He came to me in a dream. An awesome dream ...
“Geoff Meggs, what are you doing here?” I asked.
“I’m here to show you the future. Welcome to 2040,” he said with a smile, gesturing to the street in front of us. It was lined on both sides with impossibly tall towers. Fruit trees shaded the boulevard, their branches sagging under the weight of ripe, red apples and golden pears. In the two centre lanes, sleek light-rail trains bearing the City of Vancouver logo glided silently past. Each car was marked with a name: Spirit of George Puil, Spirit of Tim Louis. The speed of the train made it hard to make out every name – Price, Deal, Rennie – then just a blur. Bicycles occupied the rest of the roadway, piloted by happy, healthy, law-abiding riders who signalled, wore helmets, stopped for red lights, and waved courteously to each other. Children giggled, dogs frolicked, the air smelled like honey.
“Where are we?” I asked, trying to take it all in.
“This is West Broadway,” the councillor said. “Look up the hill there. See between that 80-storey tower and that 65-storey tower, the black one?”
I squinted and made out a sliver of granite between the two buildings. “Yeah, I see it.”
“That’s City Hall,” Mr. Meggs said, “my office.”
“You’re still a city councillor?” I asked incredulously.
Councillor Meggs explained that after seeking the nomination for the NDP in 2012, he tried again in 2017, 2022, and then one last time in 2027.
“No shame in that,” he said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small square package. He flipped it open and pulled out what looked like a cigarette. “Want one?” he offered.
“People still smoke in the future?” I asked.
“No, no, not tobacco. That’s all in the hands of criminal gangs now,” he said with a chuckle. “This is weed.” He held up the package so I could see the brand. “Saturna Sativa,” he said, as he tucked it away and lit the joint. “Not the total body stone you might expect, but it keeps my appetite up and it gets me through the meetings. Pat Carney swears by this stuff.”
“Pat Carney’s still alive?”
Mr. Meggs explained marijuana turned out to have beneficial properties no one had suspected.
“So all of this is in just 28 years?”
“You were there, man. Back in 2012 – the Transportation 2040 report. You interviewed me about it, remember? We said that by 2040, two-thirds of all trips would be by bike or walking.”
“But that was just crazy talk.”
“No, man, we did it all. You see a private car anywhere around you?”
“Well, no,” I admitted.
“That’s because they can’t afford to drive here any more. We got it all – the vehicle charge, the regional carbon tax, the gas tax, road pricing, residential parking restrictions with huge fees. No one in their right mind would try to take a car into the city now.”
“But you said this wouldn’t be a war on the car,” I reminded him.
“Yeah, well, depends on how you define ‘war,’ or ‘car,’ or ‘on,’ ” he shrugged, taking a last toke and holding it in.
“Who paid for all the transit?” I inquired as another gleaming, streamlined train swept by (Spirit of Sullivan, Rankin, Mel Lehan …). “Translink was broke.”
“Not just broke,” Councillor Meggs said, “but disbanded after Premier Falcon declared it dysfunctional again and replaced the appointed board with some soft, padded furniture and a nice rug. We had to find another way.”
He turned and again swept an upturned palm across the scene in front of him, as though it were a prize package on a game show. “The train? The bike paths? That was mostly car taxes, until the drivers got wise and stopped driving. Then, density-for-cash deals from developers, and finally, weed money.
“Plus, we created super-density when we allowed basement suites in lane-way houses, and approved ‘shed homes.’
“With most of the cars gone, we converted underground parking lots into affordable housing and farmland. Kind of like homesteading.”
“But what do people do all day?” I asked.
“Not really sure,” he shrugged. “Hang out? Drink coffee, smoke weed – pretty much the same things they did 28 years ago.”
“I mean for jobs,” I clarified.
“I don’t have a clue,” he said, pulling a small cardboard box out of his pocket. The brightly coloured box was the same size and shape as the previous package, but this one said “Hornby FaceMelt” across the front.
“We don’t really stress about that too much.”
Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One in Vancouver, 88.1 FM and 690 AM. @cbcstephenquinn