What does growing income disparity in Metro Van mean for New West?

I read an interesting article recently from Atlantic Cities about income disparity in Vancouver, based on a research paper produced at the University of Toronto.

The report findings reveal three ‘cities’ within Metro Van. City #1 includes higher-status areas in historically upper-middle-class neighbourhoods, gentrified urban areas and redeveloped zones within areas like New West that are close to parks, views or the waterfront. City #2 includes the traditionally stable middle-class neighbourhoods and City #3 includes neighbourhoods where the average income fell more than 15% relative to the metropolitan area.

While we do have our own issues with income disparity in New West, I found it interesting to see where we stand in contrast to the region. The blue-shaded areas are the areas where household incomes have grown 15-288% more quickly than the metropolitan average between 1970 and 2005. The white areas are neighbourhoods that have seen an increase or decrease under 15%, and the red areas represent income decreases of more than 15% since 1970. If you zoom into the map (which is unfortunately pretty grainy, making details hard to see), New West shows up as largely white & blue, while large sections of nearby Burnaby, Coquitlam and Surrey have seen significant declines in household incomes since the ’70s.

Map showing average changes in household income by neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver between 1970 - 2005
A map showing average changes in household income by neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver between 1970 – 2005

A map illustrating the change in average household incomes between 1970-2005 in the Lower Mainland shows incomes in New West increasing in the Queensborough and the West End neighbourhoods, while remaining flat in Queen’s Park, Downtown/Uptown and other parts of the city. Elsewhere in the Lower Mainland, affluent neighbourhoods seem to have seen incomes increase, while many formerly middle-income neighbourhoods have seen incomes decline.

According to the report, “The three neighbourhood groupings or “Cities” represent a dramatic transition from the old model of concentric social areas with poverty at the urban core and a solid band of middle income districts in the suburbs. Relative to metropolitan changes, significant income gains and losses are occurring in both city and suburban neighbourhoods. There is more inequality with 54 percent of the 2006 CMA population living in tracts that either gained or lost more than 15 percent of their income relative to the metropolitan average over the 35-year period. Equal numbers of people, about 565,000, lived in the gaining and losing tracts.”

So what does this mean for New West? Well, the report illustrates that in the current economic climate, to those who have, more will be given. And to those who do not have, even what they have will be taken away.

I think this illustration shows New West in a favourable position within the Lower Mainland. While the actual income numbers continue to show significant lower income populations here than in many other more affluent parts of the city, it shows that most citizens have either maintained their incomes or increased them – which is significant in an era when so many have seen incomes eroded. Income inequality in surrounding areas appears to be worsening, and that will result in social issues that will impact us all.

There are troubling implications when you look at who is gaining and who is losing. The report says: “City #1 is overwhelmingly the home of the native-born. In contrast there has been a marked increase in immigrants in the remainder of Metro Vancouver, and especially in City #3, which has shifted from a majority native-born in 1971 to an immigrant majority in 2006. City #3 also includes a plurality of visible minorities (61 percent) while City #1 does not (23 percent).” I don’t have enough information to be able to interpret this nugget, but it does raise questions whether opportunities for immigrants are shrinking or if some other factors are at play.

During New West’s renaissance, the City appears to have consciously tried to guard against simply pushing out lower income populations through protecting and supporting local nonprofits, protecting low-income housing and taking the initiative to house the homeless (rather than just complaining about how it’s the job of the Province to take care of that problem). As a result, we are likely to continue housing and caring for a large number of the region’s lower income families. Is that bad? While I think many people automatically think about the most abrasive marginalized people when considering the issue (those who are hardest to empathize with), we do well to remind ourselves that low-income families include seniors, new immigrants, single-parent families and others who have simply been dealt a raw hand. We can’t just pretend these people don’t exist, and we can’t write them all off as having ‘made their own beds’ to lie in.

Juxtaposed with regional trends indicating worsening income inequality, it’s good to remember that many of us in the middle risk sliding into that red zone, whether through corporate downsizing, developing health problems and being unable to work for a time, lack of financial literacy (leading to taking on too much debt – another significant problem), retiring with inadequate savings or any number of other misadventures. We all believe these things won’t happen to us, but the reality is that we’re not so special or so smart that it can’t. Every one of us could make a mistake or fail to spot and address a potential threat that could set our families back economically. Wouldn’t you prefer to live in a city where there was somewhere to turn for help, if the worst should happen?

Taking the ‘Zero Waste Challenge’

This is a guest post by Coquitlam City Councillor Fin Donnelly, a member of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee, Executive Director of the Rivershed Society of British Columbia and a candidate for NDP Member of Parliament in New Westminster-Coquitlam-Port Moody.

Photo: Proggie
Though garbage is far from glamorous - it's one of the most important issues we can be talking about right now. Photo: Proggie

“If we know TODAY that it’s possible to divert up to 82% of Metro Vancouver’s solid waste then shouldn’t we be aiming for that NOW, and then to 90% and eventually 100% diversion?”

That was the question I put forward at a recent Metro Vancouver Waste Forum where the debate significantly focused on whether to burn or bury our garbage.

With nearly 3.5 million metric tonnes of garbage being produced in Metro Vancouver every year, waste management is one of the largest environmental concerns facing the Lower Mainland and a political hot potato that many politicians would rather transfer to a neighbouring municipality (or nation) than face head on.

Currently, Metro Vancouver recycles just over half of the waste created in the region each year. This means about 1.8 million tonnes is recycled and about 1.6 million tonnes is sent to landfills in Vancouver and Cache Creek or burnt in the Burnaby incinerator.

In 2006, as a (then) Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro Vancouver) Director, I put forward a ‘Zero Waste’ motion, which passed unanimously and developed into the Zero Waste Challenge; which now aims to divert 70% of the regions waste by 2015 (currently we recycle 52% of our waste).

Metro Vancouver staff has identified 18% of material, currently in the waste stream (e.g. paper, paperboard, cardboard, food & other organic waste, and wood), that could be fairly easily diverted (recycling this material would get us to 70%). Metro staff has identified a further 12% of recyclable material in the waste stream that could be diverted, although they claim a significant investment in tax dollars would be needed to change the system and people’s habitat to divert this amount of material. However, if we were able to remove this material from the waste stream, we’d move to 82% and be among the world leaders in waste diversion and recycling.

Though garbage is far from glamorous – it’s one of the most important issues we can be talking about right now. We have a choice to make with our waste: Invest in increased recycling and green jobs, or continue with the more traditional methods of burn and bury.

I say, instead of introducing 3-6 waste-to-energy incinerators in the Lower Mainland, let’s create 3-6 recycling centers or Eco-Parks. This would create many local, green jobs, reduce impacts to our climate and air quality, and put us on the path of becoming world leaders in waste diversion – which is pretty exciting – at least as far as garbage goes!

As a final thought, I leave you with my initial question: if we know TODAY that it’s possible to divert up to 82% of Metro Vancouver’s solid waste – shouldn’t we be aiming for that NOW and then to 90% and eventually 100% diversion?

Visit www.metrovancouver.ca and let Metro Vancouver know where you stand on this issue.

Metro Vancouver Seeks to Amend Solid Waste Management Plan

In my mailbox today, I got a little piece of paper that appears to be junk mail. Upon further inspection, it was a blurb from the Metro Vancouver letting me know they are seeking to amend their solid waste plan, by exporting our garbage to the United States. The Cache Creek landfill, long one of the Lower Mainland’s dumping grounds, is closing down in 2010 and the powers that be apparently went, “Huh. Well. What are we going to do wih all that garbage?”

So they have two proposals they want the public’s input on:  

One proposal will see part of our garbage delivered via truck to a Surrey facility, where it will be transferred to rail, and will then go through Surrey, Delta, and White Rock, and eventually make its way to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Washington State. Another part of our garbage in loaded containers will be transported along Highway 1 via truck and will head south to the US along Highway 11 in Abbotsford, and then to Sumas, Washington, where it will be transferred to rail.

The other proposal will see part of the garbage delivered to an Annacis Island facility, where it will be transferred to rail, and it will go via train through New Westminster, Surrey, Delta, White Rock, and then cross the border. The other part will be delivered via truck along Highway 1 to Chilliwack, and then transferred to rail, where it will head south through Abbotsford and finally into the United States, eventually ending at either a landfill in Oregon or a landfill in Washington. 

Here’s a wee map of the proposals, courtesy of the Metro Vancouver, although I find it slightly alarming that once the proposed garbage routes hit the United States they apparently disappear into the ether and cease to exist:

Here’s where I get all ranty. I have two beefs with these “plans”.

One: why aren’t they teaching people how to reduce waste instead of just trucking it off to somewhere unseen? Recycling compliance is, to be blunt, terrible. People still throw away items that are perfectly recyclable or reusable (and I am guilty too) and worse, there are many recyclable items that you can’t even put into the municipal curbside collection bins. Here at Chez Arbo, we’ve made a point of hanging onto all of our packaging from items we buy at London Drugs, since they claim they will take back all packaging from items purchased at their store but it’s a cosmic pain in the butt to have to find a place to store bulky items like styrofoam until our next trip to the store. We also make the effort and take  certain items, like code 6 or 7 plastics, to the municipal recycle centre at Canada Games Pool because we can’t put it into our recycling bins in the waste room.  But we can’t compost in our multi-family housing complex and so all those green scraps go straight into the landfill. The Vancouver Sun reported in late 2008 that recycling in multi-family housing is pathetic, at best. Citizens aren’t able to put a lot of items into any of the recycling depots – curbside or not – because facilties don’t exist. You know those Tim Horton’s and Starbucks’ cups? NOT RECYCLABLE. Seriously. The corrugated paper jackets are. The cups and lids are not. 

While I can understand that an immediate solution needs to be found, where are the educational initiatives? There is a Zero Waste Challenge initiative at a regional level, and that’s great, but why isn’t there some sort of Green Action Team all over the local media, conducting educational seminars, talking to children at schools and teaching new residents and homeowners what they can do? Why aren’t they approaching groups like The BC Apartment Owners and Managers Association to try and get more people on board with recycling? Where are the municipalities standing up and being leaders in green initiatives and lowering waste? Why is the town of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba (no offense, Leaf Rapidians) beating us to the punch banning plastic bags? Aren’t we known in BC as the Greenie Weenies? Aren’t we supposed to be granola-eating, fleece-wearing, Birkenstock-sporting, hippies in disguise? I mean, come on, Greenpeace was born here. Why is some town in Manitoba taking a more proactive stance that we are? I realize a lot of these are rhetorical questions but I doubt I am the only person asking them. 

Beef Number Two: The old saying “Out of sight, out of mind” really applies here. If people don’t know where their garbage goes, why on earth will they care? Have you been to a transfer station lately? Holy cow! The amount of items being thrown away that can be reused, given to charity, or given away on sites like Freecycle  and Craigslist is ridiculous. Surrey has a great, well-used site called Surrey Reuses – I’d love to see New Westminster come up with a similar site. I’ve got about ten things I’d happily give away for free right now if such a site existed because I’d love to pass on my things to someone who isn’t planning on reselling them – which is what I find happens with most stuff I give away for free on Craigslist and that drives me crazy and is a whole other rant. 

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is looking for the public’s input to the two proposals to deal with solid waste, and with the possibility of garbage being transported through our city (albeit in sealed containers) I would think many New Westminster residents would be interested in attending the public sessions. There are four planned and for all four, registration is from 6:30 – 7:00 p.m. and the meeting is scheduled for 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Make sure your opinions are counted! 

March 25, 2009
Evergreen Hall
9291 Corbould St

March 26, 2009
Abbotsford Banquet Centre
33738 Laurel St.

March 31, 2009
Surrey/Delta/New Westminster
Compass Point Inn
9850 King George Hwy.

April 1, 2009
Surrey/White Rock
Pacific Inn and Conference Centre
1160 King George Hwy.



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New Westminster parkade available for commuters impacted by Pattullo closure

This is a media release from the City of New Westminster. We hope this New Westminster Park ‘N Ride solution will help some of the affected Pattullo commuters who are finding our blog via search.

New Westminster, BC –The City of New Westminster is offering Metro Vancouver commuters a new way to avoid travel delays across the Fraser River while repairs are done to the Pattullo Bridge.

Mayor Wayne Wright has announced that commuters can access nearly 800 parking spaces at the City’s parkade on Front Street and complete their trips through the nearby New Westminster or Columbia SkyTrain stations.

“If you live south of the Fraser and you need a car on the New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver side, you can leave your car at our parkade overnight and use SkyTrain to shuttle across to the Surrey SkyTrain stations where you can take transit or have someone pick you up,” Mayor Wright says.

“Likewise, if you normally commute across the Pattullo from New Westminster to the King George Highway, you can use our parkade for the day and take SkyTrain across the river.”

Mayor Wright says that anyone who is close by should think about using the city’s parkade as a park and ride, and take SkyTrain for their trip to Burnaby and Vancouver to take pressure off roads that are clogged with traffic trying to find a way around the closure of the Pattullo.

The daily charge for parking at the Front Street Parkade is $6 from 6am to 6pm and only $2 from 6pm to 6am. Parkade entrance points are along Columbia Street at the foot of 4th and 6th Streets. The City of New Westminster and the Transit Police will step up security at the parkade to keep watch on the vehicles left overnight.

“New Westminster has a great parking facility that can make a big difference now, while we’re getting repairs done to the bridge, and into the future as another option to change more car trips into transit trips and take the pressure off our road network,” Mayor Wright says.

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