Blast from the past: Doug McCallum talks about running for mayor of Surrey
Surrey municipal politics keeps getting more interesting.
Just as I was completing an article comparing potential mayoral-race rivals Linda Hepner and Barinder Rasode to Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Surrey Leader's Kevin Daikiw delivered some shocking news.
Former three-term mayor Doug McCallum, who was defeated by Dianne Watts in 2005, is considering a political comeback.
"There are a lot of people out there pushing me, I'll say that," McCallum told the Surrey Leader. "I can see out there where there are people out there who think we need to have a tighter fiscal policy."
In his interview with Daikiw, the former leader of the right-wing Surrey Electors Team bragged about all the transportation infrastructure that was ordered during his tenure on the TransLink board.
He specifically mentioned the Golden Ears Bridge, the world's largest order of trolley buses, and the Canada Line.
I remember covering McCallum when he chaired TransLink.
McCallum neglected to mention that the Golden Ears Bridge has never attracted sufficient vehicle traffic to justify its cost.
As a result, TransLink must subsidize it to the tune of $35 million to $45 million per year because McCallum and other board members were sold a bill of goods on vehicle traffic.
That subsidy would be better used providing better bus service in the region, but instead it finances a crossing between Pitt Meadows and Langley, even though the province has built a 10-lane Port Mann Bridge.
As for the world's largest order of trolley buses, McCallum and the board favoured purchasing them from New Flyer in Winnipeg.
The losing bidder, Denver-based Neoplan, held a news conference after the board vote in 2003, alleging that it was prepared to provide more vehicles at a lower price.
This prompted McCallum to issue a public statement saying it "would be inappropriate to disclose a comparison of New Flyer's and Neoplan's proposals at this time".
In 2004, McCallum issued another statement claiming that the New Flyer buses were less expensive than the Neoplan bid. It was done in partnership with the Czech company Skoda.
McCallum's claim about the Canada Line is true: it was approved under his watch after three votes at the TransLink board.
The public was repeatedly told it would cost between $1.5 billion and $1.7 billion. The real cost was closer to $2 billion.
It would have been far cheaper to run street-level train along the Arbutus corridor or provide rapid-bus service to the airport and Richmond, but McCallum favoured going all out for the subway.
McCallum, as TransLink's chair, also voted for a design-build-finance-operate public-private partnership on the Canada Line.
It's the only part of the SkyTrain system done this way.
In 2013, B.C.'s former auditor general, John Doyle, examined the Evergreen Line, which will not be operated separately. He found that this approach best met the government's policy objectives.
Doyle determined that in the case of the Evergreen Line, TransLink was wise to "reject a longer-term P3 arrangement, including operations and maintenance, because of the integration and efficiency benefits of having one operator across the entire SkyTrain system". (For more information, I recommend this Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives policy note.)
This past week, I learned one of the downsides of having a private operator in charge of the Canada Line.
I wanted to obtain a copy of a contract that the operator had reached with a private company, but was told by TransLink that the private operator is not subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
If this contract had been negotiated by TransLink or its wholly owned rapid-transit operating company, it would have been in the public domain.
It's one small example showing how McCallum chose less accountability a decade ago with his vote on the Canada Line.
Now he says he's being urged to run for mayor of Surrey again.
Residents can't say they haven't been warned.