Biggest issue B.C. will face under Liberals is a disconnect with young people.

It’s been more than one year now since that day when we stood there protesting Bill 22, outside and in the rain and snow, probably close to some 20000 strong students all belonging to a generation that researchers of this society have labelled with the letter “Y”.

We weren’t just a random group of high school kids who wanted to skip school just to take the opportunity to join a bunch of other people doing it. Granted, there were probably some of us who were out of school for that purpose, but in spite of that, there were a lot of us had real concerns about our education – and we showed it in rallies and protests that, for that one day, attracted attention across the province. We were everywhere. The average joe who kept up would have seen us in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Penticton, Squamish….. and even in a small town somewhere north of Prince George.

And then, after that, we had to go back to school.

The reality of being young and needy in British Columbia

It’s hard enough for a young person in BC to show their concerns about their society and their environment; the majority of us, under 18, don’t have a vote in any elections. However, facing school and pressures that take up our daily lives, we really don’t have the time to commit to involvement in protecting our own futures and prosperity. Less yet do we have time to be skipping school and making a big show of it like we did that one time on March 2nd, just to show people that we’re concerned about what’s going on. We don’t have time to launch mega-massive protests like the ones Montreal students did at about the same time over rising tuition fees.

Students protest Bill 22 in Victoria in March 2012
Students protest Bill 22 in Victoria in March 2012

So, what we don’t have an ability to do in this society is properly represent ourselves. We rely on the 85 important and older people who go to Victoria with the hope that they will make decisions that do accomodate us, and steer us towards the prosperity that other generations of past got so that they could become great and successful people, in much the same way we want to be. We have to rely on you, and we can’t rely on ourselves – and that, I believe, is becoming one of the most critical mistakes in modern-day politics in every democratically-run sovereignty.

In May 2012, a few months after the March student walkout and after months of job action, teachers across the province were forced to give up. They accepted a horrible legislation that was called Bill 22, a legislation that has brought to B.C. the worst student-educator ratio in Canada and the associated effects to students and to our society in the indirect ways.

Our say, in addition to their say, just simply wasn’t enough.

Young vs old in BC polls

Yesterday, when thousands of British Columbians took to the polls to get in their vote in the 2013 elections, elementary and high school students across the province participated in Student Vote: a parallel election program coinciding with the British Columbia provincial election. They elected a majority NDP government. But, when the actual elections came, they were then out-voted by the rest of the population.

When British Columbians in a surprise flip elected back the same government that brought us the horrid Bill 22, young people under 18 in British Columbia didn’t have a say in it at all.

We won’t have a say in facing another 4 years of the B.C. Liberal government that has brought us inferior education compared to other provinces in Canada (including the worst student-educator ratio in the country). We won’t have a say in the cutbacks in skills training programs that will affect us as we graduate from high school and look for these programs to get us the skills we will need to start benefiting from (and contributing to) the economy in the future. We won’t have a say in any of this.

On top of that, we also have to face the fact that well over 70% of people in this province simply didn’t think about us when they made their vote. That 70% being: the 52% of people who didn’t show up to the polls at all (only 48% of voters voted in the May 2013 provincial election, a record low), in addition to the voters around the province who brought back the party that has largely governed without our interests in mind for the past 12 years.

There is a growing disconnect between the young population of British Columbia and everyone else.

I think that, starting today and proceeding as more and more of the issues young people face in their society get worse and worse as little is done to effectively solve them, young people in this province are going to lose hope in our modern system of democracy. They’re going to lose hope in their ability to be accommodated in a society that really doesn’t care about young people, has given them a much more difficult situation than was faced years ago by the generations that are now voting their concerns out, and doesn’t have a way to allow them to properly represent themselves in modern politics. (see video above, titled “What Is Generation Squeeze?“)

They’re going to start favouring something much more convoluted and scary in nature: something else.

In my view, this will create a tendency in British Columbians’ generation Y and (as they grow) generation Z: a tendency for us to be generally dissatisfied, unhappy, rebellious, and perhaps violently rebellious in our futures, as a result of the inconveniences we faced as a result of an incompetent government surrounding us at our young age. It will have dire consequences on the stability, economy and strength of this entire province.

That, I believe, is going to become this province’s single biggest future issue.

That, or the fact that based on the elections results there are probably few – if any – educated people in British Columbia who will ever take my concerns about the growing disconnect between young people and their society seriously.

REALITY CHECK: B.C. Liberal claims vs. the facts on The Millennium Line SkyTrain

2-car SkyTrain approaches Brentwood Station on the Millennium Line
2-car SkyTrain approaches Brentwood Station on the Millennium Line
Based on photo by sillygwalio on flickr – CC-BY

In a guest posting on the Vancity Buzz blog [CLICK HERE], B.C. Liberal spokesperson Simrath Grewal (Vice President of the Young Liberals) wrote that:

The Millennium Line commissioned by the NDP during the 1990s was delivered late, over budget and it only made stops in NDP held ridings.

And claimed that this was part of a line of a dismal record of transportation projects that was had with the B.C. NDP government of the 1990s.

In this election, the main opposition (the B.C. NDP) have often criticized the B.C. Liberals for inaccuracy, and it looks like they have a really good reason to. People can only be expected to believe what they’re told, and it seems they’re being told a lot of rhetoric. It’s showing in the above comment on the Millennium Line SkyTrain project.

Simrath Grewal is completely incorrect on claiming that the Millennium Line SkyTrain project was late and over budget. In fact, the team that oversaw the construction of the Millennium Line (Rapid Transit Project 2000, Ltd. or RTP2000) won a National Award for Engineering Achievement from Engineers Canada for completing the Millennium Line both on time and UNDER budget. Engineers Canada is the national organization of the 12 provincial and territorial associations that regulate the profession of engineering in Canada and license the country’s more than 250,000 members of the engineering profession. The award is viewable on the Engineers Canada website at [CLICK HERE]. Its message is pretty clear to me.

Engineers Canada award with link

The financial statements of RTP 2000 Ltd. [CLICK HERE for the latest] make it clear how much was spent on the Millennium Line: $1.1 billion, meaning that the line was well within budget. In terms of per-km cost, the Millennium Line was the least expensive SkyTrain project ever constructed, save for the SkyTrain section running from Scott Road to King George Station (see: Historical SkyTrain Costs, [CLICK HERE]). This is reflected in other claims on the project reference pages on websites of companies that helped work on the Millennium Line, such as the Cement Association of Canada [LINK HERE].

The other claim that interests me is the one that alleges that the Millennium Line was designed to cater only to NDP ridings, by only stopping in them.

This overlooks the fact that the Millennium Line was never fully completed. The current portion of the Millennium Line in service is a Phase I portion of the route. It was brought forward because it was the least expensive portion of a multi-phase project that would have integrated several kilometres of new SkyTrain with the existing SkyTrain system. Not a lot of people who then labelled the Millennium Line the “SkyTrain to nowhere” probably know that. The Millennium Line project came across a rather unfortunate turn of government: with the B.C. Liberals’ step up to power in 2001, the Phase II portion of the line (which was in planning & development) was cancelled.

The cancelled Phase II portion of the route would have extended the Millennium Line into Coquitlam (now moving forward as today’s Evergreen Line project) and westward into the Central Broadway district, building off of the inexpensive track infrastructure of the Phase I line and an expansion of the sole operations/maintenance facility in Burnaby. That would have made the entire Millennium Line a bargain, in the sense that with SkyTrain, better transit could be provided at a significant discount thanks to existing assets.

1998 SkyTrain plans for the Millennium Line
1998 SkyTrain plans for the Millennium Line

The cancellation of this had to do with a report released by a consultant named Alan Greer, which attempted to refute a revised study that lead to a change in decisions with the NDP government and the build-out of the current SkyTrain Millennium Line rather than an original at-grade LRT proposal, based on stakeholders’ wishes for more grade separation (for better transit). Greer used his report to claim that the new report endorsed by the NDP supporting SkyTrain was shady, but did so with an equally shady report.

In late 2012 I did a review of this report as part of my work with the SkyTrain for Surrey Initiative (now called Better Surrey Rapid Transit at skytrainforsurrey.org) and found several inaccuracies that were not reviewed at the time, because the report was kept confidential for two years. [READ MY FULL ANALYSIS – CLICK HERE]

From original PRESS RELEASE on “Debunking the Greer Report” [CLICK HERE to read]

In my analysis of the report, I found that Mr. Greer is significantly lacking in his knowledge of the SkyTrain system. For example: some of Mr. Greer’s assumptions completely exclude the ability of higher operating frequencies with driver-less systems compared to driver-manned systems such as at-grade Light Rail Transit. There are a lot of unsubstantiated claims, and there are also several places where the information in the document contradicts itself.

The “primary flaw” in the RTP’s new SkyTrain-favouring study that was outlined in Greer’s report was that the new cost estimates were only done for the part of the full project that was to go ahead (to allegedly “create the appearance of favourable costs for SkyTrain”), and that analysis for the remaining portions (Phase II) was neglected and put-off solely due to the expenses of building out those po rtions with the preferred SkyTrain technology. The new analysis by SkyTrain for Surrey points out that this contradicts the reasons (stated in the same document) that the RTP made the change: the neglect of an immediate and costly analysis for Phase II likely did not have to do with the high cost of SkyTrain, but with the high cost of a better LRT with more grade separations (as was requested and mandated by community stakeholders).

According to this report by CBC [LINK HERE], the B.C. Liberals during the 2001 election used Greer’s report to claim that the Millennium Line project was to be another “fast ferries” fiasco. This is completely untrue not only for the reasons I state in my counter-report (linked above), but also because the first phase of the Millennium Line was delivered under budget, meaning the tie-in second phase (which would have extended the Millennium Line to the big ridership centres) would have likely made both projects very successful if the B.C. Liberals had not cancelled it as they came into power after 2001.

Clearly, the B.C. Liberals will use rhetoric and forego reviewing the facts when criticizing transportation projects by other governments. It happened in 2001, and looks like it is happening again in 2013.

So, what do you think? Will you continue to believe in the Liberals’ lies?