Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

TransLink can’t lose accountability

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The Richmond Review editorial Jan 6, 2007

A regional authority that is effective is uncomfortable for governments at both the municipal and the provincial level. The GVRD and the GVTA are heartily disliked by both levels of government – even though they are actually controlled by the municipalities collectively. Municipalities bitterly resent their peers telling them what to do. The province in its sphere loves its sovereignty – the government can do anything it likes. But every so often the region threatens that (the Canada Line). Not that the province has ever given much thought to why the region might think it understands what is needed here better than a legislature that is dominated by the rest of BC (“the heartland” is so much more important than a simple majority of the electorate) .

This is not peculiar to BC – or even Canada. Mrs Thatcher hated the Greater London Council so much she abolished the entire level of regional metropolitan government. Ontario has always starved Toronto of provincial funding – especially for desperately needed transit service.

I don’t often agree with Black Press editorials, but this one almost gets it right. What is really needed is more accountability at the regional level. Clear distinctions between what is municipal and what is regional. Effective powers over such things as taxation and land use. Above all direct elections, and mandatory referenda for major capital projects. And real consultation on a regular basis for regional land use and transportation plans. Translink should be less concerned with service delivery (that’s the job of its subsidiaries who should be more independent and held accountable through service delivery contracts just like everywhere in BC outside of Vancouver and Victoria). The GVRD itself needs an overhaul too, so why not do the job properly and create effective, responsible and representative metropolitan government at the regional level?

Don’t worry. It’s not going to happen.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 8, 2007 at 5:36 pm

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