Mayor and critics say it's time for TransLink to report to elected officials
Recent changes at TransLink should prompt renewed calls for the transit authority to have to answer to elected officials, Burnaby’s mayor has said.
“TransLink should be accountable to the residents of the Lower Mainland,” Derek Corrigan told the Straight. “It should be through a system that has mayors and councillors—elected representatives—on a board that provides adequate representation for all of the cities that are partners. It’s that simple and it’s that reasonable.”
Corrigan said by phone that TransLink is implementing policies—such as the Compass card—without sufficient consideration for people who rely on public transit.
“You can see that the attitude is one that doesn’t any longer reflect public policy,” Corrigan concluded. “It mainly reflects the economic strategy of the organization, the bottom line.”
In March 2013, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation published a report titled TransLink Governance Review. It states that accountability is “almost completely missing from the present arrangements” and describes TransLink’s organizational structure as “unique in the world and not in a good way”.
The report dates those problems to 2007, when then Liberal transport minister Kevin Falcon pushed through legislation that abolished TransLink’s elected panel of municipal politicians and replaced it with a board of nine handpicked professionals. The change meant that TransLink operated with public money without answering to elected officials or an auditor general. To alter TransLink’s structure to restore elected oversight would require action by the legislature.
In an email, Transportation Ministry spokesperson Kate Trotter wrote that negotiations with the mayors' council were ongoing and that Minister Todd Stone would not comment on the matter.
By telephone, George Heyman, Vancouver-Fairview MLA and NDP TransLink critic, recounted how the NDP has always opposed the legislative changes introduced by Falcon.
“We think there needs to be a democratic, accountable governance structure,” Heyman told the Straight. “The mayors and other councillors in the region are elected to represent the interests of the people…and they have been removed from any effective role in governance and replaced with a corporate board.”
Heyman suggested that it’s time to return TransLink to the region’s locally elected politicians.
“The minister, Todd Stone, has said that it’s a priority to revisit its governance,” Heyman added. “But it needs to be meaningful, it can’t be tokenism.”