upon your point of view, TransLink is either a wasteful, marginally
competent transit authority or it's a wasteful, marginally competent
At least both sides in Metro Vancouver's upcoming transit referendum
seem to agree on that one point, even though they may express it
In the weeks ahead, expect the No side to talk TransLink ad nauseum,
while the Yes side will try and talk about anything but. “TransLink?
Sorry, doesn't ring a bell.”
Well – as the Yes side may learn to its chagrin – in politics it's not
he who laughs last, who laughs longest, it's he who defines first, who
And hate to be a party pooper, but the elephant in the living room –
TransLink – can't be ignored.
With assets operating on the sea, the roads, under the roads and in the
air (well, at least elevated), TransLink is unique. It boasts that it's
“the first North American transportation authority to be responsible for
the planning, financing and managing of all public transit in addition
to major regional roads and bridges.”
Good reason for that. The two mandates don't go well together. It's kind
of like Steve Nash Fitness World operating a chain of burger joints.
TransLink has three subsidiaries, not including its own police force.
All told there are 22 members on the four boards of directors, only one
of whom is elected to local government. But then TransLink has that
other layer of governance: the Mayors' Council on Regional
In 2013, it had 232.5 million passengers. It's much vaunted Compass card
will be deployed. Sometime. Really.
Montreal's transit authority – the Société de transport de Montréal –
has no operating subsidiaries. It's one board of directors has 10
members, seven of whom are elected to local governments. No Mayors'
In 2013, it had 416.5 million passengers. Its equivalent to the Compass
card was introduced in 2008 and fully deployed by 2010.
But the real problem with half-baked campaign promises such as the
transit funding referendum is that any one of a host of unforeseen
factors can lead to a doozy of a political hangover. TransLink is one.
Another? A No vote won't make the problems go away.
As Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore told Pitt Meadows council last
month: “If this plan fails, there's no plan B,” adding that the “Mayor’s
Council would then go back to the province and ask for leadership.”
Goody. Something you can always count on from Victoria.
If the anticipation of having your say on transit has left you on the
edge of your seat anxiously awaiting the campaign festivities, have no
This past week, charges and counter-charges picked up a bit when the No
side unveiling its website and alternative transit plan. The Yes war
room was fast out with this gem from Greg Moore: “If you don’t have
good, quality content, then you come out with something shiny to
distract the conversation.”
Undoubtedly – if the Yes side comes out with a website before the vote –
it won't be shiny.
In fact, they're even making grumblings about engaging in battle later
this month. According to the Vancouver's Board of Trade president Iain
Black, the Yes side hopes to launch its campaign at the end of January.
Which won't come a moment too soon for Globe and Mail columnist Gary
Mason who, in a column on January 15th, noted that if the transit vote
is to succeed, the “campaign must start now.” One thing though, Mason
reached that view on January 15th, 2014. Last year.
The Yes side may have great intellectual arguments, but the No side has
one big emotional one. It's spelled T-r-a-n-s-L-i-n-k. And at the end of
the day it may be the only one that counts.
If the Yes forces do prevail, at least the New Car Dealers Association
of B.C. stand a good chance at getting their money's worth from all
those political donations to the B.C. Liberal party.
B.C. finance ministry officials are already busy at work identifying
what goods will be exempt from that 0.5 per cent increase in the PST.
Bet new cars will be at or near the top of that list.
Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.
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