Stephen Rees's blog

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

Mayors obliging Falcon’s rule

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The Courier

The pilgrimage by Metro Vancouver mayors heading to Victoria to kiss Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon’s ring is a sign of things to come.

Now that TransLink is on the verge of disintegration, with one more meeting left before the new provincial legislation is put in place, politicians are reverting to form. That is to say, in a manner reminiscent before 1999 when the NDP turned responsibility for transit over to the GVRD, mayors are directly lobbying Victoria for transit favours.

This matters because Victoria – and especially Kevin”done deal” Falcon – does not give a stuff about a “Livable Region”.   Or indeed anything much beyond his own political ambitions and the financial success of his backers.

So anything that has been committed to paper in terms of priorities for investment goes back into the pot for reconsideration. And the first victim will be of course the much delayed “Evergreen Line” to Coquitlam. Ahead of the silly Rapid Bus for the Port Mann Bridge announcement, a lot of people thought that line would be diverted to the median of Highway #1 and blast off down to Langley. And, in an odd kind of way that did make some sort of sense, when seen through Falcon’s spectacles. But that would cost lots of money, and the private sector is getting more and more nervous about governments’ offers of P3’s.  The credit crunch and growing distaste for “commercial paper’ (i.e. corporate debt) is going to affect the ability of these companies to raise finance at reasonable rates, and I would expect that what I knew as “gilt edged stock” in Britain (government debt backed by taxing ability) will look a lot more appealing to investors seeking a bolt hole.

But what now will happen is that instead of brokering deals at the big gold building on Kingsway, the mayors will be stabbing each other in the back and spending a small fortune on HeliJet tickets.  Though the outcome may not be that different. After all, the last two rapid transit lines were determined by the Premier of the day, and neither had featured in any plan in the way they were built. And for all the bluff about ridership and economic necessity the political allegiances of the areas they served and the government of the day were notably congruent.

Unfortunately that is no help at all since Falcon needs Vancouver west side support nearly as much as he needs south of the Fraser – and neither are going to vote NDP any time soon.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 29, 2007 at 7:15 pm

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