Split from Metro Vancouver gains momentum

Stung by comments from Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, Township council takes a step towards leaving Metro Vancouver.

No RapidBus to Lougheed SkyTrain station from the park and ride in Willoughby, and inadequate bus service, especially in Aldergrove. As one of the region’s high-growth areas, Langley deserves much more for the taxes residents pay for transportation and other Metro Vancouver services, say Township elected officials.

Dissatisfaction with the regional and transportation authorities is a common refrain in Langley, and now Langley Township is saying enough is enough.

After a lengthy debate on Monday evening, council backed Councillor Kim Richter’s motion “to explore the possibility and option” of forming a new Fraser Regional District. Neighbouring districts from Delta to Abbotsford, and those north of the Fraser River, will be invited to participate.

Richter’s motion also seeks talks with the provincial government on the process to pull out of Metro Vancouver and form a new regional district.

In her motion, Richter argued that the weighted vote system on the Metro board “favours the established metropolitan areas to the detriment of the high growth areas.”

She argued that the Metro board is trying to use the Livable Region Strategy to participate in zoning decisions made by member municipalities. This is beyond the scope, direction and intention of the LRS, she added.

After a lively discussion, council agreed to hash out the issue at a council priorities meeting. It will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday in the council chambers. The meeting is open to the public.

Councillor Charlie Fox, who seconded the motion, said that after serving just over a year on the Metro board, he observed “a change in the relationship with Metro Vancouver and I’m not particularly enamoured with the change.”

Last week. Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, who is the regional planning chair at Metro, said Township politicians have themselves to blame because they pushed for Highway 1 expansion, despite warnings from Metro planners that the $3.5 billion project would undercut future demand for public transit.

Corrigan did not escape potshots aimed at him on Monday. While warning that “you don’t cut the umbilical cord that easily,” Councillor Grant Ward said that “Corrigan calls the shots and always has. Why are we surprised?”

Ward was annoyed that he first heard about the suggestion to break away from Metro on the radio, when a Township councillor he did not name was interviewed.

“I’m somewhat surprised at the speed this is going,” Ward said.

Acknowledging councillors’ frustration, Ward said the issue “will make us look like fools if we don’t break away.”

Councillor Steve Ferguson reminded council that the agreement with the regional district had originally been only for water and sewer, and he wondered if the motion went far enough.

“Why don’t we form our own Langley regional district?” he said, suggesting that Langley could go solo with its own police force, as well as sewer and water services.

“It would cost us less,” Ferguson said.

Richter said that “the time for action is now.” She added: “I’m tired of this Marie Antoinette attitude Metro Vancouver has towards Langley. We don’t want cake. We want bread … and we are paying through the nose.”

“Somebody needs to take the initiative. We have been hit so hard by Metro,” Richter said, calling the organization “a booming little empire in Burnaby that thinks it rules the empire. It doesn’t.”

Councillor Bev Dornan persuaded council not to limit the possibility of a merger only with municipalities south of the Fraser, as Richter’s motion had originally stated.

Getting on with other regional partners “is what it’s all about,” said Councillor Bob Long.

“it’s a very challenging situation that we all face,” he said. “Starting our own club may not be the answer.”

With the observation that “the grass is not always greener on the other side,” Mayor Jack Froese commented that there is no harm in asking questions about a new regional alliance.


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