CREATING OUR FUTURE IN THE METRO VANCOUVER REGION: “Today, what we as leaders do, will resound for the people of the future, their cities and their regions. In fact, for the world at large,” stated the City of Delta’s Lois Jackson, currently a Councillor and formerly the Mayor, when she reflected on her five decades of public service in local government and why it matters to ‘make a difference’ as a champion for ‘design with nature’ infrastructure practices (June 2020)

Editor’s Context:

“Formed in 2003, the Green Infrastructure Partnership (GIP) was one of six original elements of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, released in February 2004. Over the next six years, the GIP played a prominent role in leading change and assisting with implementation of the Action Plan, primarily in the Metro Vancouver region,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

“After incorporation of the Partnership as a not-for-profit society in 2010, the responsibilities of the GIP were assumed by the Partnership for Water Sustainability. Ray Fung, the last GIP Chair, has carried on as a member of the Partnership’s Leadership Team.

“Going back in time to October 2006, a defining moment occurred when the GIP leadership team met with the Metro Vancouver Sustainable Region Initiative Task Force, a committee of mayors chaired by then Mayor Lois Jackson of Delta. The meeting purpose was two-fold: report out on the success of the inaugural Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series earlier in 2006; and seek support for program expansion to include elected officials. Less than a year later, in early September 2007, Mayor Jackson made an opening statement to kick-off the 2007 Showcasing Series.

Connecting Dots

“Fast forward to 2020. Below, Lois Jackson reflects on one aspect of her five decades of experience as an elected representative in Metro Vancouver local government. First elected to Delta Council in 1973, she served as Mayor from 1999 until 2018, at which time she stepped down and was re-elected as a Councillor. Lois Jackson also served as Chair of the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors from 2006 to 2011.

“The catalyst for providing these reflections was a document published by the Partnership in June 2020, and titled Delta’s Rain Garden Program for Urban Landscape Enhancement: Sustaining the Legacy through the Second Decade and Beyond. The document honours and celebrates the pioneering efforts of Lois Jackson and three other rain garden champions in the City of Delta.

The article connects a series of dots in order to arrive at the reflections by Lois Jackson. These provide historical context. The article serves a purpose as a reminder of the importance of knowing one’s history in order to understand why and how things happen. The process is one of building blocks combined with seizing the moment. Invariably, it is a matter of the right people being in the right place at the right time.”

Flashback to September 2006: Green Infrastructure Partnership asked Lois Jackson for her support

“The story opens with a meeting at the offices of Metro Vancouver on September 28, 2006. Paul Ham (City of Surrey), Ray Fung (District of West Vancouver) and I met with Lois Jackson, Chair of the Regional Board, and senior staff. We were accompanied by Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones of the District of West Vancouver. We represented the Green Infrastructure Partnership,” recalls Kim Stephens.

“Paul and Ray were there in their capacities as Chairs of the GIP and BC Water Sustainability Committee, respectively. Mayor Goldsmith-Jones was a member of the Ad Mayors and Chairs Focus Group that the GIP had established earlier in 2006. The Focus Group represented three regions – Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan. The process involved a set of interviews, and these are documented in a Progress Report released in September 2006.

“The report that follows is a prelude to developing a Green Infrastructure Communication Guide for Elected Officials. We envisioned that the Guide would fill a gap because what had been lacking was written information on green infrastructure from the perspective of elected officials, for elected officials. Thus, our objective in meeting with Lois Jackson was to seek her support for a Mayors Forum on Green Infrastructure. The report identified this as a desired next step.”

Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation

“I remember that first meeting quite clearly,” recalled Mayor Lois Jackson a year later, in September 2007, when she spoke at the Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation event hosted by the City of Delta. “At first I was not sure I understood what was meant when they talked about ‘green infrastructure’ and ‘celebrating successes’. And then the light went on when I realized they were talking about things like Delta’s sidewalk retrofit strategy and our program for transforming ditches into landscaped amenities that beautify roadways.

“I remember saying ‘now I get it!’ – the point being that when you have examples of what can be done, and projects are being built, you can then wrap your mind around the green infrastructure vision and say to yourself: ‘what’s the big deal….this is really common sense….if we can do this, then we can do more.’ And before you know it, the ball is rolling and the landscape is changing for the better. “

The meeting outcome was an invitation from Chair Jackson to the Green Infrastructure Partnership to attend, as an ‘invited delegation’, a meeting of the SRI Task Force two weeks later (on October 11, 2006).

To Learn More:

Click on Mayor Lois Jackson of Delta opens ‘2007 Showcasing Innovation Series’ to read her complete statement.

Download Water – Choosing Sustainability for Life and Livelihoods: Convening for Action in British Columbia to read about the conversations with the Ad Hoc Mayors and Chairs Focus Group, and the insights that they shared.

Download a copy of the AGENDA for the SRI Task Force Meeting on October 11, 2006.


Flashback to October 2006: Green Infrastructure Partnership shared their vision with the SRI Task Force

Metro Vancouver launched the Sustainable Region Initiative (SRI) in 2001 to identify public values regarding regional sustainability, the principles that should guide regional development, and the key actions necessary. When the GIP leadership team met with the SRI Task Force, West Vancouver Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones facilitated the meeting. In her introductory remarks, she provided this perspective:

Mayor pam goldsmith-jones (120p)I have been asked by members of the Green Infrastructure Partnership to help them support local leaders throughout BC, so that we – the politicians – can champion the idea that designing with nature, particularly with regard to how water flows, has everything to do with achieving a built environment that is truly sustainable.”

“As the leaders appointed to design the Sustainable Region Initiative for the GVRD, we view you as critical partners in affecting positive change with regard to infrastructure design in the region.”

“Right now, there is a body of practice emerging that demonstrates success in building green infrastructure. The Green Infrastructure Partnership wishes to help you deliver on the promise of a sustainable region.”

“We are looking for your leadership, and we wish to support you in taking the long term view for the betterment of the region today, and into the future.”

To Learn More:

Read Changing the Way Land is Developed in the Greater Vancouver Region, the complete story posted elsewhere on the Green Infrastructure community-of-interest.

Download a copy of a briefing document titled Changing the Way We Develop Land: Design with Nature.

Download a copy of the presentation slides that guided the ensuing roundtable discussion: Changing the Way We Develop Land: A Presentation by the Green Infrastructure Partnership.

Download a copy of the MINUTES of the SRI Task Force Meeting on October 11, 2006.

Flashback to December 2006: Green Infrastructure Partnership presented a ‘call to action’ at a Sustainability Community Breakfast hosted by the SRI Task Force

Lois-Jackson_120pAt the conclusion of the meeting with the SRI Task Force, the Chair invited the Green Infrastructure Partnership to participate in Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Community Breakfast program, a series of monthly breakfast meetings.

“The monthly breakfast meetings provide an ongoing opportunity for network and partnership building while at the same time building awareness and understanding of urban sustainability challenges, bringing together individuals and organizations interested in the sustainability of the region,” explained Mayor Lois Jackson in 2006.

Building on the momentum generated by the October 2006 presentation, the Green Infrastructure Partnership brought its ‘design with nature’ message to an audience of 80-plus on December 13, 2006. West Vancouver Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones again played a key role in anchoring the presentation team and articulating the importance of partnerships.

The Sustainability Community Breakfasts were originally introduced to share information and build awareness leading up to the World Urban Forum 3 (WUF3), hosted in Metro Vancouver in June 2006. They continue to this day.

To Learn More:

Download Changing the Way We Develop Land: Design with Nature, the integrated PowerPoint presentation by a 5-person team comprised of Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Kim Stephens, Paul Ham, Ray Fung and Susan Rutherford.

Read  West Vancouver Mayor Teams with Green Infrastructure Partnership to Champion ‘Design with Nature’ Approaches, the complete story posted elsewhere on the Green Infrastructure community-of-interest.

Flashback to 2015: The Partnership recognized the City of Delta for its leadership in implementing a Rain Garden Program

The Champion Supporter category of membership is the way in which the Partnership for Water Sustainability formally recognizes agencies and organizations that are playing a leadership role in assisting the Partnership with implementation of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.

On December 7, 2015 the Partnership presented Mayor and Council of the Corporation of Delta with a framed “letter of recognition” because the municipality is a leader by example in the Metro Vancouver region.

After being welcomed by Mayor Lois Jackson, Kim Stephens reminded Mayor Jackson of the circumstances under which they had first met in 2006. “We met at Metro Vancouver to seek your support for showcasing green infrastructure innovation in the region. We have come a long way since then. Delta’s long-term commitment is helping the Partnership advance the vision for achieving watershed sustainability through implementation of green infrastructure policies and practices.”

To Learn More:

Read Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia recognizes the Corporation of Delta as one of its “Champion Supporters”

To download a copy of the PowerPoint presentation by Kim Stephens, click on Rainwater Management in a Watershed Sustainability Context: Delta is a Leader by Example.

Kim Stephens (Partnership Executive Director) presents “letter of recognition” to Mayor Lois Jackson

Fast Forward to June 2020: Lois Jackson reflects on what it means in practice to ‘make a difference’, both as a citizen and as an elected representative in local government

“Today, what we as leaders do, will resound for the people of the future, their cities and their regions. In fact, for the world at large. One of the reasons that I ran for office in 1972, and why I served for 20 years as Mayor of Delta, and 7 years at Chair of Metro Vancouver was ‘to make a difference’…. a difference to the children and their families of the future,” stated Lois Jackson, City of Delta Councillor.

“But we are wrong to stop there, because we must also consider that we are not the only ones sharing this planet, and what we do on a daily basis, can impact positively or negatively having a resounding effect and rippling effect of which we must be aware.

“How best to teach and lead the people to be generous to others and gentle with all species and their environment, of land, air and water? Well, I must go back to when I first met Deborah Jones, when she called my office one fine day inviting me and my executive assistant to have tea on her front yard by her ‘ditch’…. Deborah lives on a lovely sloping corner lot with a circular ditch system next to the roadway. ‘Yes, of course we will come’, says I wondering what was to follow!!

“Deborah had ‘the tea’ laid out on the grass next to the ‘ditch’. Upon perusing the situation, I found that this was no ordinary ‘ditch’; it was full in abundance with wild flowers, grasses, and was a veritable beauty to behold!! Deborah explained the science behind drainage of residential areas, slowing down the speed of the runoff, cleansing the waters that made their way back to the ocean, providing habitat for birds, bees and small wild things!!

“Hence the idea was hatched of the rain gardens. And I thought ‘what better way to make a difference’; teach the children how to use their muscles and brains outdoors to in turn ‘make a difference’.

“Deborah, being the very quiet and unassuming person that she is, has worked tirelessly with her band of ‘Stream Keepers’ to bring this idea into reality. As Mayor, I had a certain influence over the Council for 20 years, assisting through utilizing our engineering and environmental staff to bring this idea into reality.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson at Richardson School on rain garden planting day (2011)

“How proud I was to attend the schools for all these years to be on hand to listen to the ‘world lesson’ that Deborah taught to the children through planting rain gardens on the school grounds. I remember always telling the children at these times that ‘as they become adults and move throughout the world, to share your message of looking after and caring for people, yes, but also take care of the environment because, if they don’t, who will?’ 

“I hoped they would take that message through their lives and take action on it. You see I learned these lessons when I was a youngster, many years ago in my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario when International Nickel belched out thousands and thousands of tons of sulphur smoke each hour of each day.

“It was a thick fog and actually burned the edges of the lettuce leaves in my Mom’s garden. We had to tear off those brown edges when we cleaned the lettuce for lunch. When walking to school or running through the fields, it would burn your throat and make you cough. Do you think I loved and appreciated the clean air of B.C. when we moved here in 1968? You bet I did!!

“One of the first things I did when I became Mayor in 1999 was to introduce our community to caring about of our air, land and water. Many were opposed to this position, I must say. But we persevered and, as a result, I believe we have set a good example over all these years of good stewardship.

“One of the things of which I am most proud is our success in leading four levels of government to purchase Burns Bog. I feel that is one of the legacies I can leave in my life’s goal of ‘making my difference’….!!

“But I regress, yes, as one who has seen and done many things, I have learned that we must all be leaders who selflessly have a vision, and we must then act to make the vision a reality, because air, water and continents are interconnected and if you can dream it — you can do it.”

To Learn More:

Download a copy of  Delta’s Rain Garden Program for Urban Landscape Enhancement: Sustaining the Legacy through the Second Decade and Beyond, released in June 2020.

Also, download a copy of Creating the Future in The Corporation of Delta: Rain Gardens Help Restore Nature, released in January 2015.