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After 50 years of service, I bid farewell

By Coun. Harold Steves

Published 2:23 PDT, Fri June 24, 2022

After 50 years as a Richmond Councillor, the time has come for me to step away. This is my final column  and I look back with various emotions at the issues we fought, battles we won, and those we lost. 

In the mid-60’s Wil Paulik and I asked Council to swap the Richmond Garbage Dump for federal bog-land. The Richmond Nature Park was born.

In 1968, I was elected to Council as a candidate from Canada’s first environmental group, the Richmond Anti-Pollution Association. Richmond planned to dump raw sewage in the river. We won secondary sewage treatment in Richmond, but lost at Iona Island.

In 1969, we stopped a supertanker port near Steveston, started the first trail system in BC along the west dike, and had Sturgeon Banks declared a Conservation Area. 

In 1972, I became Richmond MLA, drafting the policy to enact the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) a year later. ICBC had ALR land in Richmond. It became BC’s first Allotment Gardens and today is part of Richmond’s newest park, Gardens Agricultural Park, on No. 5 Road near Steveston Hwy. In 1974 I organized a week long Alternate Energy Show at the PNE. Today Richmond is a world leader in Geothermal District Energy.

In 1976, Richmond laid charges against a hundred families, mostly South Asian, for living in illegal suites. I got them a lawyer and they won.

When Richmond Council approved seven-storey apartments on Garry Point, citizens organized the Garry Point Defense Committee. In 1978, we took the City to court and won. Today we have Garry Point Park. 

In 1988 Council voted 5-4 to take Terra Nova out of the ALR and develop the land. Citizens organized the Save Richmond Farmland Society, voted in a new council, then passed a $26 million referendum to buy the remaining land. That’s how we got Terra Nova Rural Park.   

In 1990 developer Robbie Johnson offered to trade 10 acres of three-storey apartments for two tall buildings on two acres to save the Steveston waterfront. At a Steveston meeting people voted 197-1 for the project, giving us Britannia Shipyard National Historic Site and Park.

In 1999, the Steveston Fisheries Alliance fought to save the Imperial Cannery for a Seafood Market. We lost. BC Packers gave the City the Phoenix Gillnet Loft instead.

In 2006, the Canadian government proposed 11-storey apartments on the Garden City Lands. Council voted 8-1 to comply. Citizens formed the Garden City Lands Conservation Society and convinced Council to buy the land. That’s how we got the Garden City Lands Park and North America’s first Farm School. In 2012, we banned GMO’s and cosmetic pesticides. 

Through the decades there were many issues where residents spoke out to make Richmond the Greenest City in Canada. I supported them. Perhaps that’s why they call me Mr. Richmond?

There have been many highs and some lows through my decades on Council and in Provincial Government. It has been a pleasure and honour to serve the people of BC and I am appreciative of the faith you all placed in me to create a better community. 

But the greatest reward has been the positive impact my work has had on Richmond—the place I always have—and always will—proudly call home.

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