Georgia Strait Alliance is the only citizens' group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia – Canada's most at-risk natural environment, and the place where 70% of British Columbians live, work and play. We are committed to a future for our region that includes clean water and air, healthy wild salmon runs, rich marine life and natural areas, and sustainable communities.

July 21, 2014

Kinder Morgan hearings delay: a win for pipeline opponents

This week the National Energy Board (NEB) announced that it was ‘stopping the clock’ on its review of Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion, which will delay the NEB’s final recommendation – and the ultimate federal Cabinet decision – until 2016.

Tanker under Second Narrows Bridge
Photo: Sarama (
The delay is due to the fact that Kinder Morgan changed a portion of its ‘preferred route’ for the new pipeline after it filed its application to the NEB last December. The NEB is providing the extra time so that Kinder Morgan can carry out additional studies on the new route, which involves tunneling through Burnaby Mountain. When the route change came to light in May, many community members called for the NEB review to be paused or restarted, particularly those in Burnaby who could be most directly affected by the route switch.

There’s no doubt that major flaws remain in the NEB review process: there still won’t be any in-person cross-examination of the evidence presented, Kinder Morgan is still failing to adequately answer the questions intervenors have been asking, and the project’s climate impacts are still barred from discussion.

However, the delay is most definitely a win for all of us who have been criticizing both the project and the process.

The longer the review takes, the more likely it is that one of the many obstacles to the project’s completion will be successful, including changing market forces, a raft of lawsuits from First Nations and others, and citizens from across BC mobilizing to oppose the project. Perhaps most notably, the final decision to approve or deny the project will be made by whoever wins the next federal election in 2015, giving citizens a chance to hear where all the parties stand on Kinder Morgan, and the opportunity to vote accordingly.  

If you’re an intervenor or a commenter in the NEB review, here are the key new deadlines you should be aware of:

·         Deadline for commenters to file letter of comment: March 16, 2015 (commenter workshops will now take place in February 2015)
·         Deadline for intervenors to file written evidence: March 16, 2015
·         Deadline for intervenors to file written argument: July 29, 2015
·         Oral hearings: July 2015
·         NEB releases its final report and recommendations: 25 January, 2016

You can find out more from the NEB’s table of revised hearing events, and as always, if you have any questions or comments, please get in touch at

July 14, 2014

Mixing concrete and asparagus on Granville Island

Why a polarized and non-transparent debate will hurt the future of Vancouver’s treasured waterfront hub

Years ago, someone came up with the idea of putting vegetables on concrete mixers to drive them around Vancouver, and guess what, it is working. Granted, the trucks aren’t used to bring veggies to market—quite the opposite: the larger-than-life ads depicting carrots and asparagus on cement trucks bring Granville Island’s public market to people’s attention and have become a familiar and endearing sight around the city. The trucks belong to the Ocean Concrete/Lehigh Hanson plant that is located right next to the market and keeps the island’s industrial heritage alive.

Ocean Concrete's cement plant is one of the last remaining 
industrial facilities on Granville Island
Photo: Joe Mabel (licensed under GNU Free Documentation License)
The marketing folks behind the ads knew how to make people pause and think. Their campaign encapsulates what makes Granville Island so special: it’s a place, in the middle of the city, where unusual things come together—like the public market, a cement plant, an arts school campus, theatres, galleries and other creative spaces, a next-door fishing harbour, and much more. The symbiosis of all these facilities is what has made Granville Island so popular with locals and international travelers alike.

Now the island is bracing for change. Emily Carr University is moving away to its new campus in East Vancouver, and the conversation about the future of the area has started to take off. In February, the Vancouver Sun’s Daphne Bramham suggested that Granville Island was in need of re-imagination and renewal to inject new life, creative energy and local flavour.

Recently, the conversation has taken a much more antagonistic turn. News leaked that Port Metro Vancouver was negotiating to take over Granville Island from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This was not well received by everyone, including the City of Vancouver, who according to a statement by Mayor Gregor Robertson would like to see a “transfer or lease to the City, or the creation of an independent local authority” to run the island.

There are two things that concern me about the place we’ve suddenly found ourselves in as we are talking about the future of Granville Island:

First, it didn’t take long for the debate to be framed around camps, positions, antagonists, and strong conclusions about what’s right or wrong. Arguments about whether the Port has a “proven track record of running things” or represents a bureaucracy that Granville Island must be saved from provide easily combustible fuel for a heated discussion, but they are unlikely to produce good outcomes for the larger community.

Granville Island is a core part of the waterfront in Vancouver, a maritime city that owes much of its allure and prosperity to its connection to the ocean and the world. Consequently, the Port and the shipping industry should be part of this conversation. But so should citizens and other stakeholders—which leads me to my second concern.

The secrecy surrounding the negotiations and the lack of transparency and engagement in the process so far do not bode well for the discussion moving forward. Granville Island arguably plays an important role for Vancouver: as a public space, a tourist destination, and a source of diverse economic and job opportunities in the city centre. So all those who make Granville Island what it is and who want to contribute to and benefit form it in the future need to be involved: tenants, the City, industry, civil society, and citizens.

Photo: Ruocaled/Flickr (licensed under CC BY 2.0)
If the polarization and lack of transparency and engagement continues, we risk squandering great opportunities for our city. Granville Island really is unique as an amalgamation of creativity, public spaces, industry, and other economic activities (such as retail, services, hospitality). And I believe that if Vancouver is to achieve the goal of becoming the world’s greenest city, moving industries elsewhere won’t cut it. Real leadership and innovation would mean making our industrial activities on the waterfront more sustainable and harmonizing them with the ecosystems and the communities that surround them—without having to move more people to jobs in the suburbs and trucking more goods back into the city.

Divisive debates are not going to get us there. The way to innovative solutions that benefit us all is through engagement, open dialogue, and collaboration, which is the approach Georgia Strait Alliance is taking with our Waterfront Initiative. We are the backbone organization for a growing network of partners and stakeholders that works to restore, protect, and revitalize Vancouver’s shoreline. Our goal is to ensure that the waterfront can continue to be a place where we live, work, play, travel, connect with and protect nature—in other words, all that Granville Island represents so unmistakably in the heart of the city.

July 4, 2014

Ryan joins GSA for the summer

Hello GSA supporters,

Ryan with his friend and classmate Rabbi Salih
during his recent convocation ceremony. 
My name is Ryan Butler, and I am excited to be joining GSA’s dynamic staff this summer as the Clean Marine Outreach and Engagement Coordinator. Prior to this position, I’ve worked and volunteered with several NGOs and student organizations, such as: Camp Hornby, The World University Service of Canada, and The Radio Malaspina Society.

Having recently graduated from Vancouver Island University with a degree in sociology and political studies, I am thrilled to have found a summer job that is relevant to my field. Come September, I intend to carry my summer experience forward into my Master’s program at the University of Victoria.

I believe that all Canadians ought to undertake practices that protect or restore our environment whenever possible. As such, I am excited about joining GSA where I can fulfil this belief while still working. Here, students are able to making significant contributions to our public discussions regarding both regional and global issues.

Identifying environmental hazards is, of course, necessary but insufficient for creating change. Instead, change requires social and political processes to create and implement a variety of solutions. GSA’s Clean Marine BC program is one such solution, and therefore, I’m excited to contribute to its expansion this summer. Having previously researched the establishment of B.C.’s Forestry Stewardship Council, I appreciate how such eco-certification programs provide businesses and consumers with an avenue for reducing their environmental impact.

I am excited about the Clean Marine BC program, but I also recognize that GSA’s current Spills and Tankers Campaign, against the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline and increased fossil fuel exports, is confronting the region’s greatest environmental threat. Many of the benefits of CMBC would be greatly diminished should the Strait experience a major tanker spill, but together these GSA programs show that achieving environmental sustainability will require both preventative and adaptive actions.

I am proud to be contributing to GSA’s encompassing environmental work to protect the Strait, its adjoining waters, and its communities.