(Credit: BC NDP via Flickr)
By Winnie Hwo, Senior Public Engagement Specialist
Like many British Columbians, I have been following post-election developments closely.
On May 9, I voted for a healthy environment. For me, that means green transportation infrastructure and a clean energy future.
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As a Lower Mainland resident, one of my top concerns is the Massey Tunnel bridge replacement. It's an issue that will not only have great influence on B.C.'s ability to meet its carbon-emissions reduction targets but will also determine my family's transportation means.
On Tuesday, I got a glimpse of what a cleaner and greener transportation future could look like, if the province moves in a new direction in which the environment and our well-being take centre stage.
According to the joint statement released by NDP leader John Horgan and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, they hope to form a minority government that will expand B.C.'s carbon tax plan to an additional $5 per ton per year beginning April 1, 2018, and include taxation of fugitive emissions, including the fugitive methane gas released by the natural gas/fracking industry.
For us in the Lower Mainland, the promise to "act immediately to improve transit and transportation infrastructure in co-operation with the Mayor's Council and the federal government to reduce emissions, create jobs and get people home faster" is particularly important. It's a promise that, if carried through, will greatly improve my family's quality of life.
During the election, the B.C. Liberals campaigned on a plan to spend $3.5 billion on a 10-lane car bridge to connect the fastest-growing communities between South Fraser and Vancouver. However, as we add vehicles to the road, the prospect of building low-carbon public transit and transportation options for residents in this region dims.
In an op-ed published in the Province in late April, a group of Lower Mainland citizens considered how the B.C. Liberals' proposed bridge construction costs could be redirected. What alternative projects could this $3.5 billion fund? This is what they found:
1) $1.32 billion would add 750 hybrid buses to the Lower Mainland's fleet.
2) $1.3 billion would fund earthquake upgrades for 152 schools, allowing some to be replaced entirely.
3) $1.38 billion could build 5,520 affordable housing units.
More vehicles on the road means higher health-care costs. The province is well aware of this. Its website highlights that "vehicle emissions contribute to smog. The compounds in vehicle emissions are linked to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses and are the most concentrated near major roadways in cities."
Experts confirm that B.C. is not on track to meet its legally binding emissions target put into law in 2008 — requiring the province to reduce emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020. Instead, Christy Clark's government was aiming for a 2050 target with an 80 per cent reduction in emissions from 2007 levels. Adding vehicle capacity with a 10-lane bridge makes it far less likely that we'll meet these targets. Rather, they seem to be evaporating into thin air.
Clearly, there are many more worthwhile ways to spend this money, none of which would jeopardize our environment or the livability of our communities.
Both John Horgan and Andrew Weaver campaigned against the $4 billion, 10-lane bridge as a viable solution to the Massey Tunnel. Although the two leaders did not spell out their plans for a Massey Tunnel replacement in their latest announcement, I sincerely hope a cleaner alternative is in the works. With cooperation among parties and a new direction in government, British Columbians have a real chance to reboot and move toward a cleaner, greener future.