“Democratically elected” leader of UBC community will be municipal affairs minister in Victoria

The University of BC says the province’s decision to take over the development affairs of UBC, set out in a bill now before the Legislature, will make the campus a “living lab for sustainability” as population at Point Grey surges as high as 50,000 in the coming years.

But Metro Vancouver directors yesterday told Dale Wall, deputy minister of municipal affairs, that the new plan is more like a “benevolent dictatorship” that leaves a huge area of the region without public oversight of development.

Wall told directors the new legislation was designed to end conflict between Metro and UBC over land use on the University Endowment Lands by putting the province in the driver’s seat with the “democratically elected” minister the final authority on zoning.

Since there is no local government at UBC, not a single resident will have voted for the effective mayor. But the province, always slow to respond to Metro concerns, executed its takeover just months after a recent warning to UBC from Metro that the University would have to bring its plans into alignment with regional objectives.

That triggered a charge from UBC president Stephen Toope that Metro’s attitude was an assault on academic freedom, a bizarre claim that found a receptive audience in Victoria.

So from hereon in, Metro planning processes will have the province as a rogue element, with the Minister as land use authority and developer at the same time. Will development revenues flow to improve regional infrastructure? Or will they pay for post-secondary education? Or will they go somewhere else altogether? There will be no elections, so local ratepayers will just have to hope for the best.

Wall did confirm that the minister, effective “Mayor of UBC,” will not sit on the Translink Council of Mayors, despite UBC’s interest in a Skytrain connection to Point Grey. Why bother? He’ll have all the access to information and power he or she needs at the cabinet table.