Peter Ladner writes in Business In Vancouver.

You didn’t have to spend long at Globe 2016 to get the message: global politicians, investors and businesses are headed inexorably toward a low-carbon future. Then came two shocking announcements: Canadian Pacific Railway CEO Hunter Harrison saying publicly that fossil fuels are “probably dead,” and the U.K.’s biggest energy lobbying group, Energy UK, long a defender of fossil fuels, campaigning for low-carbon alternatives for the first time.
Meanwhile, back out on our streets, in spite of green plans raining down on us from virtually every municipality, we are still backing up at high speed into an expensive car-dependent future based on a 20th-century paradigm of high-carbon suburban sprawl, megamalls, long commutes, bad air, traffic deaths and injuries and obese kids. Oh, and coal exports. . . .
. . .  As things stand now, we’re stalled and tracking for a no-win high-carbon future, even though it may be filled with shiny, safe, shared driverless cars and cool apps.

I might add that the Federal Gov’t also has a low-carbon future in mind, as spelled out explicitly in the Budget speech today.
Meanwhile, our Provincial Gov’t puts it’s Climate Leadership strategy into the hands of a former Fraser Institute director.  It’s hard to imagine a more polarized situation.

Effective March 25, 2016:
Fazil Mihlar takes on a new role as the Deputy Minister, Climate Leadership, reporting to the minister of environment. Mihlar will provide dedicated leadership to the Province’s engagement with the public, industry, environmental groups and other levels of government, leading to the creation of British Columbia’s new Climate Leadership Plan.


  1. And in other news: $30B deficit on the federal level and $100B+ in 3 years.
    This is sustainability ?

      1. Most of the debt is NOT for investment but excessive spending. No problem borrowing to build a bridge, then toll it. So OK for the $10B or so infrastructure investment. Not for the remaining $20B.
        Our taxes are too low for our lifestyles, or our spending is too high.
        Party now, pay later .. that is sustainable ?

    1. $30B ……. that is probably lower than the value of all development stimulated so far by the Expo Line. The national economy is worth $2 trillion a year, and the federal deficit is 1.5% of that. The total debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to decrease to about 30% by the next election, the lowest of G8 nations. Their budget purposely lowered the private sector’s growth projections, so that ratio and final deficits could be lower in the next few years.
      $30B. Big deal. What really matters is correcting the infrastructure and social deficits that built up under Harper, both of which drags on the economy and are collectively valued well over $200B.

        1. I guess what Thomas is trying to say is that the liberals should have reversed the Harper corporate tax cuts to reduce the deficits.

      1. @N: more like reverse the GST cut or gone to 8% .. but that would be too honest, so let’s borrow billions and hide it from today’s voters and bill future or yet unborn voters !
        We should do 10% corporate and income taxes. Then tax the heck out of consumption and properties. That makes far more sense to me.

        1. @N. Why should corporations pay any taxes?
          If mommy goes and buys food, clothing and shoes for the family, why should mommy have to pay for the corporate taxes the suppliers will have to pay to the government? (Don’t imagine she doesn’t. All costs including taxes are incorporated into the prices.)
          I can understand property taxes for municipal services and I can understand individual taxes for services and benefits but I cannot see why an abstract entity, like a company or a corporation, should pay tax, other than a very small percentage, for regulatory bureaucracy purposes.
          If progressives don’t like consumer taxes like Sales taxes then they should feel the same about corporate taxes.

    2. Let’s compare the federal deficit relationship to its overall economy to the BC budget. As stated above, the entire federal deficit is 1.5% of the annual national economy, and it represents a multiplicity of benefits.
      In BC, however, the supposedly fiscally responsible “free enterprise” government decided to value just one project, the Massey Bridge, at 1.6% of the annual provincial economy and base it on highly questionable economic and design performance criteria and a shoddy environmental review.
      Now the province brings in a former Postmedia editor who, under his watch, published a plethora of letters, articles and op-eds by fossil fuel-linked industry mouthpieces, including his own Fraser Institute, to downplay or in some cases to outright deny the science behind climate change. Not one of the pieces I read over the years resulted from peer-reviewed research.
      The BC Libs cannot claim the mantle of sound fiscal managers or of environmental responsibility. They CAN claim the crown of cynicism.

      1. The Massey Bridge is also imperative for moderating housing prices in Vancouver. As Neil Macdonald of CBC astutely pointed out yesterday on their web site, the problems that Montreal has with their Champlain Bridge mean that the outlying areas are more difficult to get to and therefore less attractive for home buyers. This naturally raises the demand and the cost for housing on the island of Montreal.
        The same is obviously true in Vancouver, which is yet another very good reason why not only is the new bridge needed to reduce congestion and pollution but also to facilitate travel to the southern communities, the main ferry terminal, the container port, the rapid link from Vancouver west, south and Richmond to the Highway 17 link to the Trans Canada Highway and the USA, etc.
        The Trudeau Liberals confirmed the importance of bridges, roads and easing contesting in their budget speech yesterday. The BC Liberals confirmed their commitment to relieving the cost of housing in Vancouver by moving the new bridge project forward.

        1. 1950? Is it 1950 again?
          Sprawl leads to car dependence. Car dependence costs families $10,000 or more a year per car. It isn’t a lack of roads that is causing high housing prices and forcing people to own cars only exacerbates the problem. The problem is, at least in part, a lack of housing options and a resistance to density and mixed use. Sprawl solves nothing.

        2. Indeed, Eric indeed !
          We need more public transit AND more roads, tunnels and/or bridges in a growing and goods im/exporting region !
          Almost ALL pipelines, roads and railways end or start at one of the 30+ MetroVan ports and connect it to the rest of North America!

      2. The BC Liberals confirmed their commitment to relieving the cost of housing in Vancouver by moving the Massey Bridge forward.
        Even if the BC government disbanded the ALR (a completely foolish idea), there isn’t enough land to create 5,000 ft2 lots to the horizon. That will only create a much larger supply / demand / price problem in future. The ALR will fill up with Leave It To Beaver generation vinyl subdivisions in a floodplain, the roads will be choked with SOVs just as the price of fuel climbs back into triple digits, and the provincial debt will exceed 40% of BC’s annual GDP as freeway debt + subsidies and health costs skyrocket with an ageing population dying early from air pollution and traffic accidents.
        The federal government budgeted $500,000 to study the impact of foreign money on the Canadian housing market. Now we will finally get some real data that will end the bombastic, evidence-free opinions that “Mainland Chinese” are the only cause of high prices.
        The BC government avoided the issue by cowardly passing the speculation remediation responsibility over to the real estate industry …. after a completely shallow and empty display of faux anger over shadow flipping by Christy in front of the cameras.

        1. One only has to go ten minutes south of the Massey crossing to reach the elevated and eponymously named Panorama Ridge in Surrey. The ridge extends east across into Langley and the worst the residents would experience would be a closer beach, to go with their glorious sunsets.
          The roads will be busy but with electric cars that will be charged free by the City of Vancouver when the owners quietly cruise into town to their preferred parking slots. As the governments scramble to rid the streets of oily cars the subsidies for Teslas will only increase, making a new Tesla a ‘no brainer’. There might even be a free bridge passages for the saintly Teslas, Volts and Leafs.
          The $500,000 sop from the Liberals in Ottawa will blather about country cottages in Nova Scotia for wealthy Americans continuing an age old tradition to Asians in Toronto and, mustn’t forget Montréal, Syrians, Russians, etc.,
          It’s not all about Vancouver.
          “International buyers have thrust Montreal, a city sometimes overshadowed by Toronto and Vancouver, into the national spotlight. Montreal, known for its crumbling water pipes and bridges as much as its cobblestone streets, now stands out for drawing the biggest share of foreign owners. They purchased 49% of the 206 homes worth at least $1 million in the first half of 2013, according to a Sotheby’s International Realty Canada report and survey of brokers.”


          Christy Clark is correct that illegal activity needs to be stopped but remember, only two complaints have been made to the REBGV.
          Anyway, immigration and foreign financial transactions are federal, so it’s really up to Justin. Don’t hold your breath. Even if the study were to reveal that 1,000 illegal transactions were done with illegal money, the price of a house in Vancouver would not decline by a dollar.

        2. I would estimate a little more than a dollar. Maybe 15%-30% of the value of an average home could be attributed to foreign investment pressure. The rest is supply and demand, a very important thing in Metro Vancouver.
          And once again you do not account for the cost (literal, indirect and external) of our massive road infrastructure. Anything with a motor and four wheels, whether a Tesla Model S or a ’67 Malibu with a bored out 327 engine requires lots of public road space for every function, from dead storage in a parking space at home (and others at work and the mall and …) to being mobile on a variety of roads.

    1. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens as the price of gas starts moving upward again. And, as must inevitably happen, explicit prices start to be set for spewing carbon into the atmosphere.

    2. It is just really cheap gas that is the issue. Who knows how long that will last. And don’t mistake a spike for a trend.

      1. it is also freedom of movement .. liberty .. not being stuck to a schedule. The car will be with us for centuries .. it may get smaller, electric or fuel cell driven, with self-driving options, but the individual vehicle is a symbol of freedom. Only poor people or folks that love to stay in dense city and never venture out do not need or chose not to buy a car ever .. in NA … in Europe that may be different due to city design 1000+ years ago for pedestrians and horses .. but not spacious North America !

        1. Thanks for reminding us that it a “symbol of freedom”. It is not freedom. I feel more free since ditching my car. Car ownership degrades transportation options for everyone else.
          Imagine, for example, how limited a schedule you’d have to fly to Toronto if most people did it in their private jets. Sorry… the next peon flight leaves in six weeks.
          We could have 24 hour high frequency transit and fantastic cycling infrastructure if the $20 billion spent on car ownership in the region each year were directed to shared resources. (I’m not even including the billions in taxes required to build and maintain our roads and bridges – some of which we’d need anyway.)

      2. The “symbol of freedom” is as subject to the laws of physics as everything else. The evolution of the conversion of energy to mobility, food and habitat will most assuredly result in less energy being available tomorrow for everything that uses excessive amounts today, and therein cities may well strive toward a more walkable design with local food and energy production, and of course public transport.
        Cities will be with us for centuries, but personal transport (cars) will be greatly diminished in numbers as all the manifestations of the wasteful use of energy further impose their great cost on a society beset with diminishing resources.

    3. Didn’t see any references to Millennials in the link to the Financial Post. Agree with others that cheap gas drives behaviours. It will go back up again. And carbon pricing will accelerate the change.
      There was a flurry of articles last year about Millenials buying more vehicles. The Atlantic and Bloomberg come to mind. Then, there were articles about per capita purchase trends, vs purchase trends by groups that were of vastly different sizes, ie there are many more Millennials than Gen X. One take on that here:

    4. Sure. Cars are great! They allow personal mobility. Isn’t that the same goal that a pedestrian, a transit user and a cyclist have?
      What people don’t want to do is go back to the days of monomodalism. So many people were left out of that system.

      1. Try to go camping or hiking or exploring Vancouver Island or NW Washington without a car. Good luck with that !
        Car = Freedom of movement .. any time, any day, in any weather .. with anyone with any music at any temperature in any comfort level ..
        or pick a bus with a strict schedule, no comfort ..
        “Cr” might be shared car or e-bike or 2 seater .. e-car or h-car or s-car .. but this individual “car” will be with us forever .. and as such public policy needs to reflect that !

        1. Yes. And it is included in public policy. The idea that cars will be banned or something is just a tactic to scare people. Other than the rare plaza proposal, there is no plan to remove cars from anywhere.
          There is a movement to provide more mode choices to people. This movement comes from the people and is now, after decades of work, finally having a tiny bit of influence.

        2. It’s called car sharing. My transportation expenses are less than 10% since I ditched my car and shared.

        3. I have often explored and gone camping on Vancouver Island and Washington State – by bike. Also Oregon, Rockies and thousands of km in Europe. Bike = true freedom. Any time, any day, almost any weather (deep snow and ice are challenges). No gas, no parking problems. No huge maintenance bills. True freedom.

  2. Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, Canada.
    Budget Speech, 2016.
    “…Long-term Growth for the Middle Class
    As important as government help is, what the Canadian middle class needs most is strong economic growth. That is why the government will make new investments in infrastructure from coast to coast to coast.
    We all benefit when infrastructure is improved. New roads and bridges allow us to get around faster. ….”

  3. It’s Only Words.
    Interesting how yesterday’s Budget is written.
    Under: ‘Making Immediate Investments in Public Transit’.
    “Accelerated design, implementation and construction work for new large-scale projects, such as new light rail transit lines in Greater Vancouver and Ottawa”
    I can understand this referring to the plans that Surrey has in place but I have been under the impression that the Broadway plan is underground. Is that what one also calls ‘light rail transit’?

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