Government gives more control to Mayors’ Council on regional transportation

TRANSPORTATION and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone on Thursday introduced legislation that places greater authority for TransLink in the hands of the Mayors’ Council and lays the groundwork for a public, region-wide transportation funding referendum.

Government is giving the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation new tools that can be used to expand the regional transportation system.

The Mayors’ Council released a governance review last spring, which said TransLink services are world-class and that the funding sources available to fund those services are enviable. The report said there is more right than wrong with TransLink, but acknowledged that the governance structure needs work.

Governance of TransLink: The Mayors’ Council has asked government for more say over TransLink plans and investments.

Government has now responded with amendments to the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act. The changes will allow the Mayors’ Council to approve TransLink’s long term strategies, including a 30-year regional transportation strategy and new, fully-funded, 10-year investment plans.

The Mayors’ Council will also assume the responsibilities of the TransLink Commissioner. The council will approve fare increases, decide the sale of major assets, and oversee TransLink’s complaints and customer satisfaction survey processes.

The Mayors’ Council will also oversee executive and board of director remuneration.

Government will also be adding two provincial appointees to the TransLink board of directors to improve communications between TransLink, the Mayors’ Council and the provincial government. The size of the board will remain unchanged, with 11 members.

Regional Transportation Funding Referendum: The provincial government is committed to a regional funding referendum before new fees or taxes are used to expand the Metro Vancouver transportation system.

Thursday, Stone introduced the new South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Funding Referenda Act, which will enable a referendum to occur during local government elections, thereby keeping the costs of the referendum under control.

The legislation enables government to reimburse local and First Nation governments for the costs of delivering a referendum, and will allow the Mayors’ Council to have direct input into the wording of a referendum question.

Government has also said that a referendum could be held outside of the local government elections as a stand-alone vote, but only if it is held before June 2015.

The Mayors’ Council will determine the timing of a referendum. To help with this decision, Stone has requested that the Mayors’ develop a regional transportation vision by June 30, 2014. This vision would also help Metro Vancouver voters decide what’s best for the future of the regional transportation system.

Government has acted to strengthen the Mayors’ Council role in establishing TransLink’s long-term strategy and plans. In turn, government has asked that the Mayors’ Council define a regional transportation vision with priorities and costs, to work with government as the council considers funding sources and finalizes a referendum question, and to publicly advocate for the success of a referendum that will support the region’s objectives for decades to come.

Stone said: “The governance improvements are real change that places more authority in the hands of the Mayors’ Council. With greater authority comes greater accountability, and I am confident the mayors will embrace the opportunities ahead of them.

“The provincial government is committed to facilitating a public, region-wide transportation referendum. It’s a commitment we made in the last election and that citizens supported. We will deliver on that promise.”