TransLink review defended

According to B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, the TransLink board's handling of the approval of the Canada Line has been a "circus". Falcon made the comment in a recent interview with the Georgia Straight concerning a pending review of the TransLink board's governance.

"Right after the circus sort of atmosphere around the whole Canada Line three-vote debate, I made it very clear that I didn't believe the public had confidence in TransLink governance as it was currently structured and that I would be doing a review," Falcon said.

TransLink's board of directors currently consists of 12 members elected to municipal councils and appointed to one-year terms. On May 7, 2004, the board voted 7-5 against the construction of the RAV line. On June 18 that year it was defeated again-6-6 in a tied vote that meant it would not pass the "best and final offer" stage in the approval process-before a third vote on June 30 went 8-4 in favour of the project.

Burnaby Mayor and TransLink director Derek Corrigan told the Straight that if the Canada Line was a "circus", then Falcon is the "ringmaster".

"In reality, the board took a long hard look at the financial implications of the Canada Line," Corrigan said. "The circus came to town when the provincial government applied all kinds of pressures on the TransLink process. So it's the ringmaster calling it [the voting process] a circus. He likes calling people names.íƒ ¢í¢”š ¬í‚ ¦The provincial government has been pushing TransLink around for four years."

On March 8, Falcon quietly revealed-Corrigan told the Straight he read it in a newspaper-that there would be a three-person panel review of TransLink governance at the board level. The three members are chair Marlene Grinnell, former mayor of Langley City, former deputy provincial transportation minister Dan Doyle, and aviation executive Wayne Duzita. However, critics such as CUPE BC president Barry O'Neill dismissed the panel as revenge for RAV.

"Let's face it," O'Neill claimed in a March 8 news release, "B.C.'s transportation minister has been furious ever since TransLink voted twice to stop the RAV Public-Private Partnership. Even though the project went through on a third vote, he is determined that won't happen again."

No public meetings are planned by this new panel, and a Web site will allow public input. Falcon told the Straight he expects recommendations by fall. "I'm not going to prejudge the outcome," he said. "I'll look at whatever recommendation they come forward with."

So is this a way to hit back at his detractors, as Corrigan and O'Neill claim, because he is mad?

"No, not mad," Falcon interjected vehemently. "Just recognizing that when we're talking about taxpayer dollars on major investments like this, where you've got people from around the world committing huge amounts of dollars and time and people to make commitments to bidding on a process like this, it does not at all help the credibility of the province or the region to have an atmosphere like that taking place. You've got people opposing it for reasons that are not even remotely connected to the actual merits of the project. And people opposing it for issues that are entirely parochial and back-yard local politics in nature, and that's something I said does not do a service to the broader regional needs."

Falcon singled out Vancouver COPE Coun. David Cadman and Corrigan-both were on the TransLink board in 2004 and against RAV-for extra criticism.

"You had David Cadman, at one point, trying to stretch the reasons why he opposed it, saying that the pouring of cement would cause more greenhouse gases than would be saved from building the thing [RAV]," Falcon said. "You had Derek Corrigan, who is just ideologically opposed to anything that's not built with total government dollars and total government at risk. So my big concern when I look at TransLink is it's responsible for billions of dollars in projects, over $800 million in budget."

The NDP's transportation critic, David Chudnovsky, told the Straight he was surprised by the tenor of Falcon's comments. "Funny, eh? People actually want to talk about things that are important," Chudnovsky said. "I used to do a lot of collective bargaining [as president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation], and one thing we talked about was 'distinction without a difference'. Falcon says on the one hand that he's not mad at TransLink, but then he says it's a circus."

As for the governance review panel, Corrigan called it "bullyboy" power-grab tactics from Falcon.

"You talk about circus. That's just the ringmaster changing towns."