In a rapidly urbanizing world, the challenges facing cities around the globe related to sustainable growth management, transportation and environmental protection are extending well beyond local municipal boundaries.
I was invited in late February to address to The Vancouver Board of Trade both on my priorities as Chair of Metro Vancouver, and how this organization plays a critical leadership role throughout the Greater Vancouver region in convening local governments and others to tackle, as examples: growth management, regional prosperity, transportation, infrastructure, and governance.
In previous presentations to the Board of Trade I have focussed on the significance of the infrastructure that Metro Vancouver provides for the region, and specifically our role as an economic driver:
- As an employment stimulator through the massive infrastructure investments needed in a region of two and a half million people,
- And by providing the services and solutions that maintain the quality of life that attracts investments, jobs and people to our region.
For 2016 I focussed on the future. We are looking at a million people coming to live in this region by 2040. That’s 35,000 people every year, who need a job, an affordable place to live, a means of getting around, clean water, clean air, and sewage and garbage removal. We want to accommodate this growth while we maintaining our agricultural, industrial, and ecologically important park lands. I spoke to five goals as described in Metro Vancouver’s strategy called Metro Vancouver 2040;
- Create compact urban areas. Sprawling urban development not only consumes the natural and agricultural landscape, it also requires costly and inefficient urban infrastructure.
- Support a sustainable economy.
- Protect our spectacular natural environment and respond to climate change impacts.
- Develop complete communities; walkable, mixed use, transit-oriented communities. Places where people can find an appropriate and affordable place to live at all stages of their lives.
- Support sustainable transportation choices. Align land-use and transportation strategies to reduce vehicle use, traffic congestion, energy consumption and air emissions, and provide residents with greater travel options and a cleaner environment.
Responsibility and authority for implementation of these goals is distributed across our regional and local governments, and collaboration is vital to achieving them. We also have competing ideas for our limited land base, particularly areas zoned for industrial and agriculture use. Ideas such as;
- We need to ensure lands currently zoned industrial are protected and reserved for that purpose, we also need to increase the lands dedicated to industrial uses.
- Protecting our agricultural lands has to be a priority, and provision of locally produced food is an important economic driver with valuable social ramifications.
- A possibility of mixed use, where the industrial capacity can be maintained while also providing a variety of other uses, such as lower-cost housing.
Industrial lands, agricultural capacity and affordable diverse housing are all fundamental foundational elements of a prosperous and livable region. And all require land.
Companies choose to locate and invest in centres based on their assessment of the broader metropolitan region, such as the road and public transit system, airports and seaports, economic activities, academic institutions, the natural environment, and the regional culture.
We know that our region is world-renowned for its quality of life and superb natural amenities. But there are significant challenges that undermine our competitiveness, such as high housing costs, transit and traffic problems, and competition for limited land. Other metropolitan areas bring important stakeholders together to develop a strategic approach for leveraging the advantages of their region, and tackling issues that limit economic activity, innovation, and quality of life.
Metro Vancouver will continue to provide a venue for addressing issues that cross municipal boundaries and affect the regional economy.
Chair – Metro Vancouver