Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Federal Election Series

A few weeks ago, I emailed the local candidates in the Langley riding and asked them a few questions about sustainable communities and sustainable transportation. I will post the responses I receive in the order in which they were received. Today we’ll heard from Craig Nobbs of the Pirate Party of Canada.

What will your government do to promote sustainable community design?
This question is best asked of local, municipal governments as they are responsible for planning and maintaining sustainable community designs. That being said, the Federal government gives money directly to communities in several forms; one being the "Gas Tax Fund" which is money given to municipalities directly for infrastructure on an annual basis. Federal Tax dollars that are transferred to municipal governments are spent as mandated (in cases like the Gas Tax Fund) or end up in general revenue, which are then spent as the municipal government see fit.

When municipal governments look to build large infrastructure improvements, then they seek help from provincial and (in some cases) the federal government. Recently, the building of the Golden Ears bridge and the new Port Mann bridge partnerships are created between public and private entities.

In my personal opinion, I think that private partnerships are harmful in the long run as a corporation is in business to make profit. Each of the large public and private partnerships that I can think of in the last umpteen years has ended up with the corporations making an exorbitant amount of money off of tax payers... or are going to.

What will your government do to get light rail and other forms of alternative transportation built in the South of Fraser?
As with the previous questions, this is left up to municipal governments, or more accurately in this case, the GVRD/Translink. The regional governing body charges taxes in various areas that go directly to it. There are taxes on fuel purchased at the pump, property taxes, and parking spaces for all locations located within the GVRD.

In terms of federal involvement, the federal government pitches in when large scale projects are involved and where the funds can be found. When infrastructure benefits the country as a whole, the federal government is more likely to put in a larger amount of money, but they decide on that based on a case-by-case basis.

While I believe that the Fraser Valley, from Vancouver to Abbotsford at least, could certainly make good use of light rail, it is something that Translink has failed to adequately plan for. They waste money on expansion of one of the most expensive technologies, being SkyTrain, when alternative technologies which are significantly more cost effective to license, implement, and maintain could have been used.

They also are removing the land medians East of the Fraser River in the expansion of Highway 1, when they should have kept it in place as the most direct route for a light rail option with the least amount of additional lands having to be purchased. The new Port Mann should have had two way rail lines in addition to the vehicle lanes which would have connected to this light rail and had an elevated rail continuing above Highway 1 until in was equitable to return to ground level light rail.

While there is a lot to be considered in a project like that, it would have best served all municipalities as they would all come online at the same time. Additionally, it would would have a station alongside at least one of the existing SkyTrain stations so that people could transfer onto the existing lines.

Translink has another large failing, in that Langley receives significantly less serveries that other municipalities while paying full pull. This glaring and obvious lack of concern for the residents of Langley has brought up the topic of Langley City and Township leaving the GVRD and creating their own solution to the problem. However, it was not financially possible as it required a large amount of initial funding which was not available.

Unfortunately, since the GVRD is wholly a provincial mandate, there is nothing that can be done at the federal level about these issues.

What will your government do to support stable funding for green, municipal infrastructure and public transit?

If elected, I would look to remove tax incentives from the oil and petroleum industries and instead offer similar incentives to companies who research, develop, or produce green technologies that are wholly sustainable, reusable, and can be recycled with an minimal amount of relative effort. This would make these technologies available sooner and at cheaper costs than they would otherwise be made available.

Additionally, although only a dream at the moment, would be to create a law that would outlaw the sale, import, and production of combustion engine based passenger vehicles while also limiting commercial vehicles to use diesel fuel only. The exception would be that existing (used) vehicles could be sold within the country so long as they meet strict emission controls and maintained in proper working order. This would be set some 15 - 20 years into the future, giving people ample time to switch over to newer technologies, allow for existing green technologies to advance further and become even more efficient, and for new technologies to be introduced as additional alternatives to existing technologies.

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