Governance & Politics
October 30, 2007

Feedback on the Feedback

I spent all day yesterday at a Stakeholder Transportation Forum – part of the public consultation process for Transport 2040, to help shape TransLink’s 30-year strategy.
And lest your  eyes glaze over and your brain turn numb when contemplating such a wonk-fest, be assured, this was one of the best such processes I’ve attended – certainly the best use of the Wosk Centre I’ve ever seen – where the feedback was immediately transcribed, refined by a ‘theme team,’ projected for all to see and vote on, and the senior staff of the agency were all present to listen.
Of course it was also a bit of a farce.  It doesn’t much matter what we think: the real 30-year plan will be devised in Victoria, by people we have never heard of, who never attend sessions like this, who are accountable to basically one man – the Minister of Transportation.
Under the proposed restructuring of TransLink, the provincial government establishes the 30-year vision for integrated transportation from Pemberton to Hope; it sets “clear goals to guide TransLink and other transportation agencies in preparing their respective plans.”
Regardless of what the citizens of the Lower Mainland may prefer, TransLink’s strategy and plans must be consistent with the provincial government’s.  If Victoria determines that the Lower Mainland is to become the loading dock of North America, then the priority will be the roads and bridges and rail lines needed to achieve that, and that’s where the money will go.
In any event, much of the discussion that filled the Wosk Centre simply isn’t relevant to the Ministry of Transportation.  It’s policy branch, for instance, is described as “responsible for planning the future of the highway system and for implementing large scale capital projects.”  No menton of land use, transit, climate change, sustainability, blah, blah.  These boys build roads.
I keep waiting to hear when stakeholder consultation will occur with the Ministry of Transportation – really, the only people who count, since they will be the ones shaping our future.  I understand they meet with the Gateway Council, with those whose vision is consistent with the Minister’s, but what about all those who spent a day at the Wosk Centre? 
Perhaps the policy-makers in Victoria will get a PowerPoint presentation and a pdf file.
   

Read more »

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.

Read more »

No doubt the Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon, would like to thank all those who criticized TransLink for its failings and lack of accountability.  That provided the necessary cover to ‘reform’ an organization which had few defenders.  And to turn it over to an unelected board dominated by business interests.
Though there’s not been a lot of coverage in the major media, the proposed governance model is not going uncriticized.   Most effectively, Johnny Carline, the CAO of the GVRD, weighed in with a report that was affirmed by the Board.
You can read the whole report here.  But here’s the critical thrust:

… the Panel Report recommends that the new TransLink Board be composed of appointees with a strong emphasis on business expertise. That expertise is important in any governance model. It is usual to assume that senior staff will bring many of these skills to an organization and that it is desirable that a body of elected officials on a governing body includes business expertise amongst its skill set.

But to make ‘business expertise’ the central focus and overwhelming emphasis of what will be the effective governing body for transportation within the region is to take a dangerously narrow view of transportation as a ‘business’ divorced from its broader, vital public policy role.

If, however, it is to be argued that the new business Board will in fact be responsible for making the public policy decisions centrally involved in urban transportation decision making, and that having an ‘expert’ board unaccountable to the electorate is an appropriate model for such a role, then it would appear that far more than amending the governance of TransLink may be happening. The whole concept of what is considered to be politics and democracy versus what is considered to be business may be under reconstruction.  (My emphasis.)

In other words, the new TransLink is fundamentally undemocratic.  To turn the future of this region over to those whose allegiances will be suspect doesn’t pass the smell test. 

But will people in this region raise a stink?

 

Read more »

The Minister of Transportation is turning TransLink over to a special-interest group. One board member will be appointed by the Province, another by the Mayors’ Council, and the rest put forward by:
o Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC;
o Vancouver Board of Trade;
o Greater Vancouver Gateway Society.
No transit users, no community-based groups, no cyclists, no land-use planners, no one but business.
Hence, no legitimacy.

Read more »