Joe Peschisolido clarifies his support

Directors of the Garden City Lands Coalition meet with Richmond’s federal MPs and provincial MLAs when the MPs/MLAs are interested. (So far that’s been one to three people representing the coalition at a time.) Until recently, we have not met with nominated MP/MLA candidates. On Thursday, however, we met with Joe Peschisolido at his request.

Some relevant background of Joe Peschisolido is that he was the MP for the Richmond riding from 2002 to 2004 but was not a candidate in the 2004 election after Raymond Chan, a previous MP for that riding, defeated him for the Liberal nomination. This year, when Conservative Alice Wong is the MP for the Richmond riding, Mr. Peschisolido turned the tables on Raymond Chan by winning the nomination to be the Liberal candidate in the next election.

After spending over two hours discussing the Garden City Lands issue with Joe Peschisolido, we left with a positive, encouraged feeling. He had previous familiarity with the Garden City Lands from working with the Jean Chretien government to make the property available for Richmond in a 2003 deal. We were told that the deal would have kept eighty percent of the lands green, with the rest (the northwest part) going to a convention centre and with the Musqueam Indian Band getting some money from the convention centre. In the Peschisolido account, Mayor Malcolm Brodie had been about to announce the agreement, but it had fallen apart at 3 a.m. on the day of the press conference when the Musqueam pulled out of the deal.

The Garden City Lands MOU that is currently in the renegotiation phase is an agreement that Raymond Chan took credit for. We went through the MOU with Joe Peschisolido, who had never seen it, and highlighted key points for him, especially the contingency process (including renegotiation, dispute resolution, and restoration of each party to its pre-MOU position). We also explained some aspects of the situation that make it more difficult for the MPs to help the Richmond community than ought to be the case.

Joe Peschisolido expressed the view that the Garden City Lands are still essentially federal lands and that the federal government can take the property back at any time if it has the will to do so. That is a stronger position than the one we have been asking our MPs to take, which is that the federal government should be ready to act decisively to take back the property from Canada Lands Company (CLC) if the Musqueam and/or CLC express any intent to terminate the MOU. Like us, Mr. Peschisolido believes that the federal government should do that for a program need that is for the benefit of the Richmond community.

Mr. Peschisolido said that the development of the lands should be limited to ALR-permissible ones. That would include infrastructure such as parking space and any required buildings. He shares the popular vision of the lands as “Richmond’s Stanley Park.”

Mr. Peschisolido, who supported Michael Ignatieff in both his leadership campaigns, conveyed the impression that he would certainly get the needed federal action if elected in an Ignatieff government and that he would also get results if elected in opposition.

As of the end of the meeting, the Garden City Lands Coalition includes Joe Peschisolido, not only as a Friend of Garden City but also as a new dues-paying member. We gather that his car is now sporting a “Save Garden City” bumper sticker.

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