2014-03-26: Tri-City politicians could say ‘no’ to growth

Tri-City politicians could say ‘no’ to growth before taxing for transit
Letter to editor, Tri-City News, March 26, 2014

The Editor,

Why is transit is such a huge issue with our municipal leaders? They say the region is set to increase its population by a million people over the next 20 years. They say that if we want to avoid gridlock and pollution, we must spend billions on expanding the transit system. They would have us believe this massive increase in population is inevitable and we are powerless to stop it so the only thing to do is spend billions on transit and other infrastructure.

Is that really the case, though? Is a mega-region inevitable or even desirable?

I am not as sure as our municipal leaders are.

Remember that nothing gets built in a municipality without its permission. The official community plan, the zoning, subdivision approval and issuance of building permits are all within the discretion of any city. Councils, then, are solely responsible for population growth because they alone approve residential development and without these approvals, the population of any municipality would level off.

Given these facts, the communities in the Lower Mainland can limit population growth and largely avoid the massive tax increases that will be required to fund more transit. So why don’t they?

Is it because developers are such generous contributors to the election campaigns of many municipal politicians?

Is it to hide the inability of municipalities to control their costs and stay one step ahead of this cost spiral by approving new development in order to generate immediate revenue for the cities?

Maybe it’s to pay for the coming tsunami of retiring civic workers with generous and indexed pensions?

Is it simply empire building? Why do we need 22 municipalities for a population of 2.6 million, with the resultant duplication of costs throughout the region?

Perhaps the motives are more altruistic. Maybe it’s a desire to share what we have with the world or so that our children can have a place to live.

Maybe it’s to contain housing costs — but that hasn’t worked too well, has it?

It’s hard not to be cynical about city councils’ motives when they have the power but won’t use it.

They allow growth and then whine that other levels of government (same taxpayer) should foot the bill.

We don’t need mega-cities and we don’t have to spend billions on transit if we simply choose to say “no” to unlimited growth.

B. Elliott, Port Moody

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