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"Beyond Devastating:" Letter to Gordon Campbell on Cambie

Jillian Skeet is an International Affairs Consultant who has worked with organizations at the United Nations offices in Geneva and New York. She led a high-profile effort to keep Canada out of the Iraq War and has been active in campaigns to keep Canada out of US missile defense and to end global poverty. Here, Skeet writes BC Premier Gordon Campbell about the "painful death" of businesses on Cambie and asks for a government remedy.

Dear Premier Campbell,

As a Cambie resident, I have both experienced and witnessed the pain all along Cambie Street as a result of Canada Line construction. I have spent most of my life fighting against injustice in other parts of the world, but I never thought I would witness so much injustice on my own doorstep in
Canada.

I have watched for two and a half years as businesses have died a slow and painful death. Our corner store at Cambie and Marine stopped selling
newspapers within months of construction commencing. Then they stopped selling milk because it was going sour before it was purchased. Then they stopped restocking their shelves because they couldn’t earn enough to cover their lease. For the last three weeks or so, they’ve stopped opening at all. The owners are an immigrant family that was trying to make a go of it in Canada. While one family member worked long hours alone in the store, two other family members took on extra work elsewhere to try to keep the store afloat.

The corner store is next to an insurance company that after two years of sending out notices offering to come to their customers because it was so
impossible for their customers to get to them, has now moved.

Next to them was a Sushi restaurant owned by another immigrant family. They made the ill-fated decision to open a new business on Cambie just before the decision to proceed with the RAV Line was announced. They were just getting established when the road was torn up in front of them and all access routes were blocked. They struggled for months before going bankrupt.

The story is the same up and down Cambie.

These are not just businesses – they are livelihoods and lives. The stress and pain that has been caused by the cut and cover construction has affected
not just businesses or business owners, it has hurt entire families – some of whom may never recover. At least one business owner who was under
financial stress had a heart attack and died – and another has publicly admitted to contemplating suicide.

I simply cannot believe the callousness of your government in turning its back on these small business owners and their families. I personally feel
great shame at the way in which they’ve been discarded by your government.

I’ve heard all the arguments about businesses coming and going and short term pain for long-term gain, but none of this applies to the Cambie corridor. What has happened along Cambie is beyond devastating. There is
no long-term gain for the many businesses that have lost everything and disappeared, or for those on the verge of losing everything.

I’ve also heard you and your ministers insist that the Canada Line is not your project, that you are just one of the funders. I’m sorry but the facts
show otherwise. There would be no Canada Line if you had not interceded and forced city councillors to vote and revote the issue. As a funder of the
project, your government bears responsibility for it. It simply defies logic to argue otherwise – government responsibility goes with the money.

I note that while various levels of government have admitted that serious mistakes were made along Cambie, they only do so to reassure other
communities that the Cambie mistakes will not be repeated.

It’s well past time your government admitted that grievous errors were made in the handling of the Canada Line construction, and you set about trying to remedy the financial damage and consequent stress by fully compensating small businesses and others for their losses. You might also consider
providing a letter of responsibility that these business can use to try to restore their credit ratings and their relationships with their suppliers
and other businesses with whom they have dealings.

There should also be a commitment from your government that if future projects cannot be undertaken without serious damage to businesses and residents, then compensation must be built into the budget. If that makes the project too expensive, then the project should be altered or shelved.

Premier Campbell, all the flower baskets and banners in the world cannot heal the terminal wounds down the Cambie corridor. Businesses are
continuing to die a slow and painful death with each and every passing day, while families are being torn apart by extreme stress. This situation must be remedied immediately. This is a crisis.

I look forward to your prompt and compassionate response.

Sincere regards,
Jillian Skeet

cc. media
all MLAs , MP's, TransLink Board,
Vancouver Mayor and Council , citizens

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