Something has to change when it comes to people moving around Metro Vancouver.
But as quick as Metro Vancouver asked Tuesday that the Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation run TransLink, the province shot it down.
Now, it’s on to plan B – improving how the mayors and TransLink get along.
“While we can all play the blaming and shaming game, the fact remains the legislation is not going to change. The governance structure is not going to change,” Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said Wednesday.
The idea to have the mayors take over TransLink came from a Metro Vancouver task force, but the minister responsible for TransLink, Peter Fassbender, said there will be no changes.
So get used to it, says Becker, who is on the task force.
“If we’re going to accomplish something, we need to work within the existing structure and figure out ways to work better together.
“We can either walk away and look like morons or we can work within the confines the senior government imposes on us.”
The task force, now under the mayors council, will next look at how to improve relations between the mayors and the current, unelected TransLink board.
Metro Vancouver suggests that quarterly meetings take place between the them.
If all that results in a better relationship with Victoria, “sooner, rather than later, we would be inviting the province” into the meetings so cities and the province know what each other’s doing, Becker said.
The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation was created in the province’s 2007 reorganization of TransLink when elected officials were turfed off the board and replaced with unelected professional directors.
Mayors were stripped of any real power over TransLink and left mainly with decisions on whether to approve tax hikes.
Becker, last summer, suggested that TransLink be run as a utility within Metro Vancouver when he asked for the transportation review.
Relationships could improve with a new federal government, which has promised more money for transit. That could mean easing of the province’s rule that new sources of cash for transportation must first get the public’s OK.
“If we’re looking at federal dollars, billions available for transportation infrastructure … I believe that we may see some flexibility from the provincial government with respect to funding sources and not have to go through the dog and pony [show] of this stupid plebiscite,” Becker said,
“which the HST referendum should have taught us all, and certainly province, that is not the way to deal with sophisticated, tax-revenue planning.”
Premier Christy Clark’s government required, last spring, a TransLink proposal to raise the sales tax by half a per cent in Metro Vancouver to pay for the mayor’s transportation plan, go to plebiscite.
The proposed Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax that would have funded $7.5 billion in upgrades over 10 years.
The public defeated that proposal in a mail-in vote in May, voting 62 per cent against.
Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows led the opposition to the tax increase, with 77 per cent and 72 per cent voting no, respectively.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read had opposed the entire plebiscite because the provincial government was making mayors responsible for the system without giving them the authority to do so.
The province, in 2011, also held a referendum on the harmonized sales tax, which combined the federal GST and PST. The HST was defeated, causing the government to dismantle the HST and revert to the two-tax system.
But with money now available, the mayors’ transportation plan that was part of the spring’s plebiscite has been reinvigorated, Becker said.
“The plebiscite rejected the funding model for the plan, but the plan itself survived largely unscathed.”
The plan promised a B-line bus service connecting Maple Ridge to the new Evergreen SkyTrain in Coquitlam, as well as more West Coast Express service.
Becker said if TransLink relationships improve, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows could get more bus service.
Read supported having the mayors council run TransLink.
Transportation has to be connected to land use, and Metro Vancouver has a solid record in that, she explained. The mayors better understand their cities and the region especially from a land-use perspective.
“We’ve got so many people coming to this region in the next few decades. We need to be able to move people and goods,” she said.
“We need to see change there’s no question. We’ve got to be able to move this forward.”
Maple Ridge isn’t high enough on the list for transit priorities, she added.