30 October 2015

Vancouver Approves Brewery Across from Family Centre

One of the Community Centre Associations I am Commissioner Liaison to is RayCam. This issue has been very important to the community. I am sharing this press release from Guy Wakeman and Judy McGuire for information purposes.

For Immediate Release: October 30, 2015

In what can only be described as a nasty trick to play on Downtown Eastside children and families, the City of Vancouver has just given approval for a brewery and tasting room to open across the street from the Ray-Cam Community Centre.
Ray-Cam is a well-known and respected centre which offers numerous programs for local families and seniors, daily childcare and after-school programs for over 100 children, sports activities for young people, and evening programs for local teens. Located adjacent to the Stamps Place Housing Complex and the Strathcona neighbourhood, it is widely regarded as the community living room by families with few other resources
Raising children in the Downtown Eastside is a daunting challenge. Parents, already stressed by trying to provide for their families, also face trying to protect their children from witnessing the activities of local drug dealers and sex trade workers, to say nothing of having to constantly guard against them finding discarded needles and condoms. 

Local families were relieved when City Council implemented restrictions on marijuana shops which will prevent them from operating within 300 metres of schools and community centres. The two located half a block from Ray-Cam and Stamps Place will now have to move. This decision fits well with the City’s Health City Strategy which, among other goals, aims to ensure that Vancouver’s children have the best chance of enjoying a healthy childhood. 

The City’s seeming care for the well-being of children is now being questioned by local families facing the prospect of having a brewery serving alcohol on-site located right across from the community centre they considered a refuge for their young
On hearing of the decision, Guy Wakeman, president of the Stamps Place Tenants Council, was extremely upset. “I do not understand why the City would agree to a brewery opening here. I have two young children who will now be exposed to the open promotion and consumption of alcohol every single day. It’s right beside our bus stop. They will not be able to avoid it. I’m very upset and worried about how this will affect my children and my neighbours.”

The City has acted responsibly in restricting the location of marijuana shops. Residents are hoping they will quickly take similar steps to protect children from the promotion and open consumption of alcohol, and direct this proposed brewery to move to a more suitable location. 

For further information, contact:
Guy Wakeman, President, Stamps Place Tenants Council
Judy McGuire, Coordinator, Inner City Safety Society
judemcguire@telus.net, 604-889-8430

29 October 2015

Fixing What Harper Broke:

  a to-do list for the incoming government

Okay, not about Vancouver parks today. But I thought an important post nonetheless. Thank you to Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada for this list:

We need a stock-taking. A “to-do” list. Some of what the Harper administration broke will be easy to fix; much will be very hard indeed.

What we must do is insist the damage be reversed. There is an equally long list of steps to take moving forward – but we need to repair immense damage to nearly every aspect of federal law and policy.

Here’s a start:
1) Fixing security law:
  • Repeal Bill C-51. As a compromise, the Liberals could amend part 2 (No Fly lists) while repealing Parts 1 (info sharing), 3 (terrorism in general propaganda), 4 (the most dangerous, unleashing CSIS as covert disruptors) and 5 (allowing evidence obtained by torture).
  • Repeal C-44 – allowing CSIS agents to operate over-seas.
  • Repeal C-38 – with a section eliminating the Inspector General for CSIS.
  • Repeal C-3 (2007 legislation that introduced unconstitutional security certificates).
  • Instead – build security law drawn from advice from the Arar and Air India Commissions of Inquiry.
2) Rebuilding our criminal law system:
  • Reinstate the Law Reform Commission and Court Challenges programme.
  • Repeal C-10 and other mandatory minimum provisions.
  • Repeal C-2 (Insite).
  • Repeal C-14 (NCR).
  • Repeal C-25 (Truth in Sentencing Act).
  • Repeal C-309 (Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act).
3) Reverse trend to slippery citizenship:
  • Return Canada’s embassies to aggressively act for Canadians abroad in trouble – including on death row.
  • Repeal C-24 (only one citizenship exists – unless obtained by fraud, citizenship is citizenship).
  • Repeal FATCA (found in omnibus C-31).
  • Restore citizenship for Lost Canadians.
4) Immigration and refugee law:
  • Repeal the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act from Fall 2011 that puts refugees arriving by boat in jail for a year (C-31).
  • Return to principles of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act – create a predictable path to citizenship.
  • Prioritize family reunification.
  • Create a sponsor-friendly refugee support process. Restore health, housing, language and other supports to refugee claimants.
  • Appoint board members to Immigration appeal board to deal with backlog.
5) Restore evidence-based decision making:
  • Restore Long Form Census. Rehire Munir Sheik as Chief Statistician of Canada and give him the Order of Canada.
  • Repeal C-38 sections that wrecked environmental assessment (EA). Eliminate any EA role for energy regulatory agencies (NEB, offshore petroleum boards, CNSC, etc) and return EA to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Repeal C-38 destruction of CEAA, and further amend the Act to remove the conflict of interest found in the pre-2011 CEAA. A good model can be found in the Liberal 1993 Red Book (never implemented).
  • Repeal C-38 elimination of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy.
  • Re-hire scientists.
  • Restore funding to the Canadian Climate Forum (formerly the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences).
  • Restore funding to Polar Environmental Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL).
  • Restore the Marine Mammals Contaminants Programme.
  • Restore testing of smokestacks for air quality.
  • Restore ozone layer testing.
  • Restore freshwater science. Resume funding and DFO work in Experimental Lakes Area.
  • Restore research funding and monitoring for ecological integrity to Parks Canada.
6) Repair environmental laws and policy:
  • Repeal C-38:
I. Damage to Fisheries Act (restore habitat protection, reverse administrative changes in interpretation of “deleterious to fish” as meaning acute toxicity at LD50, as well as removing the equivalency provisions for provincial down-loading);
II. Section that amended NEB also damaged Species at Risk Act, Navigable Waters Protection At, Fisheries Act exempting these acts – as not applying along route of a pipeline;
III. As above in decision-making section, restore CEAA as sole agency to oversee environmental reviews.
  • Repeal C-45:
I. Restore Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA), and repeal the 2009 omnibus bill that re-defined “navigable waters” to a matter of ministerial discretion. Return NWPA to its pre-2006 condition. Navigable waters are any and all waters that can be navigated.
  • Restore funding to Canadian Environmental Network.
7) Climate action:
  • Ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Work with other Kyoto parties and support the information sections and the mechanisms, especially the Clean Development Mechanism. No new targets need be established within the KP as our new targets will evolve in the new comprehensive COP21 agreement.
  • Restore ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes program.
  • Consider the other actions in place in 2006 that the Harper administration cancelled.
8) Repair Official Development Assistance:
  • Restore funding to MATCH, KAIROS, Canadian Council for International Cooperation, etc.
  • Consider re-establishing CIDA as its own agency, but at a minimum reverse funding cuts and restore goal of poverty alleviation.
9) Service Canada:
  • In what was described as an effort to save money, the Harper administration created a new department to house administrative, IT and finance roles. Call for a full audit by the Auditor General and determine if Service Canada has in fact resulted in savings, or, if, as many suspect, it has been a boondoggle. Consider restoring functionality in the public service.
10) Reverse monumental mistakes:
  • Cancel any federal funding to Canadian Memorial to the Victims of Communism and cancel plans for its current location. Allow it to proceed in another location with a more modest and reasonable design as a private charitable project.
  • Restore land from Green Cove in Cape Breton Highlands National Park to the park, reversing private give-away to private sector interests. Allow the so-called Mother Canada statue to be built on an appropriate site in industrial Cape Breton.
11) Repair national parks:
  • Cancel any and all plans to further privatize within national parks.
  • Amend the Sable Island National Parks Act to remove the role of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board as a regulator within the park. Ban seismic testing, drilling and any industrial activity in the park.
  • Amend the Rouge Valley National Parks Act to restore ecological integrity.
  • Re-affirm the guiding principle of the National Parks Act to protect ecological integrity.
12) Repair legislative damage to First Nations rights and title:
  • Amend the NWT devolution act to restore the water boards and other agencies created by treaty.
  • Repeal C-27 (First Nations Financial Transparency Act) and S-2 (Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act).
  • Restore funding and re-open the National Aboriginal Health Organization and the First Nations Statistical Institute.
13) Women’s rights:
  • Restore purpose of Status of Women Canada to include achieving equality for women.
  • Restore funding to Canadian Association of Women and the Law, National Action Committee, etc.
  • Institute an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
  • Implement pay equity for women in federal civil service.
  • Repeal manipulative laws that contort women’s rights creating increased risks to women:
I. S-7 (Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act)
II. C-36 (Sex trade worker law)
14) Restore funding to CBC-Radio Canada:
  • Cancel sale of assets
15) Reverse cessation of home delivery by Canada Post
16) Re-engage with international sustainable development:
  • Restore funding to CIDA.
  • Halt sales of diplomatic residences.
  • Ratify the Convention to Combat Desertification (from which we withdrew under the Harper Conservatives).
17) Investor State agreements that cannot be undone:
  • Canada-China Investment Treaty was signed and ratified without any hearings in Parliament, without a ratification vote in the House or Senate.
  • The earliest Canada can be out from under this treaty is 2045. To protect Canadian interests and sovereignty, we need a law requiring immediate public disclosure of any and all complaints by the People’s Republic of China against Canadian legislation, regulation or policy changes, pending or concluded, at all levels of government. This notification includes any diplomatic pressure from the PRC in the six month window for conflict resolution prior to the lodging of an actual arbitration claim. Canada must be prepared to pay damages to the People’s Republic of China if our environment, labour or safety laws require it. The Canada-China Investment Treaty is the worst of the changes wrought in the Harper era. It could operate to stop the needed repairs. All we can do now is ask to re-negotiate while ensuring our domestic legislation guarantees transparency.

28 October 2015

Pete Fry: Viaducts removal and Vancouver's eastern expansion

The StraighOctober 27th, 2015
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Photo by Stephen Hui

This week, Vancouver City Council is expected to vote on removing the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts—although as many City Hall watchers suggest: It is already a done deal. The proposal to remove the viaducts has been an ongoing issue for several years now; one that has piqued concern and activism in neighbouring communities.

As many of us have been advocating for years: if we are going to remove the viaducts, let’s do it right.

(*Full disclosure: my political genesis was viaducts removal. After losing a close friend and neighbour to unsafe Prior Street traffic conditions, I’ve been advocating for safety improvements east of Main to be included in the viaducts planning.)

The removal of the viaducts is supposed to open up some 2.5 million square feet of residential and commercial development, provide new green space, and add thousands of new residents. More importantly, the development of Northeast False Creek is key to the eastward migration of Downtown Vancouver—an inevitability that urbanists and realtors have been describing for decades.

At his 2015 Urban Development Institute address, Vancouver's pre-eminent real estate marketer Bob Rennie described "big game changers" that will trigger the movement of the city centre east. Bold moves like the relocation of St. Paul's Hospital to the False Creek Flats, and the removal of the viaducts are two of those game changers. But in any game changer, there are winners and losers.
The winners, of course, will be the developers and landowners who stand to immediately benefit from viaducts removal. Concord Pacific who own and will develop much of that land; the Crown Corporation PavCo and the City itself have significant holdings that will open up; and Ian Gillespie's district energy company has inked a deal with the City to provide heat for all new development in the area.

Optimistically, Vancouverites could be big winners if this project is done right—but the losers might well be the most vulnerable in our population, particularly as development puts the squeeze on housing affordability and new road networks bring more traffic.

Here are some caveats I outlined before council at first reading of the city staff report on October 21.
First, the City must commit to traffic management east of Main Street as part of the viaducts' removal.

One of the biggest concerns expressed by commuters and businesses is that viaducts removal will exacerbate congestion. According to the report, however, the proposed viaducts replacement road—a new at-grade “grand boulevard”—will accommodate viaducts and existing Pacific and Expo traffic streams, while actually increasing road capacity.

The City’s report offers no commitment to address that traffic flow beyond Northeast False Creek, however. To the east: the communities of Strathcona, Grandview–Woodland, the Downtown Eastside, and Chinatown lack the road infrastructure to accommodate the traffic from the new post-viaducts street network and millions of square feet of new development.

As the plan currently outlines, the new Pacific Boulevard will connect to Prior Street. Prior, a narrow neighbourhood street without the setbacks and width expected of an arterial road, is the unfortunate legacy of the proposed freeway system that citizens managed to stop in the 1970s.
Prior Street.
Wayne Worden
An In-Service Road Safety Review of Prior and Venables (prepared for the City in September by Urban Systems and Morr Transportation Consulting) concedes: “the collisions occurring along Prior Street are involving a higher number of vulnerable road users than other comparable corridors and are potentially more severe.”

Of course, locals recognize the inherent danger for vulnerable road users outlined in the road safety review, and seemingly everyone knows someone who has been touched by reckless commuters racing through our neighbourhood. In Strathcona, parents won’t allow children to cross the busy street to the park as unsafe speeds and the running of red lights are all too common; in Grandview–Woodland, the same sort of situation manifests itself along Victoria Drive north of First.

The report before council does acknowledge the need to secure a new east-west arterial route, but defers that to an indeterminate plan to be considered in 2016 and contingent on securing senior government funding. In the meantime, uncertainty over the how or where of a new arterial is cause for concern among residents and businesses. We ask that the wording of the report reflect that those details be established before the viaducts are removed.

Second, delivery of affordable and social housing must be guaranteed.

Proponents of viaducts removal point to this as a great opportunity to build affordable housing, and indeed it could be—but the delivery of social housing relies on a complicated shell game.

Concord’s land development is contingent on former landowners (the province of B.C.) removing contaminated soil. In turn, if the City of Vancouver awards significant and sufficient densities to developers Concord, some degree of profit will be shared with the Province, which the City hopes will be directed to social housing.

If you aren’t confused yet, consider that profits will have to factor in the Developer Cost Levies and Community Amenity Contributions (CACs); the latter, paid by the developers, is negotiated behind closed doors and will be expected to help cover the cost of viaducts removal, parks, seawall, and a new road network.

At a recent SFU City Conversations on the subject, noted urban planner Lance Berelowitz questioned whether the math could work to deliver all the promises via CACs. One thing is for sure: if we are to extract maximum public benefit, these as-yet-to-happen negotiations need to be transparent.

Among the parcels for redevelopment, city-owned land is being considered for sale in order to finance viaducts removal and housing. The city has previously shown leadership in advocating for a housing land trust—and these locations would be a wonderful opportunity to build leasehold public housing on city-owned land.

On the blocks flanking Main Street in particular, the City could further honour the black community of Hogan’s Alley who were displaced to make way for the viaducts, by embracing the idea of retaining public ownership of the land rather than selling it to the highest bidder.

The future of the viaducts land, St. Paul’s Hospital, and the Flats, together with development in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside, are putting extraordinary pressure on housing. We need to advocate at all three levels of government to ensure that we are protecting residents from displacement and be much more proactive in the building of affordable and social housing.

The city knows they cannot build this housing alone, and the staff report details the negotiations that must happen with senior governments. However, the City must ensure that their plan includes real and achievable targets in writing, along with a meaningful commitment to delivering affordable housing, lest we end up with more Olympic Village-style broken promises.

If we do it right: with comprehensive traffic management for the East End and a commitment to social and affordable housing; honouring the displacement of the black community at Hogan’s Alley and the diversity and struggle of the area’s low income community; and delivering existing residents their overdue and long-promised Creekside Park; viaducts removal could be a great opportunity for our City.

If we do it right.
Pete Fry is the Green Party of B.C. candidate in the riding of Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.