Alice Wong is not Superman. Nor is John Cummins. They’re just members of parliament who try to serve their constituents, not save our Metropolis (Richmond) amidst sniper fire from city hall.

But, judging from last Thursday’s Review, our mayor wants our MPs to help get a better Garden City lands agreement for Richmond despite his recent letter to the federal government.

Federal ministers were told that “This landmark agreement and the benefits that will flow to the Musqueam people, the citizens of Richmond and the Canadian taxpayers has been under constant threat by rumours and statements about the federal government’s position with regard to the future of these lands.”

MPs Wong and Cummins had sent Richmond council a solidarity letter that somehow became a threat. Supposedly the MPs want to “undo the agreement.” In reality, their intent to facilitate plans to secure the lands is best achieved within the basic agreement.

The ministers’ response confirmed that nothing inappropriate had happened.

Despite its irrelevance, the mayor’s letter sent the senior government a warning to keep its help to itself. Many citizens invested their votes in two MPs who had heeded the call to save the lands, but their commitment, our asset, has been devalued.

The winning approach is shown by Charlottetown, where non-partisan teamwork among the citizens, the local MP, and the three levels of government is saving Upton Farm, their Garden City lands.

Now more than ever, the need to work together should be clear here too. Canada Lands Company, which was supposed to get the lands out of the Agricultural Land Reserve, has failed. It is time to give thanks and move on.

Our city council must plan a renegotiating strategy, select the best negotiators, and get top-notch lawyers in place. Like cooperation with our MPs, that process can be easily undermined.

At the Garden City lands public hearings in March, excellent city-hired lawyer Keith Clarke urged council to base decisions on “the best interests of the Richmond people.”  Despite setbacks, council has got better at that.

I believe, perhaps naively, that every member of city council wants what’s best for the community. For some, that would mean shifting commitment from a lost goal to the people’s goal.

Working with and for the citizens, our council and MPs can still save the lands and bolster our city’s values. We may yet have superheroes.



This post is related to the final paragraph in the “Council votes . . .” article in the Dec. 11, 2008, Richmond Review.

The mayor’s letter is on page 21 of the Dec. 8, 2008, staff report to Richmond Council’s general purposes committee. The letter from MPs John Cummins and Alice Wong is right before it. The response from ministers Vic Toews and Rob Merryfield is right after it.


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Olga Tkatcheva Says:

    It is fascinating to see in the staff report commentaries and advices from all types of the lawyers and upper bodies of two other sides of the agreements – Musqueam and CLC, but nothing for the members of the council or the people of Richmond from our own city hall lawyer. Generally when doing business you are better off not even listening to what other party lawyer says as their goal is to support their client case and influence your decision so they get to benefit from it. There are multiple tricks as how they can do it and not being liable at all – they can tell you the truth but only half of it, even the contest or two strings up or down can have an influence on the impression that it makes on you…

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