A week to wander – to Texas, as it happens.
So I’ll leave you with another poll to take the mood at the moment.
The last time PT took a poll on whether the referendum might pass was on December 11, just at the time the Mayors’ transportation package was announced. Over two-thirds of the 320 PT readers who responded thought it would.
So what do you think now?
Rather than showing the results continually, we’ll wait until next week to do so after we have received more responses from MLAs, which I’ll continue to post as they come in.
My sense of the campaign so far: the only issue is TransLink; most people support the package and, given a selection of difficult choices, the 0.5 percent increase in the regional sales tax.
But there needs to be some commitment to change in the governance structure of TransLink, regardless of the referendum’s outcome. And that assurance needs to be made by the person who can make it happen.
That’s the Premier, of course, but we’d settle for Minister Stone.
Change is coming. The credibility of pretty much the entire leadership of this region, public and private, is on the line – and the vote is in some way a vote of confidence. That’s particularly true for the appointed board – good people all but who would need to consider stepping down in the event of a negative outcome, perhaps at the same the mayors will be considering whether to walk away from any political responsibility for TransLink.
I’ll confess to some disappointment that the current arrangement has failed so badly, even though the changes imposed in 2008 were ill-considered. I think the man responsible for them, Kevin Falcon, the provincial transportation minister at that time, wanted TransLink to be governed more like YVR or Port Metro Vancouver, with a board of appointees who would make the considered and tough decisions behind closed doors. That has worked reasonably well for those agencies, after all, who report to only one level of government.
But TransLink also had to have a political board, and it had to come from a different level of government. Only elected representatives can levy taxes, and some of them had to be regional. But Falcon didn’t want them ‘interfering’ in how the money would effectively be spent, which meant a split jurisdiction between appointed and political boards. Thus TransLink had no face, no single person whom the public could see as accountable. Nor was there any love lost between the two bodies so that ultimately, the organization was undermined by spitefulness, making it an easy target for the anti-government animosity which has become the basis for a no vote – an easy rationalization for many who will say in retrospect that their vote was a message not a rejection.
I must note my personal involvement in all this. I was appointed by the Mayors’ Council to sit on the screening committee that made recommendations to the mayors on whom to appoint to the board. The panel narrowed down the applicants; the mayors chose. And that was about the extent of their direct influence.
That arrangement can’t go on – not without a lot of blame and little likelihood of constructive reform.
TransLink needs a single board and a single face. It needs electoral accountability. It needs defending. It is, after the over-the-top attacks are discounted, one of the better transit agencies in North America with a defensible record – just no one to defend it.
But change in its structure comes after the referendum. The question is whether, in focusing so much on TransLink dysfunction, we inadvertently send the region into dysfunction with a negative vote that can’t be renegotiated.
More to discuss on that when I return. Read more »