Coal port planned across from Quay

As you may or may not know, Fraser Surrey Docks wants to build a full coal port on the Fraser River, directly across from the Quay. The coal facility would eventually move ~8 million tonnes of thermal coal from the U.S.  to power plants overseas every year. This is nearly a doubling  of the amount of American thermal coal shipped through B.C. ports.

Photo: David Hadgkiss
Photo: David Hadgkiss

A coal port across from the Quay would not only be an eyesore in an important tourist destination (and a place many New West residents visit daily for recreation), but it will also contribute significantly to global climate change and local air pollution. Exporting coal overseas while attempting to meet province-wide climate targets is duplicitous and hypocritical.  Health concerns about breathing in toxic coal dust and diesel fumes are serious and real. Vulnerable groups like kids and seniors spend time on the Quay everyday (including mine, pictured above).  The Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities and the province’s chief medical officer have all called for a comprehensive health impact assessment, but it hasn’t happened to date

There is no benefit to BC from this coal port aside from maybe a few dozen jobs. If approved, our communities would bear the health and environmental risk while the profits will accrue to the US companies that own the mines, rail companies and Fraser Surrey Docks. On top of that, it’s likely to become a stranded asset: demand for imported coal in China is tanking as the country is getting serious about cutting down on pollution from coal-fired power plants.

My objection isn’t just a knee-jerk NIMBY response as a parent who lives in downtown New West. I don’t think this coal port should be built in anyone’s backyard.  We should not be making any investments in fossil fuel infrastructure. If we start building now, Canada could get 100% of our energy from renewable resources by 2035. As a parent, I think opposing this coal plant is just as important as the decisions I will make about where to put our kid into daycare. The more fossil fuels we let burn, the more different our kid’s future will be, and the evidence is strong that that future will be worse.

Despite local opposition and lacking a proper assessment, the proposal so far has the approval of Port Metro Vancouver,  an unaccountable decision-making authority with no local representation. But the Fraser Surrey Docks still needs additional permits before operating, so all is not lost. Our City, at least, recognizes the coal port is not in the interest of New Westminster (or any community). New West City council officially opposes the proposal and has signed on as intervenors in a court challenge.  Ecojustice is taking Port Metro Vancouver to court on the grounds of procedural fairness and failure to consider climate impact.

This video from the event held in New Westminster in the spring nicely summarizes what’s at risk, and why you should care:

The official link to the proposal is here. I recommend this FAQ if you want to learn more, especially for more detail on the status of the proposal. How to get involved:

Raising a family in downtown New West

Like many other families we’ve met since moving to New Westminster in fall 2013, my husband and I moved to New Westminster to find an “affordable” home for our family. We wanted a place that was walkable, near rapid transit and close to amenities. Living in a condo in downtown New Westminster fit the bill. Bonus: New West also has history and character. There are many things to like about raising a family in downtown New West – this is my perspective as a parent with a very young daughter (16 months).

Shops at New West

The enclosed kids play area directly underneath the skytrain tracks may not seem like much, but it really is a godsend on a rainy day. There’s plenty of nearby options for food and coffee, it’s covered from the rain, and you can often find other parents and kids there. It’s a nice place to let your kid burn off some energy before or after errands.

Shops at New West play area

The Stage New Westminster

Since our daughter was about 6 months old, we’ve enrolled her in the Music & Movement classes located at their studio on Carnarvon St. Our daughter loves the classes, and we like it for the sense of community it gives us. We plan on continuing to enroll her in classes as she grows. We’ve met friends here that we now meet regularly at Pier Park for playdates.

(photo credit: Dave Hadgkiss)
(Photo: Dave Hadgkiss)

The Quay, River Market & Pier Park

For us, these make New West livable, and a place we’ll seriously try to stay. We pretty much go here everyday with our daughter. What’s not to like? There’s plenty of space for her to learn to bike/walk without cars interfering, lots of dogs for her to check out, people to see, tugboats to inspect, plants to play with, swings, and playgrounds. It’s like a child’s paradise! Perhaps most importantly, River Market has fully equipped washrooms and places to buy food.

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Friendship Garden

I think this is an under-utilized gem. In the summer, the Farmer’s Market is located here every Thursday, but year-round, this is a great place for little people to explore. We take our daughter here as a regular outing. It’s relatively quiet, there’s lots of room to wander, ducks to see, and bridges to cross. The water features are always soothing.

Anna in Friendship Garden
(Photo: Dave Hadgkiss)

Walkable shops

Living downtown means you’re within walking distance to pretty much everything you need (not just bridal shops!): there’s Shoppers Drug Market, Safeway, Donald’s Market, 3 different dollar stores, a movie theatre for the elusive date night (though Landmark also has family friendly movie matinees), plenty of restaurants, Schnoo and Pachooch for toys, Ribbons & Threads for baby stuff, and Brick & Mortar even has a section of adorable kids stuff.

Easy access to transit

One of the major benefits of living downtown is the easy access to transit. If we feel like mixing up the routine, we hop on the skytrain regularly to check out other regional parks, go to Metrotown, Science World, downtown Vancouver, or the Aquarium, to name a few destinations.


Overall we find downtown New West a very friendly place. We’ve made at least two “parent friends” by just meeting them at the playground and on the skytrain elevator. It’s so geographically constrained that you tend to see the same people regularly, fostering a sense a community and belonging. I’ve honestly been surprised at how much this has contributed to our quality of life.

We were thrilled to hear about the new requirements for condo developments to set aside a percentage of units for 2 & 3 bedrooms. There is so much potential for downtown New West to be an even more vibrant place to raise a family.  There are; however, a few areas for improvement that I know have been noted elsewhere but bear repeating: traffic, affordability and daycare.  The constant traffic noise really wears on us. If we have the windows open we need to pause the TV when a bus or truck goes up 6th St. Second, if we ever decide we want a yard, it’s very unlikely we’ll be able to stay in New West due to the cost of single family homes. Those are the only 2 issues that would make us consider moving. Lastly, there are very few daycares within walking distance, especially in the infant category. We’ve managed to find a space with significant effort and time, but we’ll have to drive to Sapperton.

Want to get involved? The Downtown New West Residents Association has monthly meetings.

What great family-friendly activities or amenities have I missed? Let us know in the comments