Business interests dominate new TransLink panel
By Jeff Nagel
Black Press
Aug 22 2007
The province has taken its first step toward installing a professional unelected board of directors to run a radically reformed TransLink. A screening panel of five people that critics say is too heavily weighted in favour of business interests has now been chosen to nominate prospective TransLink directors.
The panel consists of:
•Graham Clarke, chosen by the province. He is chair of the Vancouver International Airport Authority, governor of the Vancouver Board of Trade and owner of the Clarke Group of Companies.
•Former NDP premier Mike Harcourt, nominated by TransLink directors and Metro Vancouver mayors.
•Hugh Lindsay, chosen by the BC Institute of Chartered Accountants, is president of FMG Financial Mentors Group Inc.
•Dave Park, nominated by the Vancouver Board of Trade and that organization’s chief economist.
•Bob Wilds, nominated by the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council. He is the council’s managing director and is on the board of the Business Council of B.C. and a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade.
The five panelists are to propose 15 qualified candidates, from which a group of area mayors will select nine directors who will form the new TransLink board in January.
The panel is expected to begin its work soon on orders of transportation minister Kevin Falcon even though the legislation to overhaul TransLink introduced in the spring has not yet become law.

Note, these are not the people on the new board; they will choose those who will be, after being vetted by the region’s Mayors.  
The easiest question to ask of them is, of course: do you use transit.  But that’s a cheap shot. 
No, the critical question is this: name the place you’d like us to be more like.  Tell us about your vision for Vancouver and the Fraser Valley – and how you anticipate the investment we make in transportation will help achieve this vision.
Since we’re turning over city building in this paradise (to paraphrase the title of Mike Harcourt’s new book) to the Board of Trade, we need to know what their version of paradise is like.  So we won’t be surprised.

Comments

  1. The question “do you use transit” is highly appropriate. It’s not a cheap shot at all.
    I can recall one former transit boss, now a local politician highly critical of Gateway, who leased an expensive Saab motorcar during his years running the transit system.
    I think it might be highly revealing not just to ask but to investigate the car ownership and driving patterns of all of the Gateway critics, from the LRCoalition, SPEC, the Suzuki Foundation, the works. And what about their property holdings along the Sea-to-Sky corridor, where they have chosen not to oppose the highway expansion? Why hasn’t the Georgia Straight investigated that issue?

  2. It is a source of real frustration for me that there are so few publicly available details about the new Translink. I realize that not all of the recommendations by the governance review committee will be implemented and I know the Province seems to have distanced itself from the proposed land use powers that justifiably raised the hackles of politicians, planners, and scholars as a major overreach of jurisdictional authority. But what of the absurdity of an organization with dueling boards of directors? As I understand it, if the Mayoral Board rejects the Unelected Board’s plan the latter only has to wait 90 days and can then proceed without the elected official’s approval. I have never heard of such rot.
    I do think that the governance review brought forward several valuable recommendations, specifically the ability of Translink to partially-finance new projects through the increase in value of land surrounding new rapid transit stations. The standby example of how this can work is Hong Kong, where the transit authority is also a major landlord of mixed-use developments at the stations that serve the surrounding community with services and amenities, regardless of whether one partakes in a transit trip.
    Lastly, while I think there is merit to regularly evaluating the governance structure of an organization, I strongly do not feel the case has been adequately made for such a significant reorganization of Translink.

  3. It is rather ironic that Budd Campbell mentions the Georgia Straight. A few years ago the newspaper had an article almost weekly condemning the RAV line as being the source of a massive drain on Translink’s resources. This rather pro-collectivist media organisation attacked Translink for being undemocratically structured. A divided Translink board enabled Kevin Falcon to quickly hatch his 1950s-like WAC Bennett-style Gateway trucking freeway scheme.
    The Translink board, unlike a provincial cabinet, was rarely united. This bred an environment for easy criticism, as the media always had a quote from a critic who might very possibly muster enough opposition to defeat a Translink proposal.
    The open, transparent atmosphere gave groups such as the Bus Riders Union, increasingly noxious as time went on, the opportunity to grand-stand. Did these people earlier come to the defense of George Puil when he tried to steer through the auto levy to increase public transit, especially buses? Did the Georgia Strait try to make a case for the auto levy while George Puil got smacked around trying to defend a auto levy funded transportation proposal to suburbia?
    The GVTA was not particularly adept at developing projects to counter the Gateway. A study of Patullo options, including New Westminster Rail Bridge replacement – a true gateway transportation project, crying for federal funding if there was one – has only recently been put to tender. A rebuilt, tolled road/freight and commuter rail Patullo Bridge could have aborted the Port Mann twinning plans since no un-tolled Fraser crossings other than the Alex Fraser and Deas Island Tunnel exist. A Patullo road-rail bridge (if it’s feasible) could have devoured the Gateway federal funds now going to the South Perimeter Road, a project of questionable national value, unlike the federally regulated nation-spanning railways.
    The GVTA-sceptical business-friendly Vancouver Province regularly reported Patullo fatalities, but Tranlink as an organisation did not (and perhaps could not, owing to its structure) pounce on this issue to enhance its legitimacy. It did not strike while the iron was hot.
    What can be expected of the new organisation?
    * funding raised via property taxes/gas taxes rather than tolls
    * public consultation via polls rather than town-hall meetings
    * little emphasis on public issues such as ghgs, public health, preservation of the ALR and green-spaces
    * growing influence of trucking lobby, road-builders association, BCAA, and port authority

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