Stephen Rees's blog

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

Translink Hijacked

with 2 comments

Regular readers will know that I was very much against the creation of SoCoBritCa, and I even cast aspersions on the new board before it was selected . That prompted a “pounce” from Ken Hardie – who thought I was not being fair. Since then I have reported on the views of Mayor Derek Corrigan, who, in his inimitable fashion, was much less retsrained than I was. And now in the Tyee, Rafe Mair has a go.

It is worth reading the whole thing but here is a clip to give you the flavour

Nine members of the business community all approved in advance by Premier Campbell to represent the needs of two million Vancouverites.

To hell with citizens

How do you feel about this TransLink if you live in a part of Metro Vancouver who doesn’t vote right?

These men and women with no mandate from taxpayers will decide how hundreds of millions of your taxes will be spent. When the argument is made that they were approved by the mayors, remember that the only discretion the mayors had was to pick nine names from Campbell’s list of 15 friends of his government.

We’ve seen it before

All of this, of course, fits into a well established mode of operation by the Campbell government. Let’s revisit a couple of projects where local mayors, councils and citizens have been shut out of the process — unless you consider being consulted after the deal is done due process.

There’s the expansion, upgrading and dramatic changing of the Sea-to-Sky highway.

There is no question that this is a dangerous highway but were it not for the 2010 Olympics, much could have been done to make it much safer by modest changes and much better policing.

What now will happen is a series of developments along the highway and considerable expansion of Squamish with the public only consulted after the decision was made. On the axiom “Build it and they will come,” it will not be long before the new four lane highway will be no better at handling the traffic than the present one.

Another obvious area which will be similarly impacted is the Municipality of Delta, one of the oldest, if not the oldest farming community in British Columbia. The South Fraser Perimeter Road will have a substantial impact on sensitive environmental areas and, as “progress” continues, more people will arrive and roads and other infrastructures will need more expanding and upgrading.

Cruel farce

Government environmental impact studies are a cruel farce. By the time the government orders them the deal has already been done. Consultations with the public are about as fair as “show trials” used to be behind the Iron Curtain.

What happens when Victoria wants to do something against the wishes of a local council?

The Campbell government does it anyway and to hell with letting citizens and their councils into the project before it’s a done deal. The politicians closest to you, your municipal councils, can do nothing because Victoria in the person of Gordon Campbell has stripped away its rights.

Now as I think you may recall I am currently reading Jane Jacobs’ “Dark Age Ahead” and she has some pertinent observations

Susidiarity is the principle that government works best – most responsibly and responsively – when it is closest to the people it serves and the need it addresses. Fiscal accountability is the principle that institutions collecting and disbursing taxes work most responsibly when they are transparent to those providing the money.

As I think I have made clear before, the old GVTA was somewhat lacking in responsiveness. People felt that it was remote from them. They also blamed the GVTA for decisions that were actually being taken in Victoria (the route and construction method of The Canada Line, the lack of an Evergreen Line and so on) . So I do not say that the GVTA could not have been improved. But it is also very clear that the new SoCoBritCA violates these two important principles in a far more significant way than the GVTA did. Jane Jacobs goes to describe what happened historically to cities which followed the two principles – they grew and were successful – and those that don’t – they decline. And the real ire of her Chapter “Dumbed Down Taxes” is directed at the position of Canadian municipalities that cannot succeed no matter what they do thanks to our adherence to “principles” that are said to be constitutional but really are just provincial politicians who are greedy for power and refuse to give up any control. Sound like a premier we know?

So on the one hand we have Gordon Campbell, Kevin Falcon and Ken Hardie.

And on the other we have Derek Corrigan, Rafe Mair and Jane Jacobs.

Who would you rather trust with the care of your wallet? Or your transit system?

Written by Stephen Rees

December 17, 2007 at 5:49 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Who among the above has the mandate and the resources to pay for everything we need? I think you’ll agree, Stephen, that the local taxpayer and transit user has been pretty heavily tapped to get the system this far, but we still have enormous needs that are unfulfilled.

    TransLink has made the point ever since day one that senior governments had to make a greater contribution. Can’t ask them to do that and not influence the way the dollars are spent.

    BTW, the Canada Line route was in the LRSP, the COPE council of the day in Vancouver wanted it underground.

    Ken Hardie

    December 18, 2007 at 5:59 pm

  2. Yes Ken, and Kevin has made certain that the local taxpayer will get hit three times – higher property taxes, higher fares and higher gas taxes. Now if some of the billions being wasted on the Gateway could be spent on transit, perhaps we might stand a chance of making this region Livable.

    The Canada Line as being built now was not in the LRSP. The transportation plan (Transport 2021) which was adopted entire into the LRSP was deliberately vague about many things – including the technology of choice for “Intermediate Capacity Transit Systems” and their precise route. Vancouver Council managed to hobble the Rapid Bus proposal – while getting much better bus service for citizens of Marpole. Steady incremental improvements to the #98 B Line to bring it up to BRT specifications would have been much cheaper – and far flung suburbs could have retained their one seat express bus ride downtown. This would have still met the LRSP needs. So would a streetcar along Arbutus.

    I suspect that many other councils expressed equally expensive wishes about their pet rapid transit projects – but they did not get their wishes. Richmond, for example, wanted at grade LRT. I think it is more significant that Ken Dobell devised a package that he knew he could sell to a number of interest groups.

    Senior Governments cannot resist micromanaging projects they fund. This produces “one size fits all” solutions which fit no-one very well. Much better that local people who understand local needs manage local projects. Senior Governments should either transfer tax points to municipal governments (based on the local income tax take) or just back off and leave some “tax headroom” for taxes that are much more efficient and fair than property tax

    Stephen Rees

    December 19, 2007 at 11:59 am

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