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Vancouver's growth model drove me out of town

This comment, by Canadian Tim Murray, was originally posted to the ABC Background Briefing program, 'Housing for Millions'. In response to statements by a planner which implied that the doubling of Vancouver's population in 15 years had been accomplished without pain, he writes, "Vancouver is a success story only if compared to other major urban failures."

As a victim of the “Vancouver model”, and one of tens of thousands of its refugees, I was chagrined to hear that my growing necropolis of noise, congestion and crime had “doubled its population in 15 years without pain”. To whom, developers?

The people who, according to the 52 page MacDermid report, “Funding City Politics,” finance three-quarters of Canada’s urban election campaigns and buy the zoning they want? Or urban planners, the pimps of the Growth Management Industry who, notwithstanding the universal failure of ‘smart growth’ nostrums to protect Greenfield acreage from sprawl by packing more and more people into urban feedlots where more energy inputs are required to sustain them than rural dwellers?

Vancouver is a success story only if it is compared to other major urban failures, all of which are of a scale unfitted for a post-carbon world. Don’t take my word, ask two educated Vancouverites.

Dr. Michael Healey led a team of 23 researchers from the University of British Columbia in a $2.4 million federally commissioned study of the sustainability of Metro Vancouver and the valley it encroaches upon with relentless greed. They concluded that the area had almost three times too many people to be sustainable, and had an ecological footprint 25 times its size.

Urban streams are threatened with toxic runoffs, valley soils are overloaded with nutrients from intensive agriculture and septic systems leading to the contamination of the acquifer and rural waterways . Ninety per cent of Fraser River fish revealed at least one pathological abnormality.

And this was 12 years ago in a city which has been growing 3% per year. Humans are not fairing too much better either.

According to UBC Professor James White in his study of loneliness, Canadians who live in dense compacted areas—cities---have one third fewer “close” friends than rural residents and almost half of those interviewed declared that other people are not to be trusted. The data says that the last planner interviewed on this ABC radio show is dead wrong. Even the young generation would be happier living with the Brady Bunch than stuffed in an urban rabbit warren with his “Friends” . “Smart” growth? How dense can people be?

Tim Murray
November 24/09