Facing resistance from municipal politicians, the B.C. Liberal government is backing away from plans to hold a referendum on Metro Vancouver transit funding during this November's civic elections.
In a letter today (February 6), Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone told Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation chair Richard Walton that the province is willing to delay the vote until June 30, 2015.
"The provincial government has stated that to minimize cost, maximize voter participation and provide the best opportunity for broad public discussion on transportation expansion and how it is funded, holding the referendum concurrent with the 2014 local government elections in Metro Vancouver makes the most sense," Stone wrote.
"Some members of the Mayors’ Council have stated, however, that not enough time remains before November to adequately deliver a referendum - to develop a fully costed plan, to finalize the question and to ensure the region’s taxpayers have time to fully consider what they will be asked to vote on.
"Therefore, the provincial government is willing to extend the referendum window to no later than June 30, 2015. To ensure sufficient time is available for in-depth public discussion, this extension depends on the Mayors’ Council articulating and presenting a regional vision, with specific priorities and costs."
Stone is also proposing to tweak the governance of TransLink, by granting the mayors’ council increased powers and handing the TransLink commissioner's responsibilities over to the council.
However, Stone doesn't plan to change the structure of the appointed board of directors.
"To support the Mayors’ Council and TransLink in their development of a clear transportation vision, the provincial government will put forward legislation that significantly increases the ability of the Mayors’ Council to establish TransLink’s long-term strategies and to approve its plans and projects. The Mayors’ Council will be granted approval powers over TransLink’s 30 year strategy, as well as over a fully funded rolling 10 year investment plan," Stone stated.
Stone also said: "Consistent with this expanded governance role, the Mayors’ Council would, for example, also have a voice in establishing the remuneration of TransLink’s board and executive. Recognizing that these new responsibilities and accountabilities will place greater demands on the Mayors’ Council, we will ensure that the Mayors’ Council has appropriate resources to support this expanded role.
"With these added resources to support its efforts, and to strengthen the relationship between the Mayors’ Council and the TransLink board, it is my hope that the Chair and Vice Chair of the Mayor’s Council will assume the two positions currently available to the Mayor’s Council on the TransLink board and thus fully participate in the board’s deliberations moving forward."
According to Stone, the government plans to introduce legislation to facilitate these changes in the next session of the legislature.