board. (Vancouver, by the way, gets 29 votes out of 104 in the weighted system at the board.)

This is an issue that is probably under a lot of people’s radar but it has city planners, politicians, and those alert to land issues somewhat worried. A system like this will mean anyone developing a project that requires a rezoning to go through two levels of approval — a process that will add a new level of onerousness to one that’s already fraught.

So what’s the problem if everyone agrees that industrial land should be saved? Well, Vancouver is looking at allowing some rezonings around its transit stations in order to get more density around them. Right now, there are several stations — and in particular the new Canada Line station on Marine Drive — set in the middle of industrial land.

Carline kept insisting the new system won’t be onerous and that it only brings in “the weakest implementation plan” to try to give the new rules some teeth. But there were sure a lot of questions at council about how this will work.

Councillors have to decide in the next week whether to support the plan. I can’t tell, from listening, which way they’re going to go.

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  • Darcy McGee

    Metro Vancouver needs to be merged.

    Merge the three north shore districts into one (and I might argue for including Lion’s Bay.) City of North Vancouver & District of North Vancouver? Dumb.

    Merge Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Richmond into Vancouver.

    Merge Surrey, Maple Ridge, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam into another which I shall call “New Ikea.”

    There’s too many mayors, too many council members, too many staff, too many fifedoms.

    At the present time the GVRD level of government amounts to taxation without representation. Voters do not get input into its makeup.

    Merge the things, then you can rationalize the governmental structure.

  • not tunning for mayor

    I agree with Darcy, although I’d probably divide them up differently, All of the North Shore as one, Van,Bby and New West as another, The Tri-cites all as one including Anmore, Surrey, North Delta, Langley,Aldergrove as another, and Richmond, South Delta, as it’s own. I doubt any attempt to unify everyone as one would ever pass so that would be the best we could aim for at this time. Perhaps if that panned out they could be merged in the future.

    The industrial land reserve should be created and elimate this extra step, the extra step would only come into play should someone try to remove land from the reserve.

  • blaffergassted

    Burnaby was the first to use rapid transit as an engine for development, and the result is those new high rise communities popping up around Brentwood, Gilmore and Holdom stations.

  • Darcy McGee

    The specifics of the division are certainly a point of discussion, and my suggestions represent my personal biases as much as anything else. To some extent they’re defined by the geography of the rivers, but not purely….obviously.

    Whatever the case, the GVRD level of governance needs to be rationalized. Taxation without representation is exactly the kind of thing that once caused us to rise to the baracades; to storm the Bastille.

    Now it apparently causes us to vote Liberal.

  • Claudia

    When you look at all the development in business parks not served by public transit , you can see how the problems that are supposed to be solved by the Gateway problem were created in the first place.
    All the development outside of the so-called livable region strategy for the region, has resulted in the need for expanded highways to service the car traffic.
    Certainly points to the need for some form of effective regional planning….

  • LP

    Merging Vancouver with Burnaby and New West would most likely result in Vancouver being governed by a city council dominated by the NDP and their union friends for far too long into the future.

    Although we’ve gone back and forth over the past 3 councils (including this one), for the most part Vancouver is well governed and creating the level of animosity that would arise from such a merge may not be worth it.

    A regional strategy sounds great, but in practice I’m not sure it would/could work. And who in Vancouver would want to be stuck with Derrick Corrigan for the next 10 years…….

    No thanks.

  • MB

    Jeff Rubin, former chief economist with CIBC, just released a book called “Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller”. He predicts the price of oil will hit $225 (US) by 2012 as cheap oil supplies decline further.

    He is not the only one talking about peak oil and climate change, two potential perils that will profoundly affect cities. Thomas Homer-Dixon also just released a book entitled “Carbon Shift” in which he acts as editor and commentator on six essays on the subject, one by Rubin. There is disagreement amongst the six authors, but at least they’re debating the issue, unlike our governments at whatever level.

    Gasoline and diesel at $2+ / litre will do a whole lot more to “make sure growth happens efficiently” than any plan or political amalgamation. It will certainly force the issue. The demand for much heavier investment in transit and local food production will drown out a lot of other demands as the economy shakes, rattles and rolls.

    If there’s anything that needs to be planned for soon — let alone acknowledged at official levels — it is price spikes and deficits in energy.

    Portland has already developed a plan for peak oil. Where is Metro Vancouver’s?

  • LP

    Peak oil has been talked about for decades and is not a new subject.

    The term was actually first put into use by boiler room stock inflaters talking up the penny stocks of the next big find which they were flogging.

    Now it seems as though people are buying into the reality that that will really happen, although the flogging is now being done by the green movement to sell hype into their technology and pockets.

    As an active investor I would caution all to be very wary that peak oil is right around the corner. As long as oil is traded on the commodity boards, the price of a barrel and what’s left in the ground are not always on par with reality.

    Of course that depends on what reality you want to believe in.

  • Darcy McGee

    > would most likely result in Vancouver
    > being governed by a city council
    > dominated by the NDP and their union
    > friends for far too long into the future.

    1) We need wards.

    2) How is this any different from what’s been happening in Vancouver lately?

    3) How is this any worse than a Vancouver that’s been governed in the past by a bunch of prissy west side residents who are only starting to learn directions to Main Street.

    4) See 1.

  • Darcy McGee

    > Peak oil has been talked about for decades
    > and is not a new subject.

    LP: The oil companies are talking about it. The guys whose business involves KNOWING where that oil is know there’s not much more of it.

    Read last month’s Walrus.

    Read last weekend’s Globe and Mail.

    Get a good pair of walking shoes or start riding a bike. In about 20 years, you’re going to have little choice. In about 30 years, you’re going to have no choice.

  • nick

    When it comes to city planning, it is definitely important to consider access to public transit as many have mentioned.

    In Metro Vancouver, TransLink is not only responsible for public transit but most of the roads, bridges, ferries and the list goes on, across the entire region. This is something that is often misunderstood and when it comes to creating a sustainably livable region, transit solutions are essential.

    TransLink is in the midst of developing their 2040 plan and is looking to the public for input through a website, Be sure to have your say. Given Vancouver’s expected growth, we need solutions to accomodate this.

  • LP


    You write: LP: The oil companies are talking about it. The guys whose business involves KNOWING where that oil is know there’s not much more of it.

    You know I agree with much of what you write, with exception to your debate on a few topics, but I have to say that when you say that if BIG OIL is talking about it, then it must be a problem because THEY know what they’re talking about……

    I have to say that if you listen to those guys, I have a bike bridge over Burrard Bridge to sell you…..

    I couldn’t resist.

    The guys in BIG OIL have a HUGE vested interest in oil going through the roof, it’s called their pocket books.

    The oil industry has been one of the most innovative industries with regards to development, that exist. I mean you’re talking about guys who’ve figured out how to squeeze something from rocks. They are also one of the largest lobby groups in the world, let alone the US.

    Think about it Darcy. Lets just guess and say there’s 4 Trillion barrels of oil left in the ground. (I’m too lazy to check my vast amounts of propaganda at this hour.) And lets say we’re using 100 Million a day. Really the numbers don’t matter.

    If you can sell your oil at $150/barrel, versus $50/barrel you can figure out how much extra profit is there for your 4 trillion remaining in-ground oil reserves.

    I’m not saying that we’re not going to run out, thats pretty obvious – it’s a somewhat finite amount.

    I’m just saying that the amount of oil we have is a moving target that even the best professionals in the business CONSTANTLY get wrong.

    Currently a gas company in Hungary has drilled down far enough to discover a trough where they believe the gas is actually being brewed up by the earth just prior to extraction from their wells – meaning that their supply of gas from this trough is not a set amount but rather a growing one.

    Shows that even the experts are discovering sources they had no idea existed. I could go on and on but I’ll save everyone the read.

    The day I believe people who are making money from overpricing their assets to get rich, on projections for the future is the day I believe I will part with all my money and say goodbye forever.

    But I guess if you buy into Bob Rennie’s constant enthusiam, you’re likely to fall for the peak oil timeframe sham as well.

  • Darcy McGee

    LP, you’re going to need to put forward a more convincing argument than your corporate paranoia to convince me that you’re right.

    Read the article in The Walrus. Dave Hughes makes his point quite well, and without invoking panic or hysteria.

    After you’ve done that subscribe to The Walrus. It’s a great magazine (though not as good as it was under the previous editor) and Canada needs it to survive.

  • Darcy McGee

    Listen to this morning’s Sunday Edition (you can get a podcast.)

  • LP


    First, I just re-read my post and that should be a bike bridge over False Creek (not over Burrard Bridge as I wrote).

    I have no corporate paranoia – I’m a suit. I deal in that world daily and know what I’m talking about.

    From the environmentalists to the oil industry, it’s in everyones’ best interest to talk up “peak oil” (play scary music here).

    I’m not going to go back and forth with you on this – I’ve made my point.

    I said peak oil will eventually come, just not as quick as everyone likes to think – and that includes your heros at the walrus.

  • G.

    We should some of our municipalities with Van, Burnaby, New West , UBC, North Van. and West Van. (North and West Van are pretty close to Vancouver and hoe they are layed out all ready makes them look like one city) . The rest of White Rock with Surrey the city of Langley and the township of Langley Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows . Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore and the other village.