The Metro Vancouver mayors’ council has voted against letting its chair and vice-chair sit on the appointed TransLink board that controls the transportation authority from behind closed doors.
The provincial government offered the two voting seats on the nine-member board this spring as part of a modest legislative reform to TransLink, but it didn’t go far enough to satisfy mayors who want more control over TransLink’s spending.
“It would provide minority seats on a board that is still dominantly appointed,” said mayors’ council chair Richard Walton, the mayor of North Vancouver District.
Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, the mayors’ council vice-chair, said he may still take his seat anyway, despite the opposing vote of the majority of the mayors’ council on June 20.
“I’m not happy with the decision,” he said, adding he believes using the two seats would be an opportunity to “get rid of this them-and-us attitude and start to build bridges.”
The mayors’ council decision isn’t directly binding, but Fassbender acknowledged other mayors could seek a vote to remove him as vice-chair if he takes the board seat.
Several mayors worried having mayors also serve on the TransLink board would lead to divided loyalties, compromising their ability to fight for taxpayers.
Fassbender called that a non-issue and said it was a chance to improve TransLink decision-making while working for deeper reform over the longer term.
Nine professional directors on the TransLink board have made all decisions since 2008 when a previous provincial overhaul of TransLink swept aside the old elected board of mayors and councillors.
The mayors council created at the same time only controls whether the TransLink board gets new or increased taxes to spend expanding the system, not the details of any expansion.
The two mayors would also get extra pay as a TransLink director – roughly $60,000 a year.
Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom said Monday he was disappointed with the “disheartening” decision to reject the seats, adding the two reps would have had meaningful input.
“I guess what they’re saying is unless they get their way, no other way is good enough,” Lekstrom told reporters. “That’s a tough bargaining position.”
He said the province won’t blow up the existing model and hand 100 per cent control back to mayors and councillors.
“I can assure them that’s not happening.”
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said she supported using the two seats but said many others saw it as a “Band-Aid solution.”
Mayors must now press Victoria for more meaningful reform, she added.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart also wanted to use the seats.
“This measure is not complete or perfect,” he said. “But it would have been a step in the right direction.”
Walton said the mayors’ council will commission a study of the governance problem ahead of an expected debate in the fall on what to request next of the province.
In addition to more control over the setting of TransLink project priorities, Walton said any new model must ensure better coordination of transportation planning and land-use planning, which cities control.