Saturday, January 16, 2010

Productive Day in Vancouver

Joe Zaccaria Co-Founder SFOT (left) and BC Premier Gordon Campbell

As an organization we are a non-partisan organization as all of you regulars know. Our recent forum was attended by NDP as well as BC Liberal folks. So, I trust this post will be taken at face value and see it as a progress report that I mean for it to be.

Today I attended the Lower Mainland Regional Forum in Vancouver to discuss neighbourhood issues. I had received a special invitation back in December and decided to attend. After lunch with Premier Gordon Campbell and some Cabinet Ministers and MLA's, it was a packed agenda.

Hon. Mary McNeil, Minister of State for the Olympics and ACTNOW BC spoke about the world on our doorstep and the opportunity the next few weeks will bring to BC. We also heard what our provincial government will be doing during the Games to reach 15,000 world business and political leaders that will be in our province and what the government is doing to promote BC opportunities to live, work, invest and play in here.

Hon. Colin Hansen, Deputy Premier & Minister of Finance introduced Premier Campbell who offered a frank discussion about the challenges, opportunities and what the future holds for BC out to 2030. He spoke from what I believe to be from his heart and thoughts of a legacy for his grandchildren when he told the crowd "We have to be willing to do things we've never done before".

The Premier went on to speak about specifics related to such topics as:
  • The environment and the need for BC to be leaders in green industry
  • Early childhood development & learning
  • Programs and encouragement for families with young children and to have kids
  • Letting students pursue their individual strengths in sports, arts, music, technology, etc. by way of "Magnet Schools" that help nurture this type of learning.
  • Walkable communities and 50cents of every BC tax dollar now going to health care and how we must promote healthy living and better lifestyle choices.
  • He offered a solution of "Walking School Buses" where people are paid to walk kids to school and protecting them instead of paying people to drive them to school.
He offered some fresh ideas and thoughts, then opened the floor for a healthy dose of opinion and debate. While the participants were generally BC Liberal supporters, people stepped up to the microphone and let the Premier know what was on their minds, what recent cuts they didn't like and why. There was give and take, but Premier Campbell offered no lame excuses.

I stepped up to the microphone and was able to ask the last question of this portion of the session. I said that the Premier asked us to be willing to do new things, so why can't we try doing Light Rail Transit (LRT) for a change, instead of just SkyTrain? Why we can't offer a RANGE of transportation options, and how this LRT program could give us the density and ridership we desire and hear much about.

I found Premier Campbell to be very open and frank. He said that I was right and we could use some LRT to provide options and help us to build density. He offered that he felt we've not done enough to build density along the Canada Line and even the new Evergreen Line that he promised the crowd will be built. He said we could do a much better job with land use planning and zoning and that Light Rail could be a tool to help us to achieve these results.

I had joked about a study that Township Councillor Jordan Bateman had told me about. In the USA a study was done related to ridership and political beliefs. The study (not me!) concluded that Socialists like buses, but Free Market Capitalists like rail. The Premier joked back and said he always wondered why he liked trains. It was a hit with the crowd. His answer to my Light Rail question was the longest he offered today and I believe it was one he enjoyed responding to. Langley MLA Mary Polak was present and spoke with me about the question and reply. She liked it and felt this dialogue was healthy and showed a willingness for the government to do some new things.

Hon Colin Hanson offered some details of his take on the economy and what the government plans to do about it. The group was given some questions to provide feedback. Many were presented by the forum participants.

The day wrapped up with an emotional presentation by Langley MLA Hon. Rich Coleman, Minister of Housing & Social Development. After speaking on the depth of his portfolio, Coleman spoke about what direction his Ministry has taken to address social issues, along with some real life everyday examples of some of the outcomes. I've heard Rich speak at many a rubber chicken BBQ and anyone that has knows that his passion spills over during these times. Today was no exception as Coleman spoke about these outcomes and what is being accomplished. I have a great deal of respect for this man and I believe his heart is clear.

I know that the comments may roll in here from people that will find fault with what I have said or disagree. But SFOT is not a protest group and our firm belief is that if we LISTEN, engage, ask respectful questions and concede that no government or Ministry is perfect, we will win more battles using sugar that we will with lemons. I take Premier Campbell at his word when he says we need to be willing to do things we've never done before.

1 comment:

6p00e54fbdc9c58834 said...

You managed to get Gordon Campbell to say something positive about LRT. Wow, great work Joe!