Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Part Two of a Series on the Conference Board of Canada "Mission Possible" Report

In our review of the "Mission Possible" report, I’d like to focus on some economic and transportation related themes contained in the document. One section I found fascinating was related to Canada’s “hub cities”. The research concludes that, “When hub cites grow and prosper, their success boots the economic performance of smaller communities in their region.” This phenomenon is called convergence in economic terms. Convergence examples used in the report included Abbotsford, BC, Kitchener-Waterloo and Oshawa in Ontario, and Fort McMurray, Alberta.

But surprisingly the report goes on to suggest that federal transfers funneled through the provinces be used for investments in infrastructure, affordable housing and other requirements only in Canada’s major cities. They support asking the federal government to curtail infrastructure investments, special exemptions, and their minimum funding level programs for public housing programs, the Public Transit Capital Trust in small cities and other related spending. So while they talk about this convergence impacting the suburbs in a positive way, they don't acknowledge is with any funding. We sure hope the folks at the Conference Board of Canada are not talking about cutting off the South Fraser region. After all, we are providing the affordable homes to folks working in this region and commuting also to Vancouver. Our population is not declining, and we will soon have over 1,000,000 people living here!

Has the Conference Board visited the GVRD to find our morning parking lot along Highway 1 from Abbotsford to Surrey, while the sleek SkyTrain and buses take very good care of taxpayers in Vancouver? Surely if this convergence is taking hold of us south of the Fraser we should get our fair share of the plunder to build some intelligent light rail and be able to move more than just goods. And lets include a bit to connect our people to ideas as well with some upgrades to our aging communications infrastructure. Are we expected to neglect our need for high-density, transit oriented development and transportation infrastructure now while it can be put in place more easily, or shall we wait 20 years and allow history to repeat itself as it did with Highway 1 and our gridlock?

Should 100% public funds be our only answer here in the South Fraser, or is there a better solution? What do you think?

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