Metro Vancouver mayors renew call for TransLink governance review
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Minister Responsible for TransLink, Selina Robinson gives a keynote address at the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual conference in Vancouver on Sept. 27, 2017. (Submitted/UBCM)
The Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation is urging the provincial government to move ahead with a promised review of TransLink’s governance structure.
In their election platform, the B.C. NDP said they would “work with Metro municipalities to develop a new TransLink governance model that provides the structure, the funding model and the certainty to make good transportation decisions to manage the system well …”
The mayors are holding the new government to that promise, resolving during an in camera meeting in July (the results of which were just released) that they would ask the province to announce that it will review the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act — which created TransLink — to consider governance changes.
TransLink is governed by a board of directors, which is considered the decision-making body for the transit authority, and the Mayors’ Council, which approves transportation plans and long-term strategies. The 11-member board is comprised of seven individuals appointed by the council, the council’s chair and vice-chair and up to two members appointed by the province.
“Really, it’s a holdover from the previous government and the previous issues where we had suggested some time ago that … frankly, the governance model at TransLink needed to have a majority of people around the table who were elected by the people,” Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, who is vice-chair of the Mayors’ Council and therefore on the board of directors, said of the resolution.
“It was always a request to reconsider the existing model to allow for a broader voice for elected officials.”
TransLink’s governance structure has been a long-standing issue for Metro Vancouver mayors.
The last time they called for a review was in 2015, following the failed transportation tax plebiscite. Metro Vancouver even struck a task force to consider alternative governance structures — including modelling transit like a public utility or following examples from other countries.
The task force met three times and recommended legislative changes to allow the Mayors’ Council to assume sole responsibility for transportation policy in the region. In the interim, the task force recommended that there be quarterly joint planning sessions between the TransLink board and Mayors’ Council.
Working within the legislation — which did not end up being updated — Hepner said there have been some positive changes to the structure. She said elected officials have been included in a number of committees and there have been joint meetings of the board and council.
“The engagement of the mayors has been much more inclusive in the last year, but I still know that the mayors would prefer a model that has a majority of elected officials around the table,” Hepner said.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said he fully expects the NDP to live up to its campaign promise to conduct a review, and would prefer to see it done sooner rather than later — before next year’s municipal election would be ideal.
He said TransLink’s governance is top of mind for most mayors in the region, and having just the mayors of the two biggest cities on the board is not enough.
“It’s unanimous on the part of the mayors that they want governance change,” Corrigan said, adding that his preference would be to dissolve the board altogether.
When asked about the resolution, Minister Responsible for TransLink Selina Robinson said, “Right now it is in my mandate letter to do a review and that’s something we’ll be certainly taking a look at.”
In fact, the review is not mentioned in Robinson’s mandate letter, although funding the Mayors’ Council’s 10-Year Vision for Metro Vancouver Transportation is. Robinson said her focus is currently on other issues, including moving forward with the mayors’ vision.
Regarding when the review may take place, Robinson said, “Not as of this very second.”
With files from Rob Shaw.