Horgan conducting damage control on several fronts
B.C. premier feeling heat following Alberta’s decision to stop buying wine
Premier John Horgan is trying to cool talk of a trade war with Alberta, having provoked the standoff with a threat to block increased shipments of heavy oil through B.C.
“Our government has every right to consult with British Columbians on the best possible measures to protect our lands and waters from the potential impacts of diluted bitumen spills,” said Horgan, responding to Tuesday news that Alberta would boycott B.C. wine in exchange for the implied threat to expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“Our consultation on proposed new regulations hasn’t even begun, but Alberta has seen fit to take measures to impact B.C. businesses,” the B.C. premier continued. “If Alberta disagrees they can make that argument in the proper venue, in our court system.”
But just last week Horgan suggested the opposite: it would be “premature” for Alberta to file a legal challenge against B.C. because “there’s nothing to take to court.”
B.C.’s proposed regulations will first be sent out for public consultations and review by an independent scientific panel, a process that could take as much as a year, according to Environment Minister George Heyman.
Wait a year then take us to court? One couldn’t ask for a more telling summary of B.C.’s real strategy, which is delaying the pipeline project until operator Kinder Morgan loses heart and gives up.
But Horgan can hardly have expected his fellow New Democrat and “old friend” to sit on her hands, when Rachel Notley is facing an uphill fight for re-election a year from now.
The neighbouring premier’s foray against B.C. wine posed an immediate threat to $70 million in wholesale purchases by the Alberta liquor distribution branch every year.
Horgan insisted Tuesday and again Wednesday that his NDP government “will stand with B.C. wine producers.” But one could search either day’s statements in vain for what that might entail in terms of either support or retaliation.
The NDP minister of agriculture, Lana Popham, briefly indicated a possible response Tuesday when reporters caught up with her during a previously scheduled tour of Okanagan wineries.
“We bring in a lot of Alberta beef into British Columbia, so I would rather not go down that route,” Popham said. “And I don’t know where we’re going to go, but one thing for sure, we’ll fight. We’ll fight as hard as we can for our wineries.”
Barely had she floated the threat to Alberta beef, when the B.C. Liberals fired back that Popham’s “shockingly bad idea” would end up hurting B.C. producers.
A sizable portion of B.C. beef production is sent to Alberta for finishing, which is the sort of thing one might expect the province’s agriculture minister to know.
On Wednesday, the premier rode to her rescue, as he did last fall during Popham’s botched handling of the fish farming file. A boycott of Alberta beef is not on, Horgan said.
He also ruled out any other form of retaliation. Horgan fears an escalating trade war could distract public and media attention from the rollout of his government’s agenda for the year, starting next week in the legislature.
The Alberta move against the B.C. wine industry also dovetails with another event unfolding next week, the byelection to fill the vacant legislature seat of Kelowna West.
Notley drew attention to the non-coincidence during her news conference: “There is, I believe, a byelection in Kelowna right now. I’m not sure who is expected to win what in that byelection, but I suspect it (the wine boycott) will be a matter of discussion.”
Right she was. Ben Stewart, the former B.C. Liberal MLA trying to win back the seat vacated by Christy Clark, was soon out with the appropriate news release.
“The premier has stumbled into this reckless trade war with Alberta, he’s the one who pushed the wine sector into the line of fire,” Stewart said. “Kelowna West residents can send a message that it’s time for the B.C. NDP to stop the wine war — and stand up for B.C. jobs by voting B.C. Liberal.”
The week’s exchanges on this issue also included a letter to Horgan from the pipeline operator, seeking a meeting and cautioning about the impact of the threatened regulations on the national economy.
“The implications of such a threat strike directly at the heart of our country’s oil and natural gas producers, and producing provinces, energy customers in the Lower Mainland, Canada, USA and overseas, and the men and women who earn a living supporting the energy industry in this country,” wrote Kinder Morgan Canada CEO Ian Anderson.
“I hope that you will consider the severity and consequence of the actions your minister has proposed and that you will accept my offer to meet with you to discuss these and any other matters relating to the operations of our company in B.C.”
Not a chance, said Horgan. He won’t meet with the company so long as his government is in court, challenging the federal regulatory approval for the Trans Mountain expansion.
Meanwhile, senior federal and B.C. provincial officials were scheduled to meet in Vancouver on Thursday to discuss the issue.
The B.C. side is expected to lay out the Horgan government’s rationale for its proposed move against Alberta oil. The feds may indicate what Ottawa could do to back up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s insistence that the project can, should and will be built. Few outside the architectural community talk about the beauty of Vancouver’s architecture. But it’s there.
Look past the towering trees lining Vancouver’s leafy, pre-1940s neighbourhoods and you’ll notice a cacophony of architectural styles. Each of these homes was built in a slightly different era by a different builder following a different set of architectural ideals at a time when the details were paramount; the gables, the dormers, the handrails — there’s an authenticity to their variety that can’t be replicated.
Many of these were once home to large families, often with several generations living under one roof, which meant neighbourhood parks were filled with kids clamouring over playgrounds, families picnicking beside soccer fields, elderly couples walking dogs in the evening.
Now, many of these neighbourhoods are shells of their former vibrant, diverse selves; The playgrounds are no longer full, the sidewalks are all but empty, the local businesses struggling. These are ghost neighbourhoods. This could be about to change.
In October 2017, Vancouver city council approved amendments to the Zoning and Development Bylaw that could be key pieces of the housing-crisis puzzle. Though still in their gestation period, once enacted, these amendments could mean owners of character homes built before 1940 could stratify their properties through a relatively streamlined permitting process. A home that once housed a single family could soon be divided up and sold as several different units.
If this gets the pickup it deserves, this could start a snowball effect. See, the real benefit of this housing solution isn’t just to the homeowners who will be able to downsize in place, maintaining their connection to the community they may have lived in for decades. The real benefit is to the “missing middle” who could soon find new housing opportunities.
While a character home on a double lot may
Kelowna West residents can send a message that it’s time for the B.C. NDP to stop the wine war.
B.C. Liberal candidate
The benefits of revitalizing these ghost neighbourhoods will have broad reach
have been priced-out of a single parent-led family’s reach, a thoughtfully designed unit within it might not be. Though a young professional couple may not be able to afford an impeccable pre-1940s home, they might be able to make a renovated portion work.
The benefits of revitalizing these ghost neighbourhoods will have broad reach; it will touch the infrastructure, the schools, the small businesses near these homes.
If it’s successful — and I believe it will be — Vancouver could act as a blueprint for other regions with historically significant homes, like New Westminster and Victoria.
It has pained me to see beautiful old homes torn down, pulled into pieces and tossed in a landfill; an environmental travesty. Now, by dividing homes that may once have been destined for destruction into multiple units for multiple owners, they stand a chance of being not just salvaged, but restored. And better yet, repurposed.
I think of this approach as “sensitive densification.” Unlike new townhomes and condo towers, stratifying character homes will not significantly change Vancouver’s streetscapes. Instead, it will beautify them by preserving the rich tapestry of architectural details, the mature trees, the memories these homes hold.
Unlike some of the bigger-news densification plans, this doesn’t involve broad development on major arterials. Instead, many of these homes are on quiet streets with a calmer rhythm, where people can get to know their neighbours and live at a slightly slower pace. They’re of a more human scale.
Unlike the building of major developments, this plan doesn’t require additional infrastructure — slight modifications to the water, sewer or electrical setup, maybe, but for the most part these are already in place.
By densifying, this approach diversifies by bringing back to Vancouver’s ghost neighbourhoods people of all backgrounds, ages, incomes and family structures. This is thoughtful revitalization with the potential to make Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods as vibrant as they used to be and, by welcoming back the “missing middle,” more diverse than they ever were.