Peace, order and good government

As everyone knows, Canada was founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… No, wait… That’s the United States.

Canada was actually founded on quite different principles: Peace, order and good government.

On a civic level, these broad principles of peace, order and good government are ones that many people can get behind and support. And in many ways, these are the very same principles that Voice New Westminster was founded on.

If nothing else, Voice New Westminster has proven that people from different political perspectives on a federal and provincial level can find much common ground on a civic level.

Civic issues are very immediate and direct and they cut across political lines: Should a road be widened here or there or not at all? Where should new schools go? Should the city spend money on this project or that one? What level of taxation do the city’s residents and businesses feel is appropriate and bearable? How should the school board allocate its resources?

These are questions best answered through informed community consensus and that’s what Voice has sought to achieve.

After all, good decision-making never results when decisions are made by a select few in the absence of open, honest consultation and thorough discussion with the public.

There’s an endless supply of examples we could provide to illustrate this point, but the recent controversy surrounding the United Boulevard Extension, and whether the city agreed or didn’t agree with the City of Coquitlam to move forward with the project, is a prime example.

And contrary to what one commentator has suggested, seeking transparency and accountability in public affairs is not some sort of sinister gimmick being employed in a cynical way to disguise negative shots. Pointing out the foibles and the errors of decision-makers and their decisions is essential to the process of achieving peace, order and good government in a community.

If the emperors-that-be aren’t wearing any clothes, the citizens must say so. Mindlessly applauding the emperors-that-be and agreeing that their non-existent new clothes are truly wondrous serves no purpose other than pure sycophancy. What our city needs is clearheaded thinking, honest, open-eyed discussion and an end to the apathy that holds us back.

Ultimately, no public good comes when the public’s business is conducted in the shadows and special interest agendas are allowed to replace the interests of the community. Peace, order and good government can only be achieved when light is allowed to shine in.

And that is what Voice was formed to bring about; because nothing good grows in the absence of light, transparency, accountability, and a strong voice for the community and its citizens.


MSRA extraordinary meeting held to discuss United Boulevard Extension

Voice has received a copy of the McBride-Sapperton Residents’ Association (MSRA) letter to Mayor and Council regarding the United Boulevard Extension (UBE).

We want to commend the MSRA for articulating many of the same points raised by Voice in relation to the UBE.

MSRA President Geoff Pinkerton has kindly given us permission to post the letter below for the benefit of our readers.

=============================================

From: Geoff Pinkerton
Date: Dec 6, 2010
Subject: Summary of 1 Dec 2010 MSRA meeting regarding the United Boulevard Extension
To: postmaster@newwestcity.ca

Mayor and Council,

The McBride-Sapperton Residents’ Association held an extraordinary meeting at 7:00pm on 1 Dec 2010 at the Sapperton Pensioner’s Hall regarding the United Boulevard Extension portion of the North Fraser Perimeter Road project.

The McBride-Sapperton Residents’ Association has been following this issue for many years and has many concerns about the project and its impact upon the livability of Sapperton and in fact upon the City as a whole.

The purpose of the meeting was to gauge public support for, or opposition to, Tranlink’s four proposals regarding the United Boulevard Extension.

The meeting was attended by approximately 90 members of the public, including three members of Council (Councillors Osterman, McEvoy and Harper), and two members of City Staff (Jim Lowrie and Eugene Wat).

The format of the meeting to was as follows:

1. Introduction of the MRSA

2. Review of the history of the project

3. Review of the Tranlink slides showing the four proposals

4. Public discussion

5. Motion

The merits and problems associated with the four options were discussed and debated. A fifth option (Option E) was also discussed. This fifth option included discussion on a wide range of things such as deferring the project and instead focusing on removing traffic from the road network, further upgrades to the freeway and forgoing the United Boulevard Extension as it essentially parallels the freeway, looking at alternative connection points from Brunette to United Boulevard (closer to the Brunette/freeway interchange, building a road along the waterfront from Front Street), etc.

A number of issues were brought up during the open discussion portion of the meeting. Concerns were raised about a substantial increase in the amount of truck traffic through New Westminster, the fact that a three story overpass structure (Option A) will have huge visual and noise impacts on residents, the negative impact on property values and the negative impact on air quality, and that this project will “uglify the neighbourhood”. It was clarified that Translink cannot proceed with this project unless it has approval from New Westminster.

From a budgeting perspective, it was noted that the North Fraser Perimeter Road project was budgeted at $55 Million in 2000, rose to $130 Million in 2007, and now stands at around $175 Million for a portion of the work. It was explained at the meeting that Tranlink’s plan regarding the tunnel portion from East Columbia Street to Front Street, is that it would no longer be part of this work and would instead be done when the Pattullo Bridge replacement is completed. It is not clear if and when the Pattullo Bridge project will go ahead. As such, there is a fear that the tunnel portion would not proceed in any immediate timeframe and the completion of the United Boulevard Extension would simply shift the traffic problems from Braid Street to East Columbia Street.

Some area residents are resigned to the fact that this project must be completed and that “doing nothing is not an option”. These opinions were the minority and in fact the majority of the people at the meeting felt that the negative impacts of the project far outweighed any benefits. The overwhelming opinion at the meeting was that this project cannot be looked at piecemeal and that the entire North Fraser Perimeter Road project needs to be looked at as a comprehensive plan. The completion of the United Boulevard Extension portion of the project will only shift the traffic problems elsewhere in the City and negatively impact other neighbourhoods or the downtown core.

We called for a show of hands regarding the four options. Of the 90 people present, none favoured Options A, C or D. Nine people favoured Option B as it would keep traffic flowing more smoothly. The remainder favoured a further option, Option E, which would be to defer the project until the entire North Fraser Perimeter Road project can be dealt with as a comprehensive project. It was very interesting to note, and it appeared to be a surprise to the members of Council present, that there was no support for Option A, the only option favoured by New Westminster City Council.

After the show of hands, the following motion was presented and passed:
“That the MSRA opposes all Options A through D and requests that Translink defer the United Boulevard Extension portion of the North Fraser Perimeter Road project until the entire North Fraser Perimeter Road project is dealt with as a complete and comprehensive plan.”

The MSRA requests that the City defer any agreement with Translink to proceed with the United Boulevard Extension portion of the North Fraser Perimeter Road project until the entire North Fraser Perimeter Road project plan is presented in a complete and comprehensive way. We also request that all conditions from New Westminster City Council’s 5 Feb 2007 resolution regarding this issue are met prior to an agreement being signed, including an agreement that the tunnel portion from East Columbia to Front street would be included as part of the plan.

The McBride-Sapperton Residents’ Association also requests that the City sponsor a workshop in which the entire North Fraser Perimeter Road project can be discussed and the impact of piecemeal projects such as the United Boulevard Extension upon the whole city can be analyzed. Additionally, the McBride-Sapperton Residents’ Association would like to have other issues/projects that will have a substantial impact on traffic and livability in the Sapperton area of the City be presented at this meeting. These issues include items such as Port Metro Vancouver’s ownership of the Canfor Lands and the continuing discussion of an incinerator in our community.

Regards,

Geoff Pinkerton
President
McBride-Sapperton Residents’ Association

Public outcry strikes chord: TransLink schedules new United Boulevard Extension (UBE) public info session

Public outcry over an inadequate consultation process and poor information flow surrounding the proposed United Boulevard Extension (UBE) appears to have struck a chord with TransLink.

TransLink has announced that an additional UBE public information session will now be held on December 7th at the Justice Institute in New Westminster.

The details, as provided by TransLink, are as follows:

Presentation and discussion session 6:00 P.M.* to 8:30 P.M.

At the Justice Institute
715 McBride Boulevard
New Westminster

*Presentation in the Theatre begins at 6:45 P.M., followed by a discussion.

Although we applaud TransLink for recognizing that the previous session at the JI was not well received by the public, we would also like to see a commitment by TransLink and the City of New Westminster to a full and open discussion at the December 7th session along with a commitment to provide full information on the subject.

We recognize that TransLink and the City of New Westminster have different mandates and functions. However, New Westminster is a member of TransLink, and for one party to feign ignorance of the activities of the other is simply not acceptable to the public.

We are also aware that subsequent to the last UBE session New Westminster expressed its desire to have three of the proposed options removed.

However, shouldn’t the options presented to the public at the last session have been agreed to by the two parties prior to the public meeting?

As a number of people have commented, the last session at the JI was characterized by chaos, confusion and political point scoring. New Westminster’s intrepid mayor even weighed in and called the meeting a “donnybrook.”

For the December 7th session we recommend that the City make it very clear which UBE options it will and will not entertain.

The City should also make clear what its intentions are regarding a Waste to Energy site in the Braid Industrial Area.

And although we are very aware that a decision has not yet been made by the Province regarding a solid waste management strategy for the Metro region, we do not want to see a repeat of the last Waste to Energy initiative for the Braid Industrial Area which saw New Westminster residents misled by the City as to City’s position and intentions on the issue.

Additionally, the City needs to be completely forthcoming regarding the nature and content of its negotiations with the City of Coquitlam on the UBE. We feel it’s really quite simple: be clear about what was discussed with Coquitlam and clear about any and all decisions and understandings reached.

Cheap political stunts and negotiating via long distance through the press does nothing to help the process move forward and only adds to the public confusion.

Lastly, both the City and TransLink need to be open and forthcoming about what commitments were made when the application for federal funding was submitted. For instance, are there strings attached to the funding? What commitments were made to the railways, if any? What were the timelines?

We urge all those interested in this important issue to keep December 7th open and to participate in this important public session.