Downsizing in Delta
Prior to European settlement, Delta's flatlands and coastal shores were inhabited by the Tsawwassen indigenous peoples, of the Coast Salish First Nations . The land was first sighted by Europeans in 1791, when Spanish explorer Lieutenant Francisco de Eliza mistook the area for an island and named it "Isla Capeda". The first Europeans to settle in the area were Thomas and William Ladner, who began farming the area in 1868. Farming and fishing helped the community grow quickly over the next few decades. In 1879, the area was incorporated to become "Delta", and the village of Ladner was made as its administrative centre.
Due to its geography, Delta was a relatively isolated community. The completion of the George Massey Tunnel in 1959 linking Ladner to Richmond and Vancouver along with the opening, in 1960, of the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and the Highway 99 being rerouted from the King George Highway in Surrey in 1962 to a new route through Delta, ended Delta's isolation and resulted in a massive 400% population growth over the next 20 years. The 1986 completion of the Alex Fraser Bridge connecting North Delta to New Westminster and Vancouver also helped Delta's growth.
As of 2005, Delta's population was 102,655. About 23% of Delta's population are visible minorities, of which there are approximately 12,000 South Asians and 5,400 Chinese Canadians. There are also about 1,400 Aboriginal peoples, some from the Tsawwassen band, who still hold traditional lands on the Tsawwassen Indian Reserve as well as the Hwlitsum First Nation, at the mouth of the Fraser River.
Delta comprises three distinct, geographically separate communities:
North Delta (pop: 51,623) is home to over half of Delta's population. It is a largely suburban area in north-east Delta bordered by the Burns Bog and Surrey.Ladner (pop: 21,112) is a 19th century fishing village in north-west Delta that has expanded into a suburb. Fishing and farming are important industries. Ladner Trunk Road is its main street.Tsawwassen (pop: 20,933) is a suburban community in south-west Delta that calls itself the sunniest place in Metro Vancouver. Luxury waterfront homes line Tsawwassen's coast. Tsawwassen is also home to the busy Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal which links the mainland to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Tsawwassen, together with Ladner are also known as South Delta.
Delta is located 27 kilometres (17 mi) south of Vancouver and 22 kilometres (14 mi) north of the U.S. border at Peace Arch, Surrey. It is bordered by water on three sides: The Fraser River to the north, the Georgia Strait to the west and Boundary Bay to the south.
At 364 square kilometres (141 sq mi), Delta is the largest municipality in the GVRD; the second largest is its neighbour to the east, Surrey, at 317.4 square kilometres (122.5 sq mi).
Delta's flat, fertile land has made it one of the most important agricultural areas in Metro Vancouver. The Agricultural Land Reserve regulations preserve most of this land for agricultural use, preventing its conversion to suburban housing. North Delta is also home to the Burns Bog, 40 square kilometres (10,000 acres) of natural wetlands that are important for wildlife.
Delta is governed by the Delta Municipal Council, led by a Mayor and six Councillors. They are elected for three-year terms, the last elections being held in November 2008. The current mayor is Lois Jackson. Unlike most communities in Canada, but like Vancouver and Richmond, Delta has a system of loosely organized, locally based political parties such as TriDelta, IDEA, One Delta, Delta Residents Association, and DIVA.
Delta's rural-urban split is reflected in its politics, with urbanized North Delta voting more to the left, while rural western areas of Delta have voted more conservative. For example, in the most recent elections to the British Columbia Legislature, the North Delta seat went to Guy Gentner of the New Democratic Party while the South Delta seat went to independent Vicki Huntington.
Likewise, in the House of Commons of Canada, one of Delta's two MP seats is held by Kerry-Lynne Findlay of the Conservative Party while the other is held by Jinny Sims of the New Democratic Party, both elected in May 2011.
Delta, unlike most Lower Mainland municipalities, has its own police department.
The Alex Fraser Bridge links Delta to New Westminster and Richmond.
Public transportation in Delta is provided by the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority bus system. There is no rapid transit system in Delta, though the SkyTrain system in Surrey comes within three kilometres of the city's borders.Delta is a major transportation hub for the Lower Mainland. Most vehicles leaving Vancouver for the United States pass through Delta's borders. Many vehicles destined for Vancouver Island use the Tsawwassen ferry terminal in Delta.Highway 99 links Richmond to Delta via the George Massey Tunnel, built in 1959. North Delta is linked to New Westminster and Richmond by Highway 91 and the massive Alex Fraser Bridge (opened in 1986). Delta is linked to Surrey, Langley, and all points eastward by Highway 10.Highway 17 in Delta provides a connection to the Tsawwassen B.C. Ferry terminal, which provides car ferry connections to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.River Road is also another connector through the municipality. River Road starts in Surrey and heads westbound through North Delta, under the Alex Fraser Bridge, north of Burns Bog, and then terminates at Highway 99, where it becomes Highway 17. River Road is a trucking route through the area, and is soon going to be a part of the "South Perimeter Road" project, hooking up the BC Ferry Terminal and Roberts Bank Superport in Tsawwassen with all points east.Like River Road, the western communities of "South Delta" (Ladner and Tsawwassen) are linked to North Delta and communities to the east by Ladner Trunk Road; east of its crossover of Highway 99, the road becomes Highway 10.56th Street is another major artery in the community, bisecting the Tsawwassen region; it is the only road leading into the community of Point Roberts, south of the Canadian/American border.Delta is also home to Boundary Bay Airport, Canada's 5th busiest airport by aircraft movements. Boundary Bay Airport is primarily used for private aircraft, commercial charters, and flying lessons.