Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan believes his fellow Metro Vancouver mayors will “capitulate” and approve $130 million in additional funding to keep TransLink solvent and stave off service cuts.
Corrigan laid the blame for TransLink’s financial crunch at the feet of the provincial government, which in July ordered B.C.’s comptroller general to conduct a review of TransLink that was supposed to be wrapped up by September 30.
“It’s total capitulation,” Corrigan told the Straight via cellphone. “The province has said very clearly that they don’t intend to do anything until they get the comptroller general’s report. They have made it perfectly clear they don’t see any obligation to do any funding of the system. They have made it clear that they think there is more room in property taxes. They’ve completely denied any access to carbon taxes. So, I mean, they’ve pretty well boxed the Metro government.”
The provincial government has also told Metro Vancouver that it would be “irresponsible” for the mayors not to pick up the $130 million, Corrigan claimed.
“Then, if we’re good, they’ve promised they might decide to talk to us later about how they might help,” Corrigan said. “So, I mean, under those circumstances, going ahead and investing $130 million more of taxpayers money to keep the corporation’s nose above water will not make any difference to transit service at all in the future, and in fact will mean cuts even now.”
On Friday morning (October 23), the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation will vote to adopt one of three funding options for TransLink.
The middle-path $130-million “Funding Stabilization” option would result in a three-cent-a-litre increase in fuel taxes and fare increases to fund TransLink’s 10-year plan, but would mean minimal service cuts.
Under the “Base Plan” option, mayors may withhold a supplement, but this would trigger 40 percent service cuts, according to TransLink.
The more expensive option, “Maintain & Upgrade”, looks to be off the table, as it would require $275 million in additional funding per year, and none of the mayors the Straight interviewed spoke in favour of it.
“My gut feeling is that the wisdom of the day says we can’t not vote for a supplement,” City of Langley mayor Peter Fassbender told the Straight by phone. “I think we need to keep the transit system alive and moving forward as best we can. So, my intuition tells me we will be looking at the $130-million option.”
Asked how he thought things would shake down, Maple Ridge mayor Ernie Daykin told the Straight, “I think it will more than likely be the $130-million option. That’s where I’m coming from.”
Daykin said he doesn’t “disagree” with Corrigan about standing up to the province, but said he thought Metro Vancouver mayors “should be at the table”.
“Otherwise, I don’t know what the implications are [of no supplement],” Daykin said. “Potentially they [the province] will take it over and we’ll have no say.”
Corrigan claimed the province has already demonstrated political interference in TransLink’s affairs by insisting on the installation of turnstiles, which he said will cost $179 million in capital outlay and further burden TransLink with an annual operating cost of at least $20 million.
Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore said he was “not sure” which option he would pick, but admitted mayors face a “tough decision”.
“Do we vote for the $130-million supplementary budget option to keep service levels as they are, or do we vote it down and send a message to TransLink and to the provincial government that we need a sustainable funding model?” Moore said by phone. “There is a good argument that we should keep the doors open and live for another day...to sustain operating funding.”