The City has a long-standing relationship with many large industrial businesses located on the City’s foreshore. This relationship began with logging operations situated in what was then Moodyville and shipbuilding in the Wallace shipyard, which grew and expanding into Burrard Drydock Co. and later operating as Versatile Pacific until it’s demise.
Port lands are still used to build ships for Canada’s future, which will begin anew with the Washington Marine Group’s construction of DND service vessels scheduled to commence shortly at the Vancouver Shipyard facilities located at both the foot of Pemberton and St. Andrews.
Along the way we have facilitated Canada’s dream of feeding the world, now done in part through the expertise and facilities of the Cargill and Richardson’s grain elevators, the latter of which is currently undergo a massive silo expansion.
We are also a hub for the shipment of Canadian mined coal, potash, phosrock, canola oil and other products, by Neptune Terminals, operated through a consortium of bulk commodity shippers.
Western Stevedorings break-bulk ship loading and unloading operations for lumber, pulp, steel and other cargo’s are also long time and valued businesses resident in both the City and the District.
These industrial operations not only make a valuable financial contribution to the City through taxes, they represent hundreds of jobs a day, and in the case of Vancouver Shipyard and the new DND contract, could eventually reach upward of 1,000 man-days of work each and everyday.
The financial contribution these industrial customers continue to make to the City through direct and indirect employment and frequent expansion projects can be measured, and the economic results are staggering, confirming the importance of these businesses to our community, the provincial economy, and the country.
The ongoing existence of these industrial businesses within our community is not without some degree of burden and risk. As with any enterprise, a balance between risk and reward must be struck and re-evaluated from time to time.
Having said that, it is important to point out two significant facts. These are:
- The industrial enterprises located on Port lands are in most ways beyond the jurisdiction of the City, as they fall under federal control through the Port Metro Vancouver.
- The Port does not encourage, facilitate or even tolerate municipal interference in matters over which industrial operation and regulatory oversight lies under exclusive Federal Port jurisdiction.
That said, each of the large industrial tenants located within City’s boundaries on Port Lands, in my opinion, have been, and continue to be, very good and thoughtful neighbors to the City’s residential and commercial residents.
There are those residence who oppose the expansion of these businesses, together with the resulting noise and claims of air pollution. Some of our residents also oppose these Port business residents on the proposition that we must say no to raw resource extraction shipping facilities on the basis of their damage to air quality in China and other parts of asia. They propose we stop exporting raw materials which have any potential to damage the environment on the premise that we will force a change on those far-off economies, facilitating a shift to greener industries. While I want to leave a viable environment for my children to inherit, I do not believe refusing shipments through lower-mainland port facilities will alter the use of coal or any other commodity by China or elsewhere. Accordingly, I do not share the views and positions of those who would stop our Port residents from conducting their business.
These Port enterprises represent a major contribution to the life style of each and every City resident. Were these enterprises not situated within City boundary’s the City would be compelled to significantly increase the municipal taxes assessed on each resident and commercial business.
In trade for the contributions made by industrial customers, we are forced to live with certain quality of life concerns. Noise, coal dust, railway service “at-grade” crossings, power line corridors, view impairment to name just a few. Yet, in my opinion, the ongoing challenges of having these operations resident in the City is justified. Moreover, they are here whether we oppose them or not.
However, I would not have you assume that my support is without its conditions. I believe each of these enterprises has an obligation to maintain a state-of-the-art approach to all their various operations, and to undergo frequent and in-depth scrutiny. Not with an eye to shutting them down, but rather with an eye to ensuring their presents does not harm a single City resident. Life is too precious.
I can remember when my father negotiated with Neptune the installation of the water sprinkler system as a method of dust suppression. It was a hard fought fight, but in the end an attribute which Neptune holds out with pride as a shining example of cooperation. It has been my experience through my many contact points with all these operators, that they are one and all good corporate citizens. They will make reasonable and prudent investment, based on solid data. They are also not in the habit of covering-up issues. As their own staff will tell you, if the citizens of the City are in jeopardy from related health risk, the first to feel the risk exposure will be the people who work at the facilities day in and day out.
There is no percentage in doing medical harm to your employees, and I do not think Neptune, Cargill, Richardson’s, Van Ship, or Western Stevedoring would ever knowingly or willingly put an employee in harms way, and so by analogous, they would not knowingly put a City resident in harms way either. That said, mistakes can and do happen to all industrial operations, and we must be vigilant against such a possibility. We need only look to the Lac Megantic railway incident to see the possibilities of industrial accidents which can happen with little or no notice. However, there is risk in virtually all aspects of life, and we must manage that risk by putting proper and responsible safeguards in place which protect our community.
While a “zero risk” community environment is the ultimate objective, it’s simply not a practical goal in today’s world. So ask yourself this question. Would you be prepare to pay $1,000 or $2,000 more per year in property tax and other fees and loose 1,500 – 2,500 well paying jobs from our community, to facilitate an industrial free City foreshore. Of the residents I have polled, the answer is a resounding “No”. But nor are they prepared to allow the industrial businesses free reign over our community and our environment.
IT IS MY POSITION THAT City staff and council should hold regular public meetings to discuss, with all our industrial port tenants, the issues which effect City residents for the purpose of;
- Knowing and understanding each industrial tenants current business activities, and
- Knowing and understanding each industrial tenants plans and programs for near and long-term change, all of which may have an effect on the health and quality of life of City residents, and
- Participating in health, safety and emergency response preparedness development programs in advance and with an eye to the reduction of risk and the prevention of damage to people, property and the environment, and
- To gain an appreciation of the issues which are or may affect Port businesses, both domestic and foreign in nature, so we ensure our support for their various enterprises in a way not dissimilar to the support I propose to give our local commercial business residents.
When I am in a position to effect change, the policies setout above will guide my decision-making on City council.