Opinion – By Mike Archer. The decision to get rid of the ultra vires and strangely named Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw in Abbotsford was brought about, primarily, by legal challenges against it by the homeless men and women against whom it was directed– challenges the City was told it could not win.
Belief Based Decision Making
It is not the only social issue on which our politicians have tended to favour belief over fact and their loss should be a lesson for councillors in Abbotsford and the rest of the Fraser Valley, some of whom have a reputation for passing bylaws and tackling issues that are neither within their jurisdiction nor based on either current law or accepted academic standards.
The strangely successful career of Darryl Plecas, based, as it has been, on out-of-date, ultra vires and demonstrably illegal advice to police departments and local councils, is another wonderful example of people who ought to know better basing public policy on popular mythology rather than accepted current academic theory, statistics and facts.
It just sort of feels right for a certain active part of the local voting public to be hard on crime no matter what laws and constitutional realities must be tossed aside to accomplish the perception of results. The fact that the world of academic criminology moved beyond Plecas’ myopic and incorrect views on policing wouldn’t be an issue if he didn’t use his pseudo academic credentials to peddle his buffoonery.
There will always be room to disagree and argue over any number of public issues. The Flat Earth Society still maintains the world is flat; creationists and atheists still argue over the appropriateness of each other’s points of view when it comes to the public sphere; community members still argue over the safety of water chlorination and many people still have firm beliefs about the appropriateness of vaccination as a public health tool.
But popular beliefs do not necessarily make for good public policy. That’s why, in real legislatures as opposed to the constitutionally fictional world of local municipal councils, popular beliefs are not generally accepted as the basis for laws.
Stephen Harper has tried to make law based on belief but has tended to run into things like the Constitution, the Supreme Court, academia and the scientific establishment all of which tend towards reliable and verifiable facts rather than belief.
You can believe all you want that climate change isn’t happening but waterfront cities across the world are planning for it, estimating the costs and determining the best way to deal with it no matter what right wing politicians want to say publicly.
Ed Fast can believe all he wants that the Alberta Tar Sands are Canada’s reward from God for being a Christian nation, it doesn’t help clean up the spills, or deal with the ramifications of failure if one of God’s other pastimes – earthquakes and other natural disasters – interferes with the pipeline he and Harper want to build across BC.
Carefully Constructed Reputations
Similarly two of the Fraser Valley’s most prominent and successful politicians – Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz and Abbotsford Councillor Patty Ross (who currently rule the roost as Chair and Vice Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District) have built their political careers based largely on their carefully constructed reputations (built with the help of local journalists) as environmentalists.
Problem is – when politicians dress like environmentalists the benefits always seem to go one way … towards the politicians. When the chips are down and the politician needs to make a decision between their career and the environment, they invariably revert to being a politician.
And so Patty Ross and Sharon Gaetz have been individually and jointly responsible for allowing one of the ugliest most permanent scars on the BC environment to grow, unrestrained and unabated as the gravel industry continues to swallow huge tracts of land on the once pristine Sumas Mountain, at Lake Errock and up the Chilliwack River Valley despite the loud protests of local citizens and environmentalists.Both have successfully fooled the local media and a large number of voters into believing they are environmentalists simply by fighting the paper tiger represented by Vancouver’s attempt to re-use its waste through incineration with weapons only loosely associated with reality, in a battle they are not likely to win.
Except that, as politicians, they will win large number of votes due to the perception, happily promulgated by local newspapers, that they are environmentalists.
Both have ignored any of the legitimate science which pokes holes in their popular theory about the threat to the airshed and both have ignored the fact that they are supremely responsible for building automobile dependent communities which, together with the diesel spewing semitrailers they prefer Vancouver to drive through the Valley, pose a far greater threat to our lungs and our environment than Vancouver’s attempts to reduce its carbon footprint ever will.
Abbotsford’s Lexus Environmentalist
In Abbotsford, after jumping to the front of the Stop SE2 parade just before it went past the reviewing stand, taking all the credit despite the fact the battle was organized, hard fought and won by others while Patty sat on her hands at the council table, she went on to support the paving of miles and miles of pristine Abbotsford forest with the Discovery Trail.
She then went on to vote against the wishes of the majority of the residents of Sumas Mountain, to annex the area so that Abbotsford could benefit from the gravel taxes, and participated in the further erosion of the mountain’s environment as chair of the Fraser Valley regional District.
Whether because she has provincial political ambitions with the BC Liberals – the voice of the gravel industry – or because she simply doesn’t pay attention or understand what she is doing, she has nonetheless managed to do more damage to the environment in her political career than she has managed to help it.
Quite the environmentalist isn’t she?
Chilliwack’s Toxic Waste Environmentalist
Now we have her partner in crime, Sharon Gaetz who, wait for it, is battling with 17 community, environmental and native groups on behalf of a company which was fast-tracked through the City of Chilliwack’s approval process in order to get approval to build a toxic waste site in a swamp beside a nature reserve on the banks of the Fraser River.
A public meeting was held at Evergreen Hall in Chilliwack Saturday featuring Glen Thompson of the Friends of the Chilliwack River Valley, Rod Clapton of the BC Federation of Drift Fishers, Grand Chief Clarence Penner, of the Stó:lō Nation as well as renowned conservationist,international speaker and Founder of BC Rivers Day Mark Angelo.
You would figure an environmentalist would find a way to be there.
Neither Patty not Sharon were there.
Patty’s environmental legacy appears to consist of a long strip of asphalt through the forest and a gutted and ruined Sumas mountain to bear witness for all the ages as to what an environmentalist politician could accomplish in the way of fooling people into believing she gave a damn about the environment.
Sharon, who has participated wholeheartedly in helping the gravel industry ruin the Fraser Valley’s natural environment appears intent on leaving as ugly and horrendous an environmental footprint as is possible by manipulating the political process in favour of a toxic waste dump in one of the most sensitive and dangerous places in the entire province.
If, instead of parroting whatever they are told by politicians, community newspaper journalists would question the carefully crafted images of our politicians and ask themselves whether they are really being journalists when they act as PR agents for the people they cover, we might be able to see through more of the BS presented as fact by people who do not always have the interests of the community, the citizens or the environment at heart.
02/20/14 – 17:40
From the Vancouver Sun, January 7, 2014 by Larry Pynn.
[excerpt] FVRD vice-chair Patricia Ross, an Abbotsford councillor, has raised the spectre of legal action if the province does not tighten up the operating certificate for the incinerator. Allan noted that while the provincial government is the regulatory body overseeing the incinerator, the Fraser Health Authority and City of Burnaby receive regular emission monitoring reports and neither have indicated a problem with the facility.
Academics criticize FVRD for complaining about the Burnaby incinerator while building unsustainable communities that cause even more pollution problems.
FVRD is “incredibly hypocritical” and engaged in sleight of hand, said Mark Jaccard, a professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University.
He said municipalities in the Fraser Valley have the power to allow only residential developments to proceed once issues such as public transit and close access to commercial stores are considered.
“When I go out into the valley I am always appalled,” he said. “All these things we know about sustainable energy, greenhouse gas emissions, transportation and how we can have a much lower impact development, and they seem to do very little if any of that.
“When I hear them complain about the incinerator, my reaction is it’s hypocrisy.”
Gordon Price, a former Vancouver city councillor who is now director of The City Program at SFU, agreed that Abbotsford is “staggering in its car dependence.
“They’re planning on the assumption that pretty much everybody drives everywhere for everything. That’s not an exaggeration. When you go there, it’s clear … it is being designed in the post-War American model.”