Stop RBT2—to enable success

May 17, 2022
RBT2= Roberts Bank Terminal 2, an opposed container-shipping island in the Fraser Estuary. Canada’s Federal Cabinet may soon decide RBT2’s fate.

Message to the Environment Minister and Cabinet:

In our linked letter to you, we share our RBT2 conclusions and the ways we reached them. We hope you’ll agree that stopping RBT2 clears the way for better alternatives like the Deltaport Berth 4 (DP4) proposal. ECCC told the RBT2 proponent to redesign its Deltaport expansion to preclude a catastrophe, and GCT’s DP4 design met the need.

With RBT2, we tend to take the viewpoint of Western Sandpipers, who often find they need to energize with wonder-food at Roberts Bank on their flyway north to Alaska. It’s a revealing perspective. We also take a Western Canada view, since it’s mainly the Prince Rupert Port that’s been expanding the West Coast container business. With that, DP4 is not needed yet, if ever.

RBT2 would give an autocratic port authority more size and power. That option is worst for (a) the environment, (b) the economy and (c) the climate emergency. Click to proceed to the letter for our illustrated analysis.

With best wishes,
Garden City Conservation Society, Richmond, Fraser Estuary, Salish Sea, BC

Resources that fill out the Garden City Conservation letter: (1) The Boundary Bay Conservation Committee sent this well researched RBT2 analysis to Canada’s Environment Minister in January 2022. (2) Hakai Magazine publishes enlightening stories about the Western Sandpipers, biofilm and the difference between real and “questionable” science, including “The Questionable Science of Vancouver’s Port Expansion” in 2016 and “Flying by the Fat of the Sea” in 2021. (3) The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, VFPA, makes its case at Roberts Bank Terminal

Massive & tricky LNG project in Fraser Estuary

January 21, 2022

The once-small Fortis LNG plant at Tilbury Island, in the Fraser Estuary at Delta, BC, is becoming a multi-headed trickster. The councils of Richmond, Burnaby, Port Moody, New Westminster and Vancouver are alarmed. They’ve voted to oppose Tilbury LNG expansion.

The project involves massive expansion of the LNG plant, storage and shipping. However, Fortis has somewhat evaded environmental assessment by dividing the project into separately assessed smaller parts. Fortunately, the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee undertook the daunting task of analyzing what may get slipped through.

They have provided a remarkably thorough report to the powers that be, starting with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Steven Guilbeault. It’s thorough, organized and documented. Give the PDF a skim! And maybe a read?

Fraser Voices urges federal government to reject Roberts Bank port expansion

April 4, 2020

Update: We’re being asked how to write to politicians who can make a difference. Here’s a Delta group’s resource for getting federal action.

Terminate the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 proposalFrom Otto Langer, Fisheries Biologist, Chair of Fraser Voices Association:

On March 30, 2020, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Review Panel released a 600-page report. If the Federal Government accepts the recommendations, it will permit the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to fill in 177 hectares (1.77 square kilometers) of highly productive mudflat and marshlands on Roberts Bank for another container port.

The report extolls the economic and industrial benefits of the project before outlining numerous significant negative environmental and social impacts. However, none of the environmental damage is considered sufficient to recommend denying the port expansion. The damages are seen as technical challenges that can be overcome with monitoring, habitat offsets and other technical fixes without proof they will replace nature’s functions.

The conclusion that the loss of Roberts Bank habitats and its biota can simply be replaced with some man-made structures on Richmond’s Sturgeon Banks is wishful thinking. How can, Sturgeon Banks magically host more salmon, birds, shrimp and crab? How can the displaced Roberts Bank crab fishery simply move north to Sturgeon Banks? Should we really be encouraging more bird populations near the airport?

The estuary has lost over 80% of its wetlands since European contact. During the past decade the estuary has been subjected to plans for a coal port, a fourth runway across Sturgeon Banks,  a jet fuel terminal and expanded Lehigh cement and Fortis LNG plants and docks on Tilbury Island. Now the port wants to fill in much of Roberts Bank. Some of these projects are now underway.

The Fraser Estuary is struggling to survive as an ecosystem. If approved, this port project will do irreparable damage to the flora, salmon, sturgeon, orca and thousands of migratory shorebirds passing through the region.

Socially, this area is important to us, and it supports a recreational, aboriginal and commercial fishery. We must now put pressure on our federal MPs and hope the Trudeau Government will understand that our estuary is reaching a point of no return—and reject the Roberts Bank port expansion.


Below: Otto Langer with his wife—and fellow biologist—Sandra Bourque.

More recommended resources on this topic:

Roberts Bank Terminal 2 versus the environment

Prince Rupert or Roberts Bank Terminal 2?

Migrating Sandpipers at Roberts Bank
(extremely popular Facebook video post)

Also get involved in the discussion about this on Facebook.

Excellent Boundary Bay Conservation Committee
report re RBT2 rationale and alternatives

Excellent Boundary Bay Conservation Committee
report re the immense ecological effects of RBT2

Fraser Voices on Facebook

Best Massey Crossing for Richmond/Delta

February 25, 2020

Note: Updated June 25, 2021.

In brief:

Replacing the legacy tube (existing tunnel) with an 8-lane tunnel expansion is the best viable option for Richmond/Delta environmental benefits and congestion if it has no counterflow lanes. Adding more than 6 traffic/transit lanes would tend to increase congestion in Richmond, and a 6-lane tube with counterflow lanes would be worse than an 8 lanes with no counterflow lanes. According to the Cowdell Report, one of the main values of a new tube is to provide greater capacity in the off-peak direction (resulting in acceptable trip-time reliability), which this configuration would enable.

A fixable shortcoming of the current plan is that it under-uses the Legacy Tube (existing tunnel). It also shortchanges sustainable modes of transport. That mostly means active transport such as cycling, walking and rolling, which are traditionally self-powered. They are increasingly motor-assisted. Metro Vancouver has lagged behind the trend but will catch up. Richmond/Delta can easily be at the leading edge of increased active transport and the range of sustainable modes of transport. At low cost, Richmond and Delta could get many significant benefits.

This short article, written primarily from a Richmond/Delta perspective, features active transport (and sustainable modes) in the context of other important considerations for Massey Crossing decisions, wth particular attention to aspects that most people are not aware of.


One consistently stated intent of BC’s George Massey Crossing Project Team is to retain the Legacy Tube (existing tunnel) as a utility corridor, at least for the electric-power transmission line—and that matters. But the Legacy Tube can also serve other valuable uses throughout the life of the expanded tunnel.

A preventive purpose is to block the 2-metres-deeper dredging of the Fraser ship channel that the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) has long wanted. That matters very much.

Note: Instead of being semi-cloaked, as it has usually been its dredging intents, VFPA has overtly withdrawn its deep-dredging concept. No doubt that is because deeper dredging would hinder approval of Roberts Bank Terminal 2. The intended dredging would add to the “cumulative effects” of RBT2 and other factors that threaten the ecological health of the estuary.) But it’s a safe bet that VFPA will revisit the dredging when the RBT2 factor allows.

Like RBT2, the dredging would be ecologically disastrous for the Fraser Estuary.

Another note: Unlike the Legacy Tube, which is 22 feet deep, the planned 8-lane new tube(s), at 29.5 feet deep, would not block VFPA from dredging 2 metres deeper (6.5 feet deeper).

There are also at least two promising options for safe-transport use of the Legacy Tube:

  • If Cascadia high speed rail goes ahead, crossing the Fraser through the Legacy Tube route would be positive for Climate Action, as the minimal extent of construction would minimize GHG emission.
  • The Legacy Tube could enable a major boost for sustainable modes of transport. It has enough total width for (a) increased motor-assisted bicycles, scooters, etc., and (b) increased self-powered transport—walking, cycling, etc. In each direction, there would be room for fast modes on the left, brisk modes in the middle, and walking-speed modes on the right.
  • The latter safe-transport use could be thought of as the Richmond-Delta byway, like traditional byways that people used on foot or horseback, but with new modes in the horseback role. The byway would connect with user-friendly routes, including the Shell Trail system and Delta equivalents.

A related factor that decision-makers would need to collegially deal with is the Project Team’s comments about saving the cost of bringing the Legacy Tube to current seismic standards. That very important goal seems manageable in the context of the Cowdell Report, which states:

[The Tunnel Replacement Project] did not consider that [ground improvement] provided for a new tunnel adjacent to the Tunnel could potentially be designed to also improve the seismic performance of the Tunnel. This idea is supported by the Tunnel Expert Panel and by the analysis completed for this Review. (p. 80)

As the project team has shown, (a) the new tube(s) will be on the upriver (east) side of the Legacy Tube, perhaps with a cutoff wall between, so ground improvement protecting the new tube(s) would also protect the Legacy Tube. (b) Downriver, on the west side, the only place for  ground improvement is directly west of the Legacy Tube. Therefore new-tube ground improvement would dissipate seismic waves from either side before they reach the Legacy Tube.

Participate now in Massey Crossing future

February 3, 2020

Publc participation in the George Massey Crossing enhancement starts again on Feb 5, 2020. Who to believe about what to do?

Sandra Bourque and Otto Langer

For what’s best for the environment, there’s none more credible than Otto Langer. Otto met wife Sandra (left) doing master’s degrees in zoology, and they’ve protected the Fraser Estuary together for the past half century.

Otto got results as a federal biologist and manager for 32 years and then with the David Suzuki Foundation. After retiring a decade ago, he remained immersed in the environment.

With Sandra, Otto now leads the Fraser Voices Association—voices for the life of the estuary. After their study of Massey Crossing options, he wrote:

Fraser Voices concludes it is best that a less obtrusive tunnel be considered as a Richmond-to Delta Fraser River crossing at this time.

An eight-lane immersed-tube tunnel would have less overall impact and would require and promote better long-range planning. . . .

This tunnel option may have a greater construction impact on the local environment (dredging and filling), but it will rapidly heal. . . .

Read the full report here! And/or read more about Otto and Sandra’s service to our environment here (scroll down).

Take part at the Richmond Oval on Wednesday, Feb 5, or at the Coast Tswawwassen Inn in Delta on Thursday, Feb 6. It’s 4–7 p.m. both days. Details here.  Later information will be here.

Celebrate BC’s wild salmon on BC flag!

December 26, 2019

Celebrate Wild Salmon

Among our many blessings in British Columbia, we have an amazing diversity of wildlife. It calls us to rejoice and be thankful.

In that spirit, the image celebrates our wild Pacific salmon—in a size that represents its ecological and cultural significance for First Peoples and all British Columbians, along with our Cascadian neighbours.

Salmon connect ocean and river, land and sea. Our salmon’s wellbeing matters very much for the plants and animals in their ecosystems and for the people who rely on salmon for sustenance, livelihood and cultural relevance. Likewise, we all affect the wellbeing of our wild Pacific salmon every day, for better or worse.

Our salmon is a natural symbol of British Columbia. Since the BC flag is outdated, the image could grace a new flag that prompts our citizens to take action to honour and sustain our wild Pacific salmon.

Image/text copyright © 2019 Suzanna Wright

Multiplying Massey bus use to/from Richmond

November 4, 2019

There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit for increased Massey Crossing transit use to/from Richmond. Relatively easily, there can be greatly increased user-friendly transit between South-of-the-Fraser and (a) south Richmond via a humane Steveston/99 bus interchange, instead of the current horrific semblance of an interchange, and (b) central Richmond via the Westminster/99 interchange—likely from the Ladner Exchange—to the Brighouse Bus Mall.

Brighouse Bus Mall sirte

(The “Bus Mall,” shown above, is an exchange that has been vapourware since at least 2006. It is practically adjacent to Brighouse Station, on No. 3 Rd just south of the station entrance. It is rather narrow but stretches eastward for a full block, with plans for an emergency exit on Buswell St.)

The semi-humane current transit route between South-of-the-Fraser and central and south Richmond is routed through Bridgeport Station in north Richmond, typically with a transit change (transfer) for a leg back south to Brighouse Station and the current notional “Brighouse bus exchange.” From there, many users face another transit change—involving “bays” on No. 3 Rd and side streets that are spread over hundreds of metres. The graphic below uses blue to show the bus route to Bridgeport. It uses red to show how the proposed 622 northbound route would leave Highway 99 at the Westminster Hwy interchange to go west to Brighouse in central Richmond. (Naturally, the southbound 622 route would mirror that.)

Bus route to Bridgeport and Brighouse

For this potential 622 route to/from the Brighouse Bus Mall, the Alexander Dennis Enviro500 double-deckers would be user-friendly and enviro-friendly. (Fast-developing electric/battery bus options are becomng an alternative to consider too, but the double-deckers are already in service on related routes.) To convert SOV commuters to/from central Richmond into transit commuters, it would help a lot to have service that is frequent from the beginning and promised to remain so. (That is unlike TransLink’s usual gradual approach, which is wise but probably not best suited to this case,)

Much of this will be obvious to those who care. Some of it could start very soon, and the rest could start fairly soon. At least it could if the promised priority on a new Steveston Interchange (probably beginning with an interim one) puts transit interchange ahead of general-traffic interchange in importance. And it especially could if the Brighouse Bus Mall becomes the priority that the community of Richmond deserves.

Note: The Steveston Interchange above, with bus stops shown, may look okay, but try using it, including walking across the Hwy 99 overpass on the single narrow raised sidewalk, with a rather low rail, on a windy day with truck drafts pulling you this way and that, along with other pedestrians and cyclists accidentally nudging you as they pass in your direction or the opposite one. And that’s just one one of many shortcomings that make it user-hostile.

Trevena deals with 10-lane Christy Bridge

December 17, 2018

A 10-lane bridge won’t happen. Also important:

  • The safety of the existing tunnel will be improved.
  • The Ministry will work with Metro Vancouver and its municipalities to choose solutions that fit with regional plans and concerns.

Minister Claire Trevena’s Dec. 17 announcement features seven key findings by project reviewer Stan Cowdell, P Eng (see Appendix at end). They are promising, but here are three reservations:

  • With a tunnel-replacement bridge, it might be challenging to stop the Fraser ship channel being dredged two meters deeper, with severe ecological harm to the Fraser River Estuary.
  • An eight-lane crossing could be fine with a configuration that uses the outer lane in each direction for mainly local traffic, as in one City of Richmond proposal. In contrast, using counterflow to enable five lanes in one direction would likely lead to congestion.
  • A welcome eighth key feature would be a prompt influx of Rapid Buses and an ongoing emphasis on transit to transport people conveniently and comfortably.

You can download the entire Cowdell report, Independent Technical Review of the George Massey Crossing, Final Report, Westmar Advisors, Inc., September 2018 (approx. 300 pages). You can also read a one-page overview in point form.

Many Fraser Voices supporters and like-minded citizens have put informed effort into the George Massey Crossing project. Each person’s efforts have been crucial, much like in election success.

Fraser Voices has also been pleased to interact with Victor Wei, Transportation Director, City of Richmond, on this issue. This Fraser Voices Association report re the Massey Crossing was prepared for that purpose in 2017 and updated for the provincial government in 2018.

Massey Crossing Section of this blog

The Massey Crossing Section of this blog includes 28 articles about the saga over the past six years, starting in 2012.

APPENDIX from Dec 17 Massey Crossing press release:

The Province’s next steps reflect the extensive independent technical review undertaken by Stan Cowdell that found:

  • the 10-lane bridge project did not fully address a number of key considerations, such as community alignment, liveability and cost, which likely resulted in stakeholder concerns;
  • a smaller six-to-eight-lane bridge would accommodate the majority of traffic predicted by 2045;
  • an immersed tube tunnel crossing of up to eight lanes is likely feasible for a new crossing and could be less expensive with fewer negative impacts;
  • retrofitting the existing tunnel to use in tandem with a new crossing may be possible;
  • the existing shoulder bus lanes work well and could be expanded as necessary;
  • highway improvements are equally important to reducing congestion; and
  • a realignment could further reduce the project’s scale, complexity and cost.

Ports Review in a nutshell

November 29, 2018

Do you agree with this statement?

Transport Canada should replace the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority with a Western Canada Port Agency that
(1) heeds local governments,
(2) respects the ALR,
(3) treasures ecological diligence,
(4) is transparent and accountable, and
(5) looks first to Prince Rupert—capable, expanding, close to Asia—for port growth.

Thank you!

The Ports Review consultation period is officially over, but Steveston-Richmond East MP Joe Peschisolido will take it far further as chair of the federal Liberals’ Marine Ports Caucus.

There may be opportunities for you to take part,
with great potential, saving the world in local ways

To celebrate the ongoing opportunity, join the Eurythmics
in “I Saved the World Today” and/or
read and take action with the articles below this one.

Cooperating ports—good for Western Canada and all

November 26, 2018

Richmond Council has called on Transport Canada to replace the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, VFPA or “Port of Vancouver,” with a new Western Canada Port Agency, WCPA. That’s in Richmond’s response to the ministry’s Ports Modernization Review.

WCPA is a new name for a visionary concept associated with former minister David Emerson (over a decade ago) and revived by Joe Peschisolido, a current Richmond MP. For most of a decade, Robin Silvester has been CEO of VFPA. It’s viewed as an oligarchy, and he suits its aims, but it lacks the cooperative-service priority of the WCPA vision.

Along with support for WCPA, Richmond Council’s input includes many concerns and imperatives for consulting with local government, ending conflicts of interest such as VFPA’s “environmental assessments” of itself, and respecting ALR land, not buying it for industrial use.

The Ports Modernization Review deadline has passed, but stay tuned for further opportunities via the Liberals’ Marine Ports Caucua.  And if you’re not sure why reform is needed, see this highly informed list of concerns.

Fraser Voices is urging action because we see the unaccountable VFPA (like an oligarchy) as very unfortunate for the health of the Fraser Estuary and the environment. As well, documentation that’s been buried since the Emerson era gives reason to think the WCPA would simultaneously be better for the maritime commerce of Western Canada, with a focus on cooperative service to the vast region, not on growing itself for growth’s sake.


This article has introduced MP Joe Peschisolido of Steveston-Richmond East; Robin Silvester, long-time VFPA CEO with immense power; and former federal minister David Emerson, whose Gateway vision got blinkered by others. You can meet them again in other Fraser Voices articles, nearby on this blog, including a WCPA article and roundtable article.

The view from here is pretty clear that Robin Silvester and VFPA oligarchy are very adept at growing the VFPA but that the visionary thinking David Emerson showed and Joe Peschisolido respects offers the best prospects in a bigger picture.

Let’s keep at it, says MP Joe Peschisolido re Port Agency

November 24, 2018

MP Joe Peschisolido has indicated a need to “blow up” the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA). Despite the pyrotechnic glint in his eye, he simply means that VFPA would be easier to replace than to fix.

If local council members, environmental groups and individuals do their part, they can succeed with MP Joe and the federal Liberal Marine Ports Caucus, which he chairs. If that process gets the foreseeable results, it will be very good for BC’s ecological health, especially that of the Fraser Estuary and Salish Sea, and it will be good for the Pacific trade of Western Canada.

Why is MP Joe Peschisolido doing this?

He represents the Fraser River Estuary riding of Richmond-Steveston. He has knocked on many doors to hear constituents. He has also listened at his town hall meetings and to Richmond Council. He has heard much about the need for VFPA to change. While doing his job, with his listening and research, MP Joe has become a committed advocate for saving the ecological life of the Fraser from unbridled industrialization, as well as for combining commerce values with environmental ones in general.

In short, there has been longtime disappointment that Vancouver Fraser Port Authority does not collaborate with stakeholders—ports, terminals, all governments, organizations, etc., in BC and beyond, resolving concerns like these ones that the Fraser Voices Association (Richmond-based) and Against Port Expansion (Delta-based) put together. (Click on “concerns . .. ” for thorough, highly informed lists.)

Robin Silvester, CEO of VFPA, famously stated, “I don’t think we would be bound [by the Agricultural Land Reserve]. As a federal body here at Port Metro Vancouver, we have supremacy,” he said.

With motivation like that, MP Joe’s current commitment is to help the Ports Modernization Review end well by continuing it with the Liberals’ Marine Ports caucus in a further stage after the official public consultation end date of Dec. 3, 2018.


Prince Rupert is one day closer to Asia than Vancouver—each way! This is one factor in a key proposal to replace the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority with a Western Canada Port Agency

Prince Rupert boosted in the proposed Western Canada Port Agency (WCPA)

November 23, 2018

Shorter voyage from Prince Rupert to Asia

Directing new port capacity from Vancouver to Prince Rupert is good for trade with Asia. So is the Western Canada Port Agency (WCPA). Neglected for a decade, the WCPA concept is much needed.

Prince Rupert, with easy access to open ocean, is the deepest natural harbour in North America. It brings Western Canada closer to Asia. It adds port capacity without harming the environment, unlike the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal II (near Vancouver).

“Blow up the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority,” says MP Joe Peschisolido (Steveston-Richmond East). He means it’s easier to start anew than to untangle VFPA’s ingrained problems. A phrase to express the essence of the solution is Western Canada Port Agency, which might perhaps become a working title.

The name honours the area it serves, Western Canada, instead of a port city. As an Agency, the new entity would still have authority assigned by the federal government, but it would shed the imperious autonomy the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is known for. In short, the Western Canada Port Agency would replace a self-serving authority with a Canada-serving agency.

This article by the Fraser Voices Association builds on MP Joe’s recent submission to the Ports Modernization Review, which he developed in discussion with Fraser Voices leaders.

Implementing a blue-ribbon panel’s advice to a federal minister, the WCPA would include the ports of both Vancouver and Prince Rupert.We recommend,said the panel,that a single port authority be created to include the existing Vancouver ports plus Prince Rupert. This is the only way to assure complete collaboration of Canada’s West Coast ports. . . .” They went on to add,We recommend that development of container capacity in Prince Rupert be given priority over investment in Vancouver.

On another relevant note, the panel said: “We recommend that a systemic approach be taken to achieve an understanding of port capacity before a conclusion is reached that a particular port must necessarily be physically larger. That could apply to the Western Canada port system as well as each of the ports.

The panel’s report has been only semi-implemented, reportedly due to intra-cabinet politics. It still merits respect, not neglect. In fact, that is implicit in the recent BBCC Analysis of RBT2 report (Oct 1, 2018) from the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel that is reviewing VFPA’s proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2) in Delta.

Supposedly, the saving grace of Terminal 2 was that it met a necessity for increased Western Canada container capacity uniquely enough to warrant an ecological debacle. However, the Prince Rupert alternative has evidently been under-appreciated because of VFPA’s sleight of hand in downplaying it. Fortunately, the BBCC has debunked the faulty evidence. The Boundary Bay Conservation analysis shows that increased capacity planned for Prince Rupert, along with systemic efficiency, should make Terminal 2 superfluous.

As well, there are long lists of problems that have arisen from the VFPA model of insulated privilege — autonomous but wielding federal power. A number of Metro governments want a port partner that’s more collaborative and accountable. In any case, it’s time to end the Golden Age of the VFPA.

As part of the Western Canada Port Agency, the port of Vancouver would focus on its basic strengths while joining forces with the port of Prince Rupert and others. As providers of port services, they would respond to provincial, municipal, First Nations and community input.

There would also be many associated ports within the Western Canada service area:

  • Port Alberni Port Authority and Nanaimo Port Authority, which are smaller federal marine ports
  • The inland ports in/near Ashcroft, Prince George, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg
  • Various other federal and non-federal marine and inland ports

It should be a win-win for all: the ports, commerce, the environment and Canada.

Directly and indirectly, the Western Canada Port Agency would involve the whole transport system. It would enable optimal flow of goods from, to and through all parts of Western Canada. That would be very good for the economy and quality of life. It’s related to the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative, but the modernizing will need to be less Vancouver-centric. One way to think that way would be headquarters in Prince Rupert.

Prince Rupert is one day closer to Asia than Vancouver—each way!

Some other aspects: The Western Canada Port Agency would also ensure that its whole operation fosters both personal safety/wellness and environmental wellness, extending the existing practice of environmental stewardship that is integral to the Port of Prince Rupert. It would not be autocratic, and it would be devised to NOT fall back into the problem behaviours of VFPA. They include concerns like these ones that the Fraser Voices Association (Richmond-based) and Against Port Expansion (Delta-based) put together recently.

To be modern, the Western Canada Port Agency must learn from mistakes, like Apple, which—on the brink of bankruptcy about 22 years ago—finally came to grips with its previous mistake of forcing Steve Jobs out. After mending fences, Apple has done okay.

In this case, the blue-chip panel reported on port modernization over a decade ago—to Minister David Emerson, who soon left politics before implementing the parts cited here. Learning from the missed opportunity can change the world and our little corner of the globe, Western Canada.

Note: The report to Minister David Emerson was prepared, gratis, by Jeff Burghardt, CEO of Prince Rupert Grain Co.; Arthur Defehr, CEO of Palliser Furniture Ltd., Winnipeg; and Richard Turner, chairman of ICBC. Dated May 28, 2007, the report was public by January 2008. The recommendations are on pages 16–20.

Note: Richmond Council has urged Transport Canada to replace the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority with the Western Canada Port Agency in its input to the Ports Modernization Review.

Please vote for ALR farmland defenders in the 2018 election of Richmond Council

November 14, 2018

Bulletin, Nov 13: The new Richmond Council has approved a number of ALR farmland protection measures, including a house size limit of 400 square metres on ALR land. For diverting residential use away from farmland, that is vastly better than the previous limit of 1000 square metres.

Bulletin, Oct 20: Pro-Farmland candidates Michael Wolfe and Kelly Greene have replaced two pro-Land Speculator councillors. This gives the Pro-Fsarmland philosophy a slight edge on the 2018–22 Richmond Council.

Bulletin, Oct 19Pro-Farmland candidates say, “Limit ALR house size in Richmond to the BC limit.” That will protect farmland FOR farmers but AGAINST speculators. All FARMERS will remain able to exceed the limit. And the limit allows a huge house: 500 square metres = almost 5,400 square feet). Vote Pro-Farmland: RCA, RITE and Roston, etc. Ignore the confused front-page ad (Richmond News, Oct 18).

Some events bring out informed courage. The Richmond Council meeting of May 14, 2018 stands out for that. In council chambers dominated by ALR land speculators and the like, nine memorable defenders of Richmond soil held firm in battle. They emerged with honour and can yet win the war.

Shortcut: The graphic at top is the executive summary. The rest of this article refers to it. Have a look at it. (And click on it for a larger version, and use the “Previous” arrow, <, to return here.)

The key motion was to reduce the allowed size for new houses on farmland from 1000 m2 to 500 m2. That was within the Ministry of Agriculture’s guideline for saving ALR farmland.

A YES majority would have stanched our rapid loss of vital farmland. But only three council members voted YES: Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Councillors Carol Day and Harold Steves. (They stand out in red in the “Situation” row of the graphic.)

Sadly, the other six voted No.

Happily, six of us citizens who spoke to council at that meeting—calling for a YES vote on the motion—are now council candidates, along with Malcolm, Carol and Harold. They’re in red (replacing some councillors) in “A solution,” the lower row of the graphic:

  • Next to Coun. Carol Day in the lower row, we have Kelly Greene, John Roston and Judie Schneider.
  • After Mayor Malcolm Brodie, that’s Niti Sharma.
  • After Coun. Harold Steves: Jack Trovato and Michael Wolfe.

Michael, John and Niti have been resolutely effective for conservation for years. Adding the three of them to Richmond’s  council (seemingly driven by developers and speculators) would transform it, very much for the better.

Kelly is so capable she nearly took John Yap’s MLA seat. Judie is an energizer who overcomes whatever with joy. Jack is an assertive organizer. So it would be good to have them on council too.

In the election for Richmond Council—Saturday, October 20, 2018—many other candidates for Richmond Council promise to protect farmland too. The details are in the survey results at Richmond FarmWatch. You may find that some of them are even more ideal for you. In fact, two of them got this blogger’s vote, along with seven people from the lower row of the graphic.

For the next four years, 2018–22, please elect a mayor and eight councillors who will stand up for ecological and agricultural conservation and help Richmond to wear its Garden City badge with respect again.

(Click the graphic for a larger version. Use Previous arrow < to return.)


Notes about the graphic, motion, guideline and minutes:

The graphic: The upper row of the graphic actually maps how the council members were seated at the May 14, 2018 meeting.

The motion: The defeated reduced size of 500 square metres equals 5,382 square feet. It applies to new construction of houses on ALR farmland. The limit is intended mainly for non-farmers, since farmers have an existing means to exceed any limit.

The guideline: The stated intent of the Ministry of Agriculture in setting a size guideline for ALR residences is to direct residential uses away from farmland.

The minutes: Access the minutes of the May 14, 2018 Council Meeting, refer to R18/9-11 (2) for the motion and to R18/9-11R18/9-4 (3) for notes about the “delegations,” citizens who addressed the issue.

Farm Fest rejoices in Garden City Lands crops

August 14, 2018

Farm Fest on Saturday, August 11, 2018, was a great day for the Garden City Lands. All around, people were obviously having a wonderful time, and the exhibitors like Richmond FarmWatch and the Garden City Conservation Society were delighted with all the interaction. Citizens were learning while being entertained, and the exhibitors and other very informed participants were interacting with each other when they found time to tour.

The Sustainable Agriculture staff and students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) were finally able to show crops on the lands, after working toward it since February 2008, over a decade.

For those who were used to touring what’s now the Kwantlen research and teaching farm—but when it was open field—it was surprising to be standing well out on the Lands and feeling on the same level as Garden City Road. That was when looking west, as shown in the photo, toward the large condo buildings across that road. It is all possible because Kwantlen and the City of Richmond were able to bring in a very thick layer of soil from Sea Island, where it had been excavated for airport runway construction.

Kwantlen’s Dr. Mike Bomford explained that the effect of the Garden City Lands being the Dominion Rifle Range for a long period had been underestimated. The remnants of used ammunition had contaminated the soil. By bringing in the YVR soil, the City and KPU actually now have very suitable soil for organic farming. Quite a difference!

As well, that upper layer will enhance the sequestering of the vast amount of methane that nature has stored in the peat below. The area is, after all, on the edge of part of the Lulu Island Bog. Sphagnum bogs are especially good for capturing and storing methane, reducing greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

An important bonus is that the higher elevation of the cultivated layer will be helpful for drainage, with the lower level, including a lot of peat, still retaining water.

From the beginning of the efforts to save the Garden City Lands from dense development, the Save Garden City movement stressed the importance of having a university partner to take the lead in farming, including research, education and community outreach. KPU stepped up to seek that role, and the community is very fortunate they kept the vision. The world is too, because the KPU project is already attracting wide interest, and it will be on the leading edge in a range of ways.


Note: The Kwantlen research and teaching farm has essentially been envisioned as an important element for the Garden City Lands since the Sustainable Food Systems Park concept was first presented to Richmond council in early 2007 by the Richmond Poverty Response Committee task force that is now the Richmond Food Security Society. The educational element is listed on page 4 of the report.

KPU seed lab puts Garden City Lands farm on leading edge

August 12, 2018

The new farm infrastructure and seed lab for the Kwantlen Polytechnic University research and teaching farm on the Garden City Lands are very consistent with the Richmond citizens’ vision that kept the lands in the ALR. A million-dollar investment is funded about one-third by the organic seed industry and two-thirds by the provincial government. As well, the federal government is matching the provincial funding (bringing the total to about $1.68 million).

Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham was on the Garden City Lands recently to see for herself. In the above photo, Ms. Popham (centre) is discussing corn with Sustainable Agriculture students. The seed lab and classrooms are about a hundred metres away at Kwantlen’s Richmond campus. Below, Dr. Rebecca Harbut of the Sustainable Agriculture faculty is showing Minister Popham the seed lab. It will make the KPU program a leader in the struggle to save food seeds for farmers—and from domination by giant seed companies.

Here is the KPU news release about the seed lab.

Welcome to Garden City conservation

August 12, 2018

Richmond, British Columbia, Canada has long been known as the Garden City. This blog aims to provide informed in-depth opinion on a range of conservation issues of interest to the Garden City community, which is centred in Richmond but extends around B.C. and the globe.

Coming and  Recent Events—Farm Fest on the Garden City lands

Richmond Farm Fest, Saturday, August 11, Garden City Lands, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Garden City Conservation Society, Richmond Nature Park Society and Richmond FarmWatch will all have tent booths.
Leaders of Garden City Conservation and Richmond FarmWatch ranged from enthusiastic to ecstatic in their responses
. For instance, they said it was “a great day” and “a successful and engaging event” and “the sort of happening the Garden City Lands Coalition envisioned when they successfully fought to save the Garden City Lands from dense development for this kind of park.”

Background for newcomers

It began when the citizens had a vision for the Garden City Lands, a 136-acre field in the city centre that had always been green through historical good fortune. By acting together and with BC’s Agricultural Land Commission process, they saved it—from dense multi-billion-dollar development—for the higher value of its Agricultural Land Reserve uses for community wellness. That is one of Richmond’s priceless legacies from the past for the present and the future 20, 50 and 100 years or more from now.

Turn down the pH in here!The lands have become a city park, with a major park enhancement process under way, and the citizens aim to help steward the lands in the ALR for agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness. That would include restoration of the sphagnum bog on much of the lands. Sphagnum moss, illustrated at right, is the keystone genus (group of species) that spent millennia leading the forming of the lands.


We began as the Garden City Lands Coalition and evolved into the Garden City Conservation Society, active in various conservation issues in Richmond and beyond, with many “Friends of Garden City.”

 Current and Recent Events

OS Permaculture Design workshop at the Red Barn, Terra Nova Rural Park,Richmond, BC, on Saturday, June 2, 2018 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free. To register, see the Permaculture Design event poster.

Sunday, June 10, 2018, 1:30–3:30 p.m., Annual Gathering of the Garden City Conservation Society. Details soon.

Saturday, June 16, 2018, 1–3 p.m. Annual General Meeting and Farmland Policy Presentation. At Kwantlen Polytechnic University, 8771 Lansdowne Rd, Richmond. Details here.


Subscribe to this blog or the Garden City e-News

To follow this blog, use the field near the top of the Menu (at left). When there’s a new article, you will receive an email notification that you can click.

If you support the Garden City Conservation goals, you can subscribe to the Garden City e-News. You will receive a brief emailed issue (one page) no more than an average of twice a month. It is very simple to unsubcribe. It is also simple to subscribe—here.

Celebrate the life of Ray Galawan

July 24, 2018

We mourn the passing of our revered Ray Galawan.

A beloved Richmond farmer and the founding farmer of Richmond FarmWatch, Ray was dedicated to farmland conservation.

Please honour Ray Galawan by reading about him here—and by carrying on his generous dedication.

Ray lived all of his life in Richmond on his farm on No. 4 Road. He was a fourth generation farmer, and he was proud to be the great grandson of Thomas Kidd, settler farmer, poet and great Richmond citizen.

Ray helped Bob Featherstone, his friend since elementary school, to farm strawberries on Ray’s farmland. After retiring from a career as a machinist, and having always kept his hand in farming, Ray became more involved on the farm and became Bob’s right-hand man in his vegetable and berry fields.

Ray also fished along with lifelong fisherman friend Gus Jacobson and Gus’s son Russ, and in recent years Ray was an important part of the Finn Slough community.

Ray was always helping with repairs to boats, wharves and buildings, cleaning the slough and chopping wood for friends and neighbours.

He lent his mechanical expertise and wide array of skills generously, doing tractor work and mechanical repairs for many, many farmers and fishers in the community over the years.

Ray Galawan was dedicated to protecting a farming way of life in Richmond.

He founded Richmond FarmWatch in 2013 when he discovered dumping on a Finn Road farm.

Ray and FarmWatch approached city officials and—by tractor—led a convoy to City Hall and then to Premier Christy Clark’s office in West Point Grey.

Along with Bob Featherstone, Ray also led a months-long “watch” in a hut at the gate of the farm where waste was being dumped. They got support from the neighbourhood, and many people joined the anti-dumping cause.

The success of Ray and FarmWatch came with an Agricultural Land Commission stop-work order and the cessation of dumping on the farmland.

The City of Richmond then strengthened its soil bylaw.


In late 2017, remediation of the site took place as the soil was screened of demolition-waste fill.

Today the farm fields are planted in crops, as they were for a century.


Celebration of life for Ray Galawan:
Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at the Celebration Hall at Mountain View Cemetary at 11:30 a.m. It is near 41st & Fraser in Vancouver and accessed from 39th or St George Street. (Click thumbnail map to enlarge.)

But celebrate especially by reading about Ray and his great granddad Thomas Kidd and carrying on what they stood for.


This article, in loving memory of Ray Galawan, a great Richmond citizen, has been adapted from a Richmond FarmWatch newsletter. Text by Kimi Hendess with support from other Richmond FarmWatch members. Photos by Mik Turje, Chung Chow, Sabrina Henry, Teresa Murphy, Steve Bridger, Erika Koenig-Workman and others.

Update: Some people called Ray “Perfect Ray” because he never half-did anything. The Celebration of Life was in keeping with that. It was a wonderful, thoughtful, bittersweet occasion, thanks to the family, celebrant and friends, with around two hundred taking part. Rest in Peace, Ray.

Save our ALR! And revitalize it!

April 23, 2018

The ALR is our land bank. Agriculture minister Lana Popham wants to save it, and her ALR Revitalization Committee is doing well.

Your survey input will help them prove how strongly you and all British Columbians support revitalization. Please do the survey in an informed way.

Looking through our ALR Revitalization Survey Guide (PDF) will bring you up to speed. Or just go to the survey if you wish, but you’ll still find it worthwhile to refer to the guide.

Feel free to skip survey questions. Please at least do the multiple-choice ones, using our suggested answers unless you disagree.

Thank you for doing the survey! You’re a good citizen who saves our soil!


Note: The deadline is Monday, April 30 at 4 pm.

Here’s the very informative and thought-provoking Richmond response to the survey about revitalizing the Agrcultural Land Reserve and Agricultural Land Commission (prepared by staff and approved by council).

Here’s the ALR Revitalization Survey Guide in Word. If you support the directions of ALR Revitalization Committee (Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee), feel free to adapt the document for that purpose.

The truth that could save our soil

February 5, 2018

Richmond’s current farmland survey says, “The Ministry of Agriculture’s guidelines suggest a maximum house size of [a stated floor area].” It’s as though one size fits all parts of the province. Not so.

In reality, the ministry’s Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas suggests limiting new houses on local ALR land to a “floor area commensurate with urban areas.” With that guideline, the maximum ALR house size can vary to suit each BC municipality.

Our city staff calculated the size limit for new ALR houses in Richmond at about 300 m2. (They said 303 m2, but let’s round it.) They informed council in their report of April 19, 2017.

The point of the guideline is to stop making the local ALR land more attractive than the local urban neighbourhoods for building urban homes. With the 300 m2 limit, we’d succeed. The callous loss of farmland could end.

We would, I hope, still let farm families build beyond the basic limit to meet verified farm needs. Richmond’s bylaw to streamline that process could be tweaked to enable up to 500 m2 of farmhouse for those exceptions.

In these ways, we can save our soil for our farmers to farm.



Before doing the survey, it’s helpful to read and print this colourful Survey Guide or this black version.

Let’s Talk Richmond calls it Farmland Housing Regulations 2018. The survey page also includes info about open houses on Feb 7, 8 and 15.

Ministry of Agriculture Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas,, page 19: “The maximum floor-area—farm residence(s) is the lesser of floor area commensurate with urban areas or . . . 500 m2. . . .”

Also read the “SOS” article on this blog.

SOS: Use farm mansion survey to Save Our Soil

January 31, 2018

Save Our Soil, Richmond FarmWatch, Richmond, BC, Canada

Take a firm stand to Save Our Soil
in the new round of Richmond “Farmland Housing” consultation.

Tip: Print out this PDF of bold answers.

That way, you can use your computer screen to do the survey.

Do the survey at Let’s Talk Richmond.

And don’t get buried in the piles of verbal dung.

Richmond FarmWatch urges bold answers like these:

# 1: Maximum farm home plate? Other. 1000 m2

# 2: Septic system within farm home plate? Yes.

# 3: Limit house footprint? Yes.

# 4: Increase house height? No.

# 5: Reduce house size for properties 0.2 ha or larger? Yes.

# 6: Appropriate limit for farm house size? Other. 3,200 ft2 (300 m2)

# 7: What should other levels of government do?

Some examples:

Apply the foreign buyers’ tax to farmland!

Strengthen the ALR.

Stop farmland speculation.

Help new farmers get into farming.

Protect farm leasers from owner-predators.

Discourage land investors from buying up farms.

Step up Agricultural Land Commission enforcement.

Clarify that houses in the ALR are required to be for farm use.


Also Save Our Soil at a Farmland Housing open house:

2–5 pm on Wednesday, February 7 at Richmond City Hall

5–8 pm on Thursday, February 8 at Richmond City Hall

5–8 pm on Thursday, February 15 at East Richmond Community Hall


Here’s the direct link to the survey feedback form.

Also read “The truth that could save our soil” on this blog.

Thanks on behalf of the ducks

January 24, 2018

Ten years ago, “Save Garden City” spirit swept over Richmond, B.C.

The Garden City Lands, “the people’s lands,” a huge 55-hectare open field in Richmond City Centre that had always been publicly owned, seemed doomed to dense development. With immense effort, the people—loosely organized as the Garden City Lands Coalition—saved the Lands from development, enabling them to become a public park instead.

Citizen Sharon Doucelin recently sent this note about the Garden City Lands to Jim Wright and the Garden City Conservation Society after rainy weather had created a lake:

Thank you for all the wonderful hard work you have done to make this happen.  As I drove by the park today, I saw the ducks swimming in the lake.  It reminded me of how upset I was as a younger person when the city allowed apartments to be built on the southwest corner of what was then the Lansdowne track. 

I worried for a long time about the ducks and geese who lived in the pond/wetlands there and where they would go.  I’d like to think the ones I saw today are descendants who have come back.

We replied:

Thank you very much for sharing this, Sharon! 

It’s wonderful how this has brought you happiness, which would not have been possible if so many of us had not pulled together to save the Garden City Lands from dense development.

And Sharon wrote again:

When the Garden City Lands Coalition first started, I didn’t think there was much hope to save the lands from the almighty dollar.  But thanks to perseverance and faith, we can still see the mountains and provide a home for those wonderful birds.   Thank you again.

New insights into the Massey Crossing

November 26, 2017

What will happen to this location? It is the north end of the George Massey Tunnel, between the maintenance cove for BC Ferries on the west (left) side and the Canfisco dock and plant on the east (right) side.

The BC Government will soon decide, and the Garden City Conservation Society keeps providing input. Later today, we’ll send the Minister of Transportation our “Five factors pleading for priority—Massey Crossing.” Click on the link and read five insights on the first page, and you’ll suddenly feel a whole lot more informed about the Massey Crossing.