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Cambie Businesses Fight to Stay Alive

Fairview MLA Gregor Robertson tried to make sense of a mess of construction mid-street near Capers on Cambie Street, as machines dug holes or carried away earth, and a light drizzle fell.

Viewing some of the small businesses struggling to survive since the Canada Line construction made car and pedestrian traffic scarce in what used to be a thriving commercial district, Robertson said, "This is only the beginning."

Pointing to an empty storefront lining a street replete with "For Lease" signs, Robertson said some thirty-eight businesses have gone under due to the construction of the newest leg of Vancouver's public transportation system.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, when confronted with the business closures during a debate in the legislature last month, said "that's unfortunate."

The debate took place between Robertson and Vancouver-Kensington MLA David Chudnovsky, regarding Cambie Street and the Canada Line. Read the transcript of the comments Falcon, Robertson and Chudnovsky made on the subject in the article below.

The Canada Line, also known as The RAV, will provide a public transportation link between the Vancouver International Airport, Richmond city centre, and Vancouver downtown. Inititally, merchants along Cambie Street were told the construction would be "bored tunnel," a process that would have been less disruptive to traffic and commerce, Robertson said. Robertson also claimed that constituents have told him they signed leases on this basis, only to find the city changing gears and opting for "cut and cover" construction instead.

While provincial politicians claim that after its opening in 2010 for the Winter Olympics some 100,000 people will ride the new subway line every day, others are skeptical. "What is going to make someone decide to carry their bags, say five blocks, to get to the subway and take it to the airport, when a taxi only costs $20?" Robertson asked.

Transportation minister Falcon, on the other hand, told Robertson in the legislative debate that he believed the Canada line will provide a ride into a brighter economic future for the city.

Robertson, however, thinks Cambie Street merchants are carrying an inordinate measure of the cost of the ride.

"If you look at it in the grand scheme of things, it's good to have the subway. But the impact is being carried by the businesses and residents in and around Cambie. This should be recognized, acknowleged and some kind of reparation should be made," Robertson said, standing on the sidewalk on Cambie in front of the Don Don noodle shop, as cement mixers, big trucks, but few automobiles or pedestrians passed by.

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