How Derek Corrigan's defeat of Gregor Robertson at Mayors' Council changes the transportation equation
Call it the revolt of Metro Vancouver's smaller municipalities.
Yesterday, the mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, was beaten in his quest to remain chair of the TransLink Mayors' Council after three years in this position.
One of the region's wily veterans, Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan, took him out in a secret vote.
According to a report by CBC's Justin McElroy, the vice chair, Surrey mayor Linda Hepner, decided not to seek this position again after witnessing Robertson's defeat.
New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote then ran for vice chair but was beaten by District of North Vancouver mayor Richard Walton, an ally of Corrigan's.
This will have significant implications for motorists, developers, and people who use the transit system for the following reasons:
* The Mayors' Council appoints a majority of TransLink's directors.
* Premier John Horgan has promised to work closely with the mayors on the region's transportation needs.
* The Mayors' Council approves TransLink's transportation projects, including major capital projects, and has a big say in transit fares.
* Corrigan is a New Democrat and close ally of Premier John Horgan. In fact, Corrigan supported Horgan's first candidacy to become NDP leader, a race that was ultimately won by Adrian Dix.
Meanwhile, Robertson and Hepner were each vociferous advocates for new rapid-transit projects in their cities.
Robertson wants a Broadway subway extending from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus and Broadway at a reported price tag of about $2 billion.
Hepner and her councillors want three light-rail lines emanating out from Surrey Centre to Guildford, Newton, and Langley's downtown core, costing just over $2 billion.
Both also want a new four-lane Pattullo Bridge, which TransLink says will open in 2023.
Cote has often spoke about imposing more equal bridge tolls across the region. He feels this might reduce the number of cars travelling through New Westminster every day.
It's worth noting that Corrigan wasn't impressed in 2014 when Cote decided to run against then mayor Wayne Wright, who had been a reliable Corrigan ally at the regional level.
Following that election, Corrigan voted against the Mayors' Council's suite of projects that went before voters in a 2015 plebiscite. Cote was a strong supporter.
Corrigan opposed Canada Line
In the more distant past, Corrigan was a sharp critic of proceeding with the Canada Line, which he viewed as a sweetheart deal for the Vancouver International Airport Authority. At the time, the Burnaby mayor correctly predicted that the airport would take advantage of this project to poach businesses from other municipalities.
On many occasions, Corrigan has spoken out against preferential treatment accorded to Vancouver when it came to provincially funded capital projects under the B.C. Liberal government. Among them was the $883-million convention centre and the $535-million upgrade to B.C. Place Stadium.
If NDP government doesn't want to shell out billions on rapid transit in Surrey and Vancouver, Corrigan is in a position to curtail the mayors' request to something that's more financially manageable.
For instance, this could include only one light-rail line in Surrey, perhaps to Guildford, to retain the NDP seat held by MLA Garry Begg.
If the Mayors' Council decided to put the Broadway subway in the deep freeze for a while, this would let Horgan off the hook because he could say that he's listened to the advice of the mayors.
So can see how the Corrigan-Walton alliance could help advance provincial NDP objectives while angling for what they want in return.
The Pattullo Bridge replacement could conceivably be delayed, which would save the province a big whack of money during the NDP's first term in office.
Corrigan could justify it this way: the elimination of tolls has distributed the traffic more evenly across the Fraser River, with a greater share of people coming via the Port Mann Bridge. Therefore, there's no hurry.
That might help prevent even more traffic bottlenecks in Burnaby.
In the meantime, the NDP government has sent the plan to replace the George Massey Tunnel with a 10-lane bridge to a technical review.
As long as Corrigan is chairing the TransLink Mayors' Council, this project is likely dead in the water.
If all of this comes to pass, it's going to anger some property speculators who've bought land with the belief that the region will be getting new bridges and rapid-transit lines.
They're out of luck and that's not going to cause Corrigan or Walton to lose any sleep. Robertson, on the other hand, was in a position to deliver goodies to developers in his position as chair of the TransLink Mayors' Council, something that's rarely, if ever, been noted in the media.
For Corrigan and Walton, the top concerns are traffic congestion in their municipalities.
Burnaby is one of those cities that commuters pass through on their way to work.
The District of North Vancouver's traffic problems are creating headaches for Walton as he tries to meet his council's obligations to increase population in accordance with the regional growth strategy.
Walton has been one of the region's foremost advocates of road pricing.
That's because a demand-side management measure like this can even out the flow of traffic during peak periods.
For these two mayors, imposing a cost on driving based on kilometres travelled could alleviate a major political headache in their communities.
For Burnaby, it could lead to less traffic congestion along Kingsway, Highway 1, Canada Way, and the Lougheed Highway. It would also make it easier to cross the Lions Gate and Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing during busy periods.
There would be much less hassle for local residents making short trips, which is a big plus for the mayor of the District of North Vancouver.
So what does the recent defeat of Robertson at the Mayors' Council really mean?
For one, residents can likely expect a greater push for road pricing.
It's also possible that there will be less emphasis on major capital projects, because neither Walton nor Corrigan will ever get a new rapid-transit line in their community.
We might even see a little more compassion when it comes to transit fares.
Keep in mind that Premier Horgan says he wants to make life more affordable for people who voted for him.
Keeping a lid on transit-fare hikes is one way to accomplish that. And Corrigan, a close Horgan ally, is now in a position to make that a reality.