"It's not that I don't have any faith in TransLink; I have no faith in the governance system that we are being asked to try to work within."- Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Mayor of West Vancouver, November 2010
"The way (the province) has structured TransLink is an absolute disaster."- Darrell Mussatto, Mayor of North Vancouver, November 2010
TransLink Board Privatized
BC Government eliminates local accountability and transparency at TransLink
In January 2008 the BC Government replaced TransLink's open and (for the most part) transparent governance structure with a private board of unelected individuals primarily from the corporate sector.
Since this time this board has made numerous decisions that have had far-reaching impacts on residents of the Lower Mainland. These decisions will affect taxation levels, the services that TransLink provides, and who benefits from them.
This powerful nine-member board makes these decisions without any oversight from the citizens whom this board directly taxes. It is not elected and is not accountable through a democratic process. All board decisions are now made behind closed doors. The topics that are discussed and information about these decisions are not made public. Voting records of board members are also not released.
Corporate interest groups handpick TransLink board members
An unelected, corporate-controlled "Screening Panel," not the public, decides who sits on the TransLink board. This Screening Panel consists of five members and includes an appointee of the Province, the Vancouver Board of Trade, the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and the regional mayors. Three of the appointees are closely affiliated with the Vancouver Board of Trade.
This Screening Panel vets hundred of applications in private to come up with a list of five candidates for a three-year term every year. Candidates are overwhelmingly from the business community and represent a narrow political ideology; opponents of privatization and P3's are not included.
Mayors' Council without power
Although there is a new Mayors' Council that may choose three of this list of five, they have no independent choice of selection. They also have limited information of the candidates when making their choice and have no recourse to fire or replace an incompetent director. Only an internal decision of the board itself can do this.
Theoretically the Mayors' Council has the ability to choose between a limited set of annual transit options and approve tax increases, but their approval is not essential for major initiatives. For instance, in May 2010 the Board approved a costly $170 million program to install turnstiles on the Skytrain, of which TransLink will pay $100 million. Despite its high cost, questionable benefits, and impact on local taxpayers and transit users, local mayors did not at any time discuss or approve the action.
The Mayors Council is also not in a position to ensure TransLink coordinates transit planning with the mayors' regional planning obligations through the Metro Vancouver Board. Under the previous public board, many of the same elected officials responsible for regional planning were also on the TransLink Board. Transit planning now proceeds without consulting Metro Vancouver's regional planning committee.
What needs to change
Local democracy is a cornerstone of good governance and is one of our society's core values. It places decision making over local issues in the hands of the people who are most affected and familiar with the decisions that are being made, resulting in more accountable and responsive government.
The new privatized Translink governance model has made it much more difficult for citizens to influence or control local transit decisions while giving vast new powers to the corporate sector.
- Made public board meetings private;
- Eliminated transparency and public scrutiny of decision making process;
- Eliminated routine public access to board reports, studies and agendas;
- Moved the process used to select TransLink directors behind closed doors;
- Insulated the board from any democratic accountability through the electoral process;
- Led to taxation without representation;
- Increased the role of corporate interest groups in determining the direction and priorities of TransLink.