Massey tunnel replacement, Burns Bog, Debt Free – By Ray Hudosn

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Mayor Lois Jackson in the board room of the expanded North Delta Rec Centre. Photo: Ray Hudson

Highest points for Delta’s Mayor Jackson

Mayor Lois Jackson with Fire Chief Dan Copeland and Chief Administrative Officer George Harvie at Fire Service Awards
Mayor Lois Jackson with Fire Chief Dan Copeland and Chief Administrative Officer George Harvie at Fire Service Awards

“I’ve done many things and it’s been most gratifying, but it’s a huge job that requires you twenty-four seven, and if you want to keep the “no call too small” philosophy for the city’s administration, as well as for police and fire, you have to put in that kind of time, and I can’t do that anymore. It’s somebody else’s turn.”

Lois Jackson, the first woman elected to Delta Council in 1978, returned to council in 1999 as Mayor, and will have proudly worn the chain of office for close to twenty years when the time comes for the next round of municipal elections in 2018.

I have interviewed Mayor Jackson over her terms in office, as the host of the Current Affairs program “On The Line Live” on Delta Cable. So now in my current role as reporter for the Asian Journal, it was with some familiarity, albeit without TV Cameras, when we met in the newly completed expansion of the North Delta Rec Centre to talk about her career as leader of the soon to be City of Delta.

Ray Hudson: Let’s start in the present with the official declaration last week of the start of construction of the bridge which will replace the Massey Tunnel, and relieve a major transportation thorn in the side of Delta for decades.
Lois Jackson: I think the transportation announcements we have had from both the Federal and Provincial governments have been news from heaven from my perspective.  We have been waiting a very long time for not only some relief for our commuters and those coming through Delta but also for commerce and the movement of goods, particularly from the port.

There was a lot of concern that land would be taken out of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), but in fact, there will be around 400 acres put back. There was a lot of skepticism about that, but the environmental certificate has been given, there are a lot of things the contractors will have to adhere to.  Anyway, we’re really happy that it’s going ahead.

Mayor Lois Jackson in the board room of the expanded North Delta Rec Centre. Photo: Ray Hudson
Mayor Lois Jackson in the board room of the expanded North Delta Rec Centre. Photo: Ray Hudson

Ray Hudson: And this is just a few years after the opening of the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR), that’s all part of the regional transportation system.

Lois Jackson: You know it’s bigger than Delta, it’s bigger than Regional. It’s the national gateway for Canada and finally, all of that is coming to fruition. But it takes a long time, especially with the senior government.

We’re pleased to see that additional improvements are happening for the road network including the Highway 91/72nd Ave interchange and removal of the light on Hwy 91, the critical upgrade to a full interchange at the Sunbury interchange, to expand it and remove the lights, and change the intersection with Nordel Way and improve the sharp turn at the foot of Nordel Hill.
Ray Hudson: Talk about the impact the transportation improvements will bring to Delta’s economic base.

Lois Jackson: We don’t put it in the newspaper, but Annacis and Tilbury are two of the largest industrial parks in Canada and we’re very grateful for that. We try very hard to help the businesses as we look at other high-tech developments and that sort of thing.

There are 430 businesses employing 10,300 in Annacis, and 300, employing 8,000 in Tilbury –  Delta Chamber of Commerce

Lois Jackson: but since Alpha Aviation came on board along we’ve come a long way, including building a new terminal. There is the huge new BC Fresh facility going in, and we’re putting a million dollar roof on the heritage hanger.

Ray Hudson: Further along Highway 17 there are the Tsawwassen Mills and the Tsawwassen Commons malls on the TFN lands.

Lois Jackson: On the Delta side, it’s pretty well confined to the Tsawwassen Springs development which is building out as planned.  The rapid development at Tsawwassen Mills did present some challenges to the businesses of Tsawwassen and Ladner, but we’re working that out through a Mayor’s Standing Committee, to assist in any way the businesses of Ladner and Tsawwassen.

Mayor Jackson’s Service High Points:

Lois Jackson: Delta was a very different municipality when we moved here in1968.  Coming from Sudbury, I thought I’d moved to a very rural community. It certainly isn’t rural anymore, but we fight tooth and nail to keep every square inch of agricultural land and try to improve on it, something that has never changed for me.

One of my biggest milestones was getting onto council. I didn’t expect to get elected, quite frankly. There were very few women in politics. I remember the first years that I was a councillor, attending the Union of BC Municipalities convention in Prince George. There was going to be a lunch organized for the women. I think there were fifteen of us from all of BC. That has certainly changed a lot.

As far as highway projects, the road system has really made a big difference. We didn’t need the Alex Fraser Bridge and Nordel Way, so much for Delta, but we sure needed it for everybody else coming south of the Fraser. I think it was in 1986 that traffic volume necessitated the institution of the counter-flow lane for the Massey Tunnel. Can you believe it? We were talking about the need to replace the tunnel even then.

Other major highlights:

  • The development of Delta Port was huge. I remember when they came with all the discussion points about Delta Port. It generated a lot of concern in the community.
  • Southlands; the hearing to change farmland into the proposed development in the south. And to think that after thirty years, it was finally concluded this year and resulted in 400 acres of land returned to the ALR.
  • Development of Ladner; my vision is to keep that village atmosphere. We cleaned up the slough, removed derelict vessels and buildings, got Harbours to dredge it along with all the side channels that were silting in. That was a project accomplished by women; Kerry-Lynne Findlay was the MP, Mary Pollack was BC Environment Minister, Vicki Huntington was the MLA and myself as Mayor.

Lois Jackson: I think the two things I’m most proud of are;
• getting Delta out of debt. Delta will be debt-free in 2018, something that’s unheard-of these days;
• and putting the four levels of government together to buy Burns Bog. That was a mammoth undertaking involving thousands and thousands of hours of negotiations with so many different owners, trying to keep the province and the feds on side. I remember signing very important papers on the hood of my truck at the ferry terminal, travelling to Victoria on a Sunday, we were having the staff run out and change the wording as negotiations went on, and this happened a number of times. It was a tremendous amount of work, but we got it finished. I feel preserving the bog was the biggest thing I ever did, along with the very many people who worked for its protection.

Lois Jackson: It’s a pleasure for me to be the Mayor of this community. We are one of the busiest municipalities, I think, because we are so diversified. We’ve got the Fraser River, the Ladner harbour, Deltaport which is the biggest container terminal in Canada, largest coal port on the west coast of North America. There’s so much going on. I’d really like to see us redevelop Scott Road, but that’s a conversation for another day. But people love it here, want to raise their families here. I’ve had a terrific time, and I’ve had fabulous staff. I wouldn’t change any one of them, they’re fantastic.

The Mayor’s vision for North Delta, and the most valuable life quality factors enhancing living in Delta are the subject of Part two of our conversation, in next week’s edition of the Asian Journal.