Henry James Mackin died the year before the Deas Island Tunnel opened, but he did live to see export ships loaded with lumber at his Fraser Mills sail the Fraser River above where tunnel construction began in 1957.
The 1959-opened, Richmond-to-Delta tunnel was renamed for another prominent Irish-Canadian, George Massey, in 1967.
H.J. Mackin, my great-grandfather, was born 1884 in New York. He was one of eight children of Joseph Patrick Mackin and Catherine Byrne, immigrants from Drogheda, Ireland. H.J. began his career as a child labourer in a Portland, Ore. box factory and made his way to New Westminster in 1908, settling in the general manager’s house at then-Fraser Mills the next year. It became known as Mackin House during the 1910 census. Today it is lovingly restored civic museum and tourism office.
He worked his way up to the presidency of Canadian Western Lumber Co., which boasted the largest mill in the Commonwealth. He also spearheaded the building of the Elk Falls pulp and paper mill near Campbell River.
Fraser Mills was an important industrial site that gave opportunities to families of diverse backgrounds. According to the 1910 census, of the 943 Fraser Mills residents, 172 were of Indian ethnicity, 66 Japanese, 24 Chinese, 12 Greek and five Norwegian.
Nehemiah George Massey came to Canada from County Wexford before he was 20. In 1946, with the help of many Lander citizens, he formed the Lower Fraser River Crossing Improvement Association. A decade later, he served four years as the Social Credit MLA for Delta. He had a vision for a tunnel.
“He prepared all his own maps along with research information,” his son, Doug Massey, remembered. “He spoke to many municipalities and cities in the area and with their support he was able to convince the provincial government that given the location and the soil conditions that a tunnel should be built instead of a bridge.”
In 2013, Premier Christy Clark announced a $3 billion bridge would replace the tunnel. The price tag has since risen to $3.5 billion and shovels are supposed to be in the ground sometime this year. The government refuses to release the business case for the megaproject.
“The Liberal government in Victoria wants to remove the existing George Massey Tunnel and replace it with a high level, 10-lane bridge, but the geological facts show that another modern tunnel with rapid transit built would be a better alternative,” Massey said.
“It would appear that the real reason for removing the George Massey Tunnel is so they can dredge the river deeper deeper and accommodate bigger ships for industrial interests, end up destroying the Fraser River as the greatest salmon-bearing river in the world.”
It is bound to be an election issue on May 9. Lois Jackson, the Liberal mayor of Delta, wants it. Malcolm Brodie, the Liberal mayor in Richmond, doesn’t. NDP leader John Horgan, the son of an Irishman, calls it the premier’s vanity project. To Clark, anyone who questions her addiction to spending other people’s money on debt-fuelling projects that are prone to corruption and cronyism is attacked as anti-jobs.
In 2015, Metro Vancouverites were asked whether they would be willing to pay more sales tax to fund TransLink’s expansion. But there is no plebiscite for the Massey bridge.
We have a government, for now, that only pretends to be democratic. Where did B.C. go wrong?
The day before St. Patrick’s Day, the Legislature adjourned for no particular reason but the ruling Liberals want to devote all their time to their non-stop campaign and avoid the NDP’s grilling in Question Period.
They didn’t care to ask voters whether they want to fund a $3.5 billion bridge. Just like they didn’t ask for consent to pay for the $9 billion Site C dam, which will take most of the rest of the century to pay down. The B.C. Utilites Commission was purposely excluded from performing its normal regulatory duties.
These are the same Liberals who came to power in 2001 promising to become the most open, accountable and democratic government in Canada. Six months ago, the Deputy Premier, Rich Coleman, boasted the party was “fully funded” for the campaign. They raised $12.4 million last year and are continuing fundraising unabated. They refuse to ban corporate and union donations and are welcoming donations from foreign entities. Liberal allies at shadowy third-party attack ad campaigns Concerned Citizens for B.C. and Future Prosperity B.C. are spending millions in pre-election ad campaigns without the pressure of public disclosure.
Another $15 million of taxpayers’ money is being spent on deceptive government ads that are only necessary for Liberals who are scared of losing their government jobs.
They tout a balanced budget in name only. A wish — and it is only a wish — to phase-out medical insurance fees. They celebrate a whopping increase in jobs… part-time jobs, that is. And they give themselves a pat on the back for slapping a too little, too late tax on foreigners buying B.C. real estate. Housing is beyond the means of young British Columbians after billionaires from China, some with ill-gotten wealth, swooped in and bought from baby boomers. Meanwhile, homeless camps are popping up around Metro Vancouver. The regional district says there are 70.
The Liberals have too many skeletons in their closet, from dead children in provincial care and wrongly fired drug researchers to mass-destruction of email and the pay-to-play system of fundraising that they refuse to reform. They proudly cut income taxes, but raised the price of electricity, medical insurance, ferry rides, camping sites, vehicle insurance and beer.
While you’re enjoying the craic, wearing green and drinking black beer (green food colouring in Budweiser is not Irish) on St. Patrick’s Day, give it some thought.
Is this the British Columbia your ancestors hoped for? Is this the British Columbia you want?
Enjoy the music from March 11 at Mackin House and have a happy St. Patrick’s Day.