If Carole James becomes premier on May 12, she and her party will dissolve TransLink’s current handpicked board and replace it with elected representatives.
On page nine of its 56-page election platform, the NDP has promised to “repeal Bill 43 to restore democratic control and public accountability to local government and taxpayers”.
“I think it’s a good move,” Dave Fields, a long-time critic of the Gateway Program and a B.C. Green party volunteer, told the Straight by phone. “I fully support and endorse that element of the NDP’s platform. What we desperately need in this region is an authority that can implement its plans and fund them fully, and not be in the pocket of the highways minister. TransLink has always been challenged, but it’s primary challenge has been interference from the provincial government.”
Patrick Condon, UBC’s James Taylor chair in landscape and liveable environments, told the Straight the NDP’s plan would be “a positive step”.
Condon, who opposed the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act, said in a phone interview that the previous board was maligned by Falcon as being too parochial, especially after it voted down the RAV Line (now Canada Line) twice in 2004.
“The accusation that they were parochial was unfair,” Condon said. “The regional elected officials that comprised that previous board had a courageous debate around the Canada Line and they put their careers on the line.”
B.C. transportation minister Kevin Falcon had approved the board rejig in 2007, after he set in motion a year-long TransLink governance review in 2006. His primary complaint had been that the board did not function well with elected regional representatives.
In November 2007, NDP transportation critic Maurine Karagianis told the Straight that Bill 43 was “the most insidious piece of legislation” the B.C. Liberals passed since winning their second majority in 2005.
That month, Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog demanded an apology from Falcon during a furious legislative debate on Bill 43.
“I am not going to withdraw this bill, and I have nothing to apologize for,” Falcon told the Straight in November 2007 in reference to Krog’s comments.
Fields said that if TransLink can be freed from “interference”, it will be a far more successful organization.
“TransLink has identified the need to double our transit ridership by 2020 in order to meet our greenhouse-gas emissions, and they simply can’t do that from inside Kevin Falcon’s pocket,” Fields said.
B.C. Liberal campaign staff told the Straight that Falcon was unavailable to comment today.