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Jackson hopeful Delta farmland can be spared

Mayor doing her part to convince shippers on potential an inland port
Mayor Lois Jackson was a moderator at last month’s Cargo Logistics Canada Conference & Expo in Vancouver.

Mayor Lois Jackson is hoping Ashcroft will be seen as a good choice in the goods movement chain.

Asked for her take on the recent announcement that Canaan Group would commence container handling operations and logistics services at the Ashcroft Terminal, Jackson, who has been lobbying for an inland terminal, said she was encouraged, noting it could alleviate the pressure to convert Delta farmland into warehousing and logistics centres.

The mayor was asked to be a moderator for the Cargo Logistics Canada Conference & Expo at the Vancouver Convention Centre in late January, a forum Jackson said was an opportunity for her to help “connect the dots” and convince shippers an inland port would be a good alternative.

“There were some very important people from all over the world there. They deal with transportation all over the world. I spoke there last year about the Ashcroft Terminal and was honoured to come back to be a moderator,” she said.

“There were shippers, receivers, senior people from rail. My job was to try and connect the dots. In Canada, we have one inland port at Winnipeg and we are talking about creating a similar profile in Ashcroft. CNR and CPR converge at this site. It is a bigger land mass than the future Deltaport expansion, some 300 acres, so there’s lots of room and potential.

Jackson noted, “Selfishly, I am there working my hardest to keep our farmland, that’s my biggest motivation. Whether it’s containers, lumber or mining, it can be done very easily up there. What we have to do is ensure the shippers know they will still have a shorter line to take their goods that will be a financial benefit to them, and we’re proving that.”

The mayor said many trucks are driving around here with empty containers, ones that could be stored at Ashcroft, which wants the businesses.

“We have an overabundance of empty containers here and they shouldn’t be taking up our productive farmland and our productive industrial lands,” she added.

Also on hand at the event was Robert Landucci, president and CEO of Ashcroft Terminal, who in an interview in an Avison Young report last year asked why handle any product in the Lower Mainland if it doesn’t need to be handled in the region. He said it is important to look at alternatives before Agricultural Land Reserve lands are considered.

Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, a critic of Port Metro Vancouver, said he’s skeptical the port would offer much encouragement to suppliers to use the Ashcroft Terminal.

“There’s very good reason they’d want to use port facilities. It’s because the people that run the port are also the owners of these corporations and if they are using Ashcroft, then somebody else is making the money,” said Steves.

“That’s what we’ve got to get across: there are alternatives to this constant port expansion, whether it’s at the terminal itself at Roberts Bank or whether it’s expanding onto farmland. We have vast areas in Ashcroft and Kamloops. The ships come in at Deltaport and the containers can be loaded onto trains and they’re gone up to Kamloops or Ashcroft and sorted up there, then shipped to Ontario or Quebec or wherever they’re going,” he added.

“The problem we’ve got is that the corporations involved with the port and make the decisions for the port are interested in keeping all those operations here because this is where they make the money. We need a port that responds to the needs of the community, not the needs of the corporate owners.”