The Federal Pacific Gateway Strategy is a $10 billion plan to develop the West Coast of BC in order to increase trade with Asia. This includes exporting more of our natural resources, in return for cheap consumer goods.

Here in the Lower Mainland, the Federal Gateway Strategy involves expanding Deltaport to triple its original capacity, as well as expanding rail lines, railway yards, and container terminals. The $4 billion Provincial Gateway Program is working in conjunction with the Federal Gateway Strategy to help facilitate the increased movement of goods, as well as to address congestion in the Lower Mainland. This involves expanding Hwy. 1, building a new Port Mann bridge, the construction of the new North Fraser Perimeter Road (NFPR), and the construction of the new South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR). Right now the Hwy. 1 expansion and the new Port Mann are well underway. However, construction for the NFPR has not begun, and the SFPR is only in its pre-load stage. The SFPR is completely unnecessary, and it still has the potential to be stopped. Instead of spending our money on freeways, we could be spending it on better public transportation, education, and health care, which would contribute to creating more liveable and healthy communities for us all.

The Low Down on the SFPR:

Route: The SFPR would be a 40km long, 80km/h freeway. It would start from Deltaport Way in Delta, going along the northern part of Burns Bog, continuing along the Southern edge of the Fraser River through North Delta, and then connecting up with Hwy. 1 in Surrey.
Congestion: The provincial government has told us that one of the main reasons for the construction of the SFPR is to reduce congestion. However, the SFPR will not reduce congestion over the long-term, and it will only lead to the need to build even more roads. Numerous studies and examples show that when new roads are built, people will take more trips in their vehicles, change their route, invest in new cars, or live further away from their place of work so that the level of congestion returns to the same level it was prior to the new road being constructed. This happened in Vancouver when the Alex Fraser Bridge was built to help reduce congestion on Hwy. 1: It was estimated that it would take 7 years until the road became congested again, but in the end, it ended up taking only 9 months!
Building new roads to reduce congestion is like buying a fat man bigger pants in order to get him to loose weight.
Farmland: At least 1000 acres of farmland would be lost for the construction of the SFPR, much of which is supposed to be protected under the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). This isn’t any old farmland being lost either; this is some of the best agricultural land in all of Canada, if not in all of North America. A recent report put out by B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, called the BC Food Self-Reliance Report, said that by 2025 our farmland in BC will need to increase by 49% over 2005 levels if we are to maintain our current level of local food supply. Yet the government is still proposing to build a new freeway that will decrease our farmland, while we will have to rely more heavily upon imports of food from further away — food that may become incredibly expensive or scarce in the face of rising oil prices and a changing climate.
Urban Sprawl: Building a new freeway makes the areas near the freeway more attractive to developers, because it becomes more accessible. With the geography of Vancouver, urban sprawl will necessarily mean developing over more of our farmland. Richmond is a classic example of this: not so long ago it was covered in farmland. The good news is we can still accommodate a growing population in Vancouver without sprawling and without building any new roads: we simply need to densify urban areas and increase public transit. Extensive research at UBC has designed such a plan for Metro Vancouver, and shown this to be possible. (Check out Sustainability by Design (SxD), headed by Patrick Condon at UBC’s school of Architecture and Design)
Burns Bog: Often referred to as the “lungs of the lower mainland”, Burns Bog cleans our air and filters our water. It is the largest undeveloped urban land mass in all of North America, and it is the largest peat bog on the West Coast of North America. It is a fragile and unique ecosystem that is home to a number of rare and endangered species. On top of all this, it is also a huge carbon sink. Throughout the world, peat bogs store 10X as much greenhouse gases in 3X less space than tropical rainforests, therefore the preservation of peat bogs is key to mitigating climate change. The SFPR would be built through Burns Bog, clearing 36 acres of forest along its edge. The freeway would change the composition of the bog by introducing new nutrients to it, as well as threatening the livelihoods of the wildlife that inhabit the bog. (Check out the Burns Bog Conservation Society for more information:
Air Pollution: The SFPR would be built within 1km of 12 public and private schools, and the exhaust from the diesel truck traffic on this road would pose a number of health risks. Numerous studies show that people who live or work in close proximity to freeways have increased rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Diesel particulate matter (PM) has been linked to childhood asthma, decreased birth weights, and even cancer. The short-term health effects of diesel exhaust inhalation include eye, nose, throat and bronchial irritation, headaches, fatigue, stomach aches, and nausea.
Alternatives: The good news is… there is another way! Building freeways and urban sprawl are not our only options for development in the Lower Mainland, and this project is not inevitable. To reduce congestion, and free up space on our existing roads for truck traffic, public transportation is a very attractive alternative. This can take the form of fast, frequent, and reliable buses, that are designated their own bus lane and given priority at traffic lights. One designated bus lane has the potential to carry as many people as five passenger car lanes! Bus stops can be designed to be comfortable, and protected from our often cold and rainy winter weather. There are also several options for electric light rail trains that would be fast and convenient, as well as affordable if we are to divert our provincial dollars away from freeways. Another option is to move goods along the Fraser River by barge, rather than by truck. This is called ‘Short-Sea Shipping’, and research has been done to show that this is a cost-effective and very viable option for the region, that would drastically reduce the amount of air pollution coming from diesel trucks.
Not Even Necessary: There is plenty of evidence showing that the port expansion, which the SFPR is supposedly being built to accommodate, isn’t even necessary and that the expected increase in traffic from Asia is not even likely to come. All along the West coast of North America, ports are being, or already have been, expanded. Many of these are sitting at extra capacity. In Northern B.C., the port at Prince Rupert is also under going an expansion, and this is likely to divert traffic away from Deltaport, because Prince Rupert offers a shorter route from Asia by up to three days. The Panama Canal is also undergoing expansion to double its current capacity, and this will offer a shorter route from Asia to Eastern North American markets – right now 60% of the traffic coming to Deltaport is intended for Eastern markets. All of these places undergoing port expansions are surely encountering environmental issues as well, and we can see this trend of building and expanding ports to support international trade increasing around the world. This trend is not sustainable because we live in a world overcome with human-induced ecological destruction and climate change – it’s time to start reversing this trend and developing local economies instead.

The SFPR is a small part of the much larger Gateway Project, therefore it is very symbolic. By taking a stand against the SFPR, and taking action to stop it, we will also be taking a stand on the future of development for not only our region, but for the rest of Canada, and the world. Here are some of the implications of the Gateway Project on both international and national scales.

The Gateway Project…

-Will increase B.C.’s on-road greenhouse gas emissions by 31%
-Will increase our exports of coal to be burned in Asia, with over 20 billion tonnes of coal already being exported yearly
-Is linked to plans to increase coal mining in B.C., with associated greenhouse gas emissions from coal extraction (to learn more about coal mining in B.C., check out this March 2010 report from the Western Wilderness Committee

-Would mean Canada will be developing its economy in an unsustainable manner well into the future. We would be building our economy around a further reliance upon exporting raw natural resources to Asia, in return for cheap imports of consumer products. These products will then either end up in our landfills, or be incinerated – both of which produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
-Would make the Canadian economy more dependent upon coal extraction, forest harvesting, and tar sands development — industries that are detrimental to our health and environment.
-Would make investments and subsidies towards building a green Canadian economy virtually non-existent, as funds continue to go towards unsustainable industries and infrastructure

For more information, check out the links on the left-hand side of this page.