West Van B-Line debate turns toxic

Harassment escalates in the express bus feud

A Blue Bus on Marine Drive in West Vancouver. Photo by Stephen Rees.
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Reported by Nick Laba

What began as a series of demonstrations against a plan for an express bus through West Vancouver has turned into a toxic feud that some councillors are working to repair.

Citizens on both sides have reported intimidating phone calls, and a “life-threatening” email sent to a council member has been reported to the police.

“We’ve had some horrible emails with lots of profanities,” Coun. Sharon Thompson said. “After [Coun. Peter Lambur] passed his motion, he got a really nasty email and I said, ‘You need to send this to the police right away.’”

While the row largely continues with its usual vitriol, Thompson said that proactive efforts are being made to bring community members together.

This week she’s arranged for a small group of representatives to meet and share their views.

“A couple of citizens who are anti-B-Line, with me, we’re going to sit down with the cycling group and the students and the shop owners, and try to have a civilized discussion amongst all of us — a constructive one about the B-Line and really share ideas, Thompson said.

“Because, at the end of the day, I think they all want the same thing, right. They want improved transit. You know, we just need to share their ideas more calmly.”

Clashes at council

Recent council meetings have deviated from standard procedure, with raucous citizens cheering for representatives of their views. At the last council meeting on March 11, Coun. Craig Cameron said he’s “never been so disappointed and ashamed of this community as I’ve been during this B-Line debate.”

Morag Keegan-Henry, whose group Force of Nature helped organize some of the B-Line supporters, said that dismissing people’s views has caused a lot of the problems on both sides.

“I think there’s been a lot of unfortunate comments made by folks that are pro-B-Line that have actually served to make the situation worse — a lot of quite ageist comments,” she said.

Keegan-Henry said that a lot of the debate has portrayed a toxic divide, when in fact there are people in both groups with more nuanced perspectives who are afraid to speak because of the highly contentious political atmosphere.

Time heals transit wounds

Some people don’t see a divide at all.

B-Line opposition leader Nigel Malkin, who owns a dry-cleaning business in Ambleside, said that he represents the silent majority that usually just puts up with this stuff.

“It’s not a divide,” Malkin said. “You’re talking about a very small minority that are extremely vocal. That’s what it is. And how does it get healed? Well, the bus is going to stop at Park Royal, this group is probably going to be bent out of shape for a while and guess what? We’ll continue living our lives just as we always have.”

But Peter Scholefield, a 77-year-old resident and former climate scientist for the United Nations, said the debate will settle down once the B-Line protestors realize how the project will benefit them.

“I think that once the B-Line gets established past Park Royal and into Ambleside, I think it won’t be too much longer after that, that the people in Dundarave, and the businesses in Dundarave, will realize that they’re missing out on potential improved business opportunities because the B-Line isn’t going as far as Dundarave.”

Scholefield said that young people feel disenfranchised in a district where a demographic problem and extensive housing costs makes it so low- and middle-income families can’t afford to live there.

 

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