TransLink board chair Nancy Olewiler promised last year to open up the deliberations of transportation authority directors.

Promise of open TransLink board meetings unkept

Closed-door decision making persists despite 2012 pledge

TransLink directors are still making all their decisions behind closed doors despite a year-old promise to open up board meetings to public scrutiny.

Board chair Nancy Olewiler said she hasn’t given up on her pledge, but it’s on hold for now pending the outcome of talks to reform TransLink’s structure.

“One of the things that has come up since I made that commitment was the province and the mayors’ council agreed to review governance,” she said.

Rather than set new policy on how to open up board meetings now, she said, it makes sense to wait and see what happens.

“It may be automatic that there would be open board meetings,” she said of a possible deal between mayors and the province.

“One of the reasons we were holding off was to see what happened with the election,” Olewiler added.

A spring victory by the NDP, which promised to fully restore control of TransLink by elected officials, might have brought more sweeping change than the re-elected BC Liberal government.

TransLink’s board spends $1.3 billion a year – mostly from fares, property taxes and fuel tax – on transit operations, some road and bridge work as well as other services such as the Transit Police.

“There’s a million excuses for the lack of transparency but none of them hold water,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said.

He said the board should do everything it can to be as open as possible without waiting for governance change.

“Opening up what you do for the public is never harmful.”

The board starts meetings with a public input session where delegations that register in advance can make presentations before the room is closed.

But media and public observers haven’t witnessed actual decision making since 2008, when the province swept away the old board of elected mayors and councillors and a board of unelected professional appointees took over.

Three of the nine directors are replaced each year and a screening panel is deliberating on which of more than 100 candidates will be short-listed. The mayors’ council appoints three new directors from the short list each fall.

The province last year offered to create two more seats on the TransLink board for the chair and vice-chair of the mayors’ council.

But that was rejected by most mayors, who noted the board meetings would still be in camera and the two elected reps would be muzzled from reporting back publicly on board deliberations to the other mayors or their councils.

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