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Gateway at odds with BC's carbon goals, say protesters

A B.C. government press release publicizing Premier Gordon Campbell's keynote address in Copenhagen next week boasts about creating North America's first carbon-neutral government and being Canada's Pacific Gateway.

But the two claims are contradictory, argues UBC landscape architecture professor Patrick Condon. He spoke last night at a Vancouver protest against the provincial government's Gateway project.

Approximately 40 people gathered under a Highway 1 overpass in East Vancouver where Gateway-related construction is taking place. Two police officers in a cruiser surveyed the protesters, who held signs and banners that read 'Climate Crisis' and 'Transit Not Freeways', but no arrests were made.

The mega-project -- which includes widening existing roads, doubling the Port Mann Bridge and the construction of an expressway in Delta -- is part of a plan to link the Deltaport with the Trans Canada Highway and "tap into trade opportunities with the Asia-Pacific," said Premier Gordon Campbell last winter.

According to the Gateway website, the main objective of the project is to reduce congestion-related idling to improve regional air quality.

There is no evidence to support this claim, said Condon, who added the Gateway project "contradicts new laws that requires government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions."

Last year, he and a team at the UBC Design Centre for Sustainability co-authored a report showing the $3.1 billion spent on the Port Mann Bridge could have been used to build a light rail metropolis.

Condon said his work at the centre sometimes "feels like it's not enough."

"I wanted to support these people," he said. "We really only have this decade and the next to turn it around."

This sense of urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is being fueled by the international climate change conference in Copenhagen -- and it's a sentiment that has sparked similar protests across the country over the past two weeks.

Yesterday, police arrested 19 people in Ottawa who scaled the Parliament buildings to unfurl giant banners that said 'Climate Inaction Costs Lives'.

Vancouver protester Maryann Abbes said she's concerned about Gateway because of the additional traffic and diesel pollution road expansions will bring, and but also about climate change generally.

Her relatives in the Interior are talking about forest fires and mountain pine beetle, she said.

"I think people are away of climate change, but on different levels. They might not use the same language," she said.

"We shouldn't be encouraging this kind of development," said Bob Ages, national treasurer of the Council of Canadians. "Canadians should just be raising their voices anyway we can."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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