Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | November 26, 2010

Mike Harcourt Speaks

It’s been fourteen years since Mike Harcourt “took a bullet” for the New Democratic Party and vacated the premier’s office, but his quest to build sustainable cities hasn’t slowed down a bit.

Q: How do you effectively revitalize a city?

A: It is essential to do two things: re-energize your inner city, because most downtowns are dead and decaying or in real trouble, and reinvent suburbia. The suburban model we’ve used for the past 60 years is a flop.

Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Coquitlam, which is where 60 per cent of the next million people moving out west will go, and those cities get it. The lower Mainland is moving in the right direction and Metro Vancouver is painfully moving toward a sustainability initiative.

Q: So Metro Vancouver isn’t moving as fast as it could?

No. An example as to how painfully slow they are going is their fumbling around in dealing with the solid waste issue. There needs to be a big shakeup of the structure and approach. (Vancouver has trucked its solid waste 200 miles to the city of Ashcroft for the past decade.)

Q: Is there too much intermunicipal competition?

I’m not sure if it’s competition. I think we need a new structure and that may be the paring down of 22 local governments to eight municipalities. Those would be the core that are able to retain their name and are clearly beneficial to amalgamate.

Q: What is your stance on the HST?

I hear the logic for business but I see the other side of it as well. The impact it’s going to have on housing, restaurant, tourism and some of the other industries. It should have been a platform during the campaign and get a mandate, but that didn’t happen hence the huge back-lash. I think it’s not going away.

Q: Rural BC believes Vancouver ignores its contribution to the provincial economy?

I think that is a myth. They may say it, but it’s not true. Vancouver is aware of the fact that it’s downtown BC and I think people of the north are aware that it provides their specialized medical treatment and professional services. There’ a symbiotic relationship there and it’s mutually beneficial.

Q: Is Vancouver a sustainable city?

I think we’re the head of the pack in North AMerica, and we set that in motion when we stopped the waterfront freeway in Vancouver. That was a defining moment in Vancouver. The challenge now is defining ourselves as the most sustainable city in the world, and we can do it.

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