Climate Change
February 18, 2019

A Shift to Renewables in Alberta?


Here are three interesting items that are linked to sustainability and surprisingly  involve the province of Alberta. As noted on Twitter by @TheGentYYC some extraordinary initiatives are moving that province in a greener direction. First off,  that Canadian oil stalwart, Petro Canada is building a network of Electric Vehicle (EV) fast charging stations across Canada.

Petro Canada says “Keeping people moving is what we do, and we know that Canadians needs are evolving. We want to help you along your journey, which is why we are building a cross-Canada network of EV fast charge stations. To keep you moving toward what matters most to you.”

As @TheGentYYC points out Petro Canada is owned by Suncor, the world’s largest producer of bitumen. Suncor had a revenue of over 29 billion dollars in 2015 and owns the oils sands plant near Fort McMurray.  For Suncor to sponsor electric vehicle charging stations is a “tectonic event” and suggestive of a major policy shift in “corporate climate leadership”.

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Maybe this won’t become a thermal coal port

Port Metro Vancouver has cancelled the permit for a project that would have resulted in more thermal coal shipments, these from Fraser Surrey Docks.  The only reason currently available is that the permit’s 83 conditions have not been met — specifically one requiring substantial start of construction by November 30, 2018.

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Join us to learn how local governments are working to achieve healthy, resilient urban forests, and hear highlights about Metro Vancouver’s Urban Forest Climate Adaptation program and New Westminster’s award-winning Urban Forest Management Strategy.

  • Edward Nichol, Senior Policy and Planning Analyst (Environment), Regional Planning, Metro Vancouver
  • Amelia Needoba, Principal & Senior Urban Forester, Diamond Head Consulting
  • Erika Mashig, Manager, Arboriculture, Horticulture, Parks & Open Space Planning, City of New Westminster

Wednesday, February 20

7:30 – 9:00 am – Presentations start at 7:30 am
Continental breakfast available at 7:00 am

BCIT Downtown – 555 Seymour

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Tuesday November 6 is a the mid-term election day in the USA but it is also a big day for the City of Richmond too, where the inaugural meeting of the new City Council will include looking at  residential development on agricultural land. 

And it’s not only Richmond under siege with mansion growing~it’s happening in California wine country too.

The last City of Richmond Council has been complicit in allowing the best agricultural lands in Canada supposedly protected under  the Agricultural Land Commission  to become private gated offshore owned estates.

The previous Council against the advice of their own staff endorsed the building of nearly 11,000 square foot mcmansions on farming lands.  That Council also allowed larger farm properties to not only have a huge house, but an additional 3,200 square foot house for the “help”.

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Meanwhile South of the Fraser River where the 20th century rhetoric of motordom and industrialization reign supreme, Gateway Casinos soldiers on with a 70 million dollar casino to be plunked right beside the Delta side of the Massey Tunnel. But wait~Gateway Casinos insist this will “not be just about gambling but would provide an entertainment experience”. 
The property is owned by a company of Ron Toigo of White Spot. For motordom a new parking lot will be created with 800 parking spaces and 200,000 square feet built to accommodate gambling. The same Delta Mayor and City Council still insisting on their ten lane overbuilt Massey Bridge (with one double salary  dipping  provincial liberal MLA who also picks up a pay cheque as a Delta Councillor) still want their casino, located in a spot easily accessible by car. What a surprise. The 1960’s are alive and well in Delta.
The Delta Optimist  reports  “Gateway hopes to begin construction this fall with a grand opening in 2020. The project includes a five-storey, 116-room hotel, meeting space, eateries and a casino with 500 slots, 24 gaming tables and several e-tables. There would be room for further gaming expansion.In a statement, the company notes the community throughout the process has been very engaged and provided valuable feedback that will continue to shape the look and feel of the project.”
It is a bit odd that the language used about the casino is very similar to the language used about the one-sided process to “engage” the community about the last Provincial government’s multi billion dollar Massey Bridge. Regardless, the Delta Mayor and Council have agreed to fast track this proposal, which will provide Delta with an additional two to three million dollars annually with their casino “cut”.
As Gateway casino states this will “grow the community’s economy” by
creating new well-paying jobs in Delta while improving the entertainment and hospitality option in the community…“There is great potential in Delta and a Gateway entertainment destination, with a number of gaming and non-gaming attractions, on the Town and Country site would allow Delta to significantly advance its tourism strategy and deliver on the tourism objectives set out in the strategy.”
Imagine if a seniors’ centre or new rental housing was fast tracked with such enthusiasm or as quickly as this casino is. Despite all the bad news emerging about where casino money is actually from, the City of Delta  hopes to have this casino before Council this month. If you can’t industrialize the Fraser River , you can  still plunk casinos on it.
So last century.

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Autonomous Vehicles (or AVs) were to make life easier with less road crashes and carnage. Nearly 38,000 people in the United States are annually killed on roads, and that number is rising. Autonomous vehicles would enable transportation for people who did not have drivers’ licences, and also dealt with the pesky problem of  drivers getting older. Statistics Canada figures from 2009 show that almost 28 per cent of drivers over the age of 65 are driving with some form of dementia. Autonomous vehicles would allow everyone to be mobile that could afford to use their services.
Transportation experts have continually pointed out that despite the positives of universal access to AVs there are some fundamental problems. Autonomous vehicles do not get rid of congestion, they just add to it. And while there may be less parked cars in downtowns and in cities, the streets may be designed to allow for the flow of autonomous vehicles and may not be inclusive of active transportation users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Perhaps that is the fundamental question: are we so engaged by this shiny new technology that human-powered active transportation and human based design of place and cities will be suppressed for the latest iteration of motordom?
In Tempe Arizona a homeless lady with her bicycle was struck and killed by an autonomous Uber. Sadly as reported in City Lab  by David Alpert, the police reported that the lady was not in a crosswalk, and the fatal road violence was blamed upon the dead victim. Nine other pedestrians had died in Arizona that week, but this death, by an autonomous vehicle was the one that garnered attention. But if all road deaths are reduced by 90 per cent, is that a reason to embrace this technology? “The woman was, indeed, not in a crosswalk. Bizarrely, there is a direct, curving brick path through the area, but it’s strictly ornamental: Pedestrians are forbidden from using it, and there are multiple signs posted to tell people not to use the path. The path follows what seems to be the most logical route to a nearby bus stop, and crosses the roads at narrower (and thus less harrowing) spots than the official crosswalk, which requires traversing seven lanes, counting turn lanes.This is the engineering reality of much of Tempe, and much of suburban America: Designers create inhospitable environments in which to walk, then try to prohibit walking in the least inhospitable parts of those environments. And often, when someone is killed, police rush to exonerate the driver.”
The Federation of International Pedestrians has been resolute in saying that no death is acceptable, and has insisted that autonomous vehicles be programmed to save all road users, not just the ones in the vehicle. There is an interest in adopting edicts like “Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities” which prioritizes people’s lives over the vehicle occupants. But as Alpert observes “We can insist that any pedestrian death is not acceptable, just as we do for aviation, where all incidents are studied intently, and commercial aviation deaths worldwide have plummeted from 2,469 people in 55 crashes in 1972 to just 44 fatalities—and none in a passenger jet—worldwide in 2017. There have been zero deaths on U.S. airlines since 2009.” 
It is time to stop justifying deaths on roads because of “speed” or “convenience”.  “Let this, the first recorded pedestrian killed by an autonomous car, set a better example for what we expect of our roads, and the technologies transforming them.”


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There are an estimated 8,000 electric vehicles in BC. These numbers may seem small compared with the millions of vehicles registered, but growth is tracking in the double-digits on a year-over-year basis. With significantly fewer emissions and lower operating costs, electric vehicles have the potential to benefit climate change and affordability – two important goals in our region.
·        Eve Hou, Air Quality Planner, Air Quality and Climate Change, Parks, Planning and Environment, Metro Vancouver
·        Chris Frye, Acting Director, Communities and Transportation Branch, Electricity and Alternative Energy, Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Province of BC
·        Anthonia Ogundele, Manager, Environmental Sustainability and Business Continuity, Facility & Environmental Management, Vancity
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From Park and Ken Greenberg  comes the video by Garrick Mason  “Something New from Something Old”  describing some unique and some familiar concepts in making great public spaces. Using conversations with urbanists in New York City and in Toronto, the film explores how low density streets can give up much space for the car, but space for humans walking and biking is still a street fight. Opportunities for more green space has come with the “glacial recedence of industrial uses that have revealed new opportunities. Eric Landau with the Brooklyn Trust describes how the area under DUMBO (Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) has been transformed from industrial to park space. With ten per cent of the area being developed to cover the operational and maintenance costs of the new Brooklyn Park, former five acre industrial docking piers have been transformed into park experiences, each with their own unique purpose and use.
Opening up with music that was first performed by singers on New York City’s Highline, the film discusses the importance of public/private financing, noting that redeveloping green space as amenities creates real estate value for surrounding properties.
As the film maker observes: ” I decided to ask experts, designers, and planners involved in some of the highest profile conversion projects in Toronto and New York City about the rationale behind these conversions, the challenges involved in designing under such novel constraints, and the difficult issues — like funding, accessibility, benefit sharing — that come with them. Their answers were both fascinating and encouraging, pointing to a world in which the development of cities will have more to do with gracefully evolving in place than with spreading outwards to infinity. ”
You can watch the video on Vimeo by clicking on the  blue tab on the “Sorry” link below.

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