More than 200 people attended a public meeting last Saturday to hear about the multitude of concerns regarding planned port expansion in South Delta.
Formed by members of three South Delta churches, Citizens Against Port Expansion (CAPE) organized the session at the Sundance Inn in East Ladner.
The group wants to help ramp up community awareness and opposition to Port Metro Vancouver's proposed Terminal 2 (T2), a three-berth container terminal that would be constructed next to the existing Deltaport terminal at Roberts Bank.
The damage to environment, as well as the potential loss of hundreds of acres of prime farmland to service a new container port, has groups like the newly formed CAPE and others, including Against Port Expansion (APE) and MLAs Vicki Huntington and Guy Gentner, trying to get the word out about the port authority's ambitious growth plans.
Noting his group has a meeting scheduled with local MP Kerry Lynne-Findlay and has been invited to speak to the Deltaport community liaison committee, CAPE spokesperson Cliff Caprani said he was pleased with the turnout Saturday.
Caprani noted people shouldn't assume T2 is a "done deal" that's not worth the time opposing, saying pressure can be placed on government to seriously look at alternatives.
"If we don't do anything about it, then it will most definitely go through. At least if we put up some opposition, then there's a possibility we can stop it.
We have to plug away and make some new alliances and craft some kind of strategy that might work," he said.
"We can't match the Port of Vancouver in terms of their publicity dollars, so then we have to be very strategic in how we'll operate."
Caprani said the meeting was a good gauge of the level of concern and knowledge people have about T2.
Saying the community has a real fight on its hands to avoid becoming an industrial wasteland, Gentner, the NDP MLA for Delta North, likens the port authority to "an evil empire" granted unprecedented powers.
"The real issue is Ottawa. Until we get a coalition together to let them know we're as mad as hell and are not going to take it any more, we're going to continue to see this kind of belligerent attitude towards the people of Delta."
Also speaking at Saturday's event, Huntington said despite what Port Metro Vancouver might believe, T2 is not a foregone conclusion.
"For the Fraser estuary to survive, and for Delta's farmland to survive, and for the migratory bird flyway to survive, it has to be stopped. It's that simple," she said.
"If we want to maintain a quality of life that we love in Delta, we have to convince the authorities that they've got to make due with Deltaport, and maybe there is a cap to the size of facility they want to generate out there.
"It has come to my attention that other (port) operators within the city have approached the port for permission to expand their own facilities, and the port has said, 'No, we'll look at it after T2.' Well, that is completely irresponsible of the port. If the federal government doesn't examine that issue, we've got people not behaving in the public interest."