Chong seeks to calm fears about collapse of Regional Growth Strategy

The province’s decision to require a non-binding dispute resolution process between Metro Vancouver and the maverick municipality of Coquitlam should not put the entire Regional Growth Strategy at risk, says Ida Chong, minister of community, sport and cultural development.

A vocal business lobby has been seeking to turn Coquitlam’s dissent into a compete rethink of the RGS.

Coquitlam is the only municipality refusing to provide its consent to Metro’s new plan, which has been years in the making. Metro sought binding arbitration to resolve the outstanding issues. Chong ordered a non-binding process instead.

But that doesn’t mean she is content to see the process stall, she told NDP MLA Scott Fraser during debate on her ministry’s estimates. She expects Coquitlam and Metro to find consensus, as the region did with every other municipality.

Here’s the excerpt from Wednesday’s Hansard, page 1540:

Hon. I. Chong: The parties to the agreement — Metro Vancouver and, of course, the local government, which has not yet signed on — are currently working towards designing the process. In that discussion they’re having, the approach they’re taking right now is to agree upon those items that are either in dispute or those items that they wish to look at. There will have to be some agreement as to what it is they’re going to look at.

It will not be full out, open everything, go back to square one, and let’s start all over again. I don’t think anybody actually wants that to take place right now. That’s why I agreed to the non-binding dispute resolution process. I had heard that there were some issues in dispute. There were some areas of concern, but they were not that large and broad that a binding process would necessarily facilitate a good, open discussion of it.

Going to a non-binding process means that it also allows Metro Vancouver and the local government to really identify and put on the table those areas. Everyone’s clear on what it is they’re going to discuss and what they’re going to resolve, so that that local government can sign on and that therefore it can truly be a fully consensus agreement for a regional growth strategy.

S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister for that. I guess I’m going to seek a little bit more clarification on that issue and just touch on another one too.
The 46 public meetings, the 2,000 members of the public, the business community, etc., that were involved and all of the discussions with municipal councils. There were 38 different meetings with municipal councils that participated in this — a large, large process — and presentations and stakeholders of every colour and stripe.

That process concluded. The public consultation process concluded as part of this whole growth strategy process. That consultation process was deemed concluded in late November and by early December, with a formal public hearing held at four venues around the region.

Again, can the minister confirm and maybe consult with staff? If there were a suggestion that that be reopened again by any party, it would be a problem, would it not? Wouldn’t that potentially invalidate the work that was closed and concluded?

Hon. I. Chong: In case I wasn’t clear, I don’t expect that we would go back to square one. The parties currently are designing the process. They will make a determination, because they are the affected parties, as to what they believe are the areas in dispute, the areas that they wish to discuss.

I have been advised that there are some limited areas that they wish to look at. It’s not as broad as going back to the very beginning of developing the regional growth strategy. That’s why I’m understanding that they are very close to agreeing to what is to be determined for public meetings or hearings, what areas of discussion are going to take place.

I’m looking forward to their advising me as soon as possible, because I think everybody knows that it’s in their best interest to start moving that process along as quickly as we can.