An NDP MLA believes that Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon will use his TransLink restructuring legislation, Bill 43, as a "prototype that he will take elsewhere".
Maurine Karagianis (Esquimalt-Metchosin), the Opposition transportation critic, told the Georgia Straight that transit in Greater Victoria or the Interior could be next. She claimed that the bill will mean higher property taxes, higher fares, and lower levels of public accountability and input.
On January 1, 2008, a nine-member "professional" board, selected by business-friendly organizations like the Vancouver Board of Trade, will replace TransLink's current directors, who are all elected regional politicians. A council of mayors and an independent commissioner will also be part of Falcon's proposed board. The last public TransLink board meeting with the current members takes place on December 12, at Richmond City Hall.
"If they get away with this, they will use this prototype to take control of any authority by privatization," Karagianis said by phone. "I can continue to cry out even if they pass Bill 43. And my message to people is, 'If you don't like this, fight back.'"
In a March 8, 2007, media release, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Carter wrote "it is time for the Capital to also form a Regional Transportation Authority". Carter was responding to the findings of the year-long three-person TransLink Governance Review initiated by Falcon.
Speaking by phone from Victoria, Falcon was unapologetic about the concerns of Karagianis. He also dismissed a recent demand from Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog in the house that Falcon apologize and withdraw Bill 43.
"I am not going to withdraw this bill, and I have nothing to apologize for," Falcon said.
Falcon accused the NDP of "filibustering", claiming it has displayed "some of the worst Opposition debate" he has ever seen. He also told the Straight he wanted to see a more "positive" story on Bill 43.
"What I see as positive is we'll finally have a structure that will get to execute some transportation services that are going to hugely benefit, especially, the folks in Vancouver," Falcon said. "I don't pretend for a second that we have invented a perfect structure. I just think that we are going to have one that's going to be better than the last one."
On November 25, NDP MLA Gregor Robertson (Vancouver-Fairview) told the Straight his party was "taking this one [Bill 43] to the wall".
"We are using every legislative tool we can to fight the TransLink bill," Robertson said. "It's contentious, although the Liberals are sitting on their hands, with none of them getting up or saying anything about what this might mean for their constituents."
On November 19, the B.C. Liberal majority defeated by 38-27 an NDP motion to defer any debate by six months so involved parties could address their concerns about the bill. Then, on November 26, B.C. Liberal house leader Mike De Jong announced that will he will push the bill through second and third readings, without debate, at the end of the legislative fall session today (November 29).
"This is a bill that has been on the order paper for seven months, and we have had six days and over 20 hours of debate," Falcon said in justification of De Jong's actions.
Karagianis and concerned community groups spoke to approximately 150 people at a Canada Place rally on November 21, encouraging citizens to write to Falcon, Premier Gordon Campbell, and their MLAs. Betty Krawczyk, recently released from prison after protesting Falcon's sanctioning building a highway through West Vancouver's Eagleridge Bluffs, told the crowd the minister's actions equate to "state fascism".
Krawczyk told the Straight that the merger of governments with corporate power, the legal system, and the military was a descent into fascism.