Background: A History of Confrontation Jump to content

Background: A History of Confrontation

The relationship between Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon and TransLink has been confrontational and divisive for more than three years.

Upon becoming Transportation Minister in January 2004, Falcon immediately expressed his desire to begin major suburban highway expansion projects. Called the Gateway Program, it includes twinning the Port Mann Bridge and doubling freeway capacity between Langley and Vancouver. Regional politicians opposed this plan.

In June of 2004, the TransLink board voted down the RAV (or Canada Line). Having supported this project, Falcon was convinced that this opposition was unjustified and began expressing his desire to eliminate democracy at TransLink and to replace the board with provincial appointees.

Arising out of this background of confrontation and regional opposition to his plans, Falcon announced he was reviewing the governance structure of TransLink in March of 2006. He created the Governance Review Panel, which in March of 2007 released its report, called the "TransLink Governance Review." Based on its recommendations, Bill 36 was introduced the next month, but was not passed into law. This Bill was reintroduced in October 2007 as Bill 43 and was passed into law the next month.


June 19, 1998- NDP Transportation Minister Joy MacPhail introduces legislation that will create the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority (GVTA), more commonly known as TransLink.

July 29, 1998- Liberal leader Gordon Campbell- then leader of the opposition- supports the creation of TransLink and calls for more legislation that will protect the autonomy and independence of TransLink from Provincial interference.

April 1, 1999- TransLink is officially launched. Its 15-member board consists of 12 municipal and 3 provincial representatives, all of whom are elected officials. The municipal representatives are appointed to the Board through the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD- now Metro Vancouver) Board. The Province soon does not bother to appoint their 3 representatives.

June 10, 2000- The Vancouver Sun's editors criticize TransLink. They claim that TransLink has "no public accountability."

January 26, 2004- Kevin Falcon, representative of Surrey-Cloverdale, is appointed Minister of Transportation. In the following days he promises to direct major transportation investments towards Surrey. He suggests he will twin the Port Mann Bridge. Surrey Now- January 28, 2004

May 7, 2004- TransLink votes against the construction of the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver transit line (or RAV Line, since renamed the Canada Line). Reasons for the opposition include the project's high cost, the fact that the regional priority for rapid transit is to the Northeast Sector, and Falcon's insistence that it proceed as a public-private partnership (P3). Times-Colonist- May 8, 2004

June 18, 2004- TransLink again votes against the construction of the Canada Line.

June 22, 2004- Kevin Falcon announces a new $600 million (now more than $1.5 billion) plan to twin the Port Mann Bridge. Many see its accelerated announcement as a way to punish TransLink for opposing the Canada Line.

June 23, 2004- Following the TransLink Board's decision to vote against the Canada Line a second time, Falcon states "I would be dishonest if I didn't tell you that my confidence in TransLink's ability to make regional transit decision has been severely shaken." He suggests he could support a governance model with unelected officials. Richmond News- June 23, 2004

June 26, 2004- The BC Chamber of Commerce urges the province to reform TransLink. It states "Victoria must ensure that significant projects are not 'held hostage to narrow parochial interests.'" Vancouver Sun- June 26, 2004

June 30, 2004- TransLink votes a third time on the Canada Line. This time it gives its tentative approval to the project.

July 30, 2004- The GVRD Board, which is closely linked to the TransLink Board, asks the Province to hold off proceeding with the Port Mann Bridge until environmental assessments can be performed.

December 1, 2004- TransLink officially approves the Canada Line. It will be the largest P3 in Canada and the first rail P3 in North America.

December 3, 2004- Kevin Falcon calls TransLink 'parochial' and the Canada Line debate 'disturbing' and 'circuitous.' He suggests the province may take over the TransLink Board. Vancouver Sun- December 3, 2004

March 8, 2006- Kevin Falcon announces the creation of an "independent" Governance Review Panel to review the governance structure of TransLink. Falcon states "after eight years, it's time to examine the current governance structure to determine whether this is the right model to maintain public confidence."

This panel is one-sided, consisting of staunch Liberal supporters and business interests. Its members are Dan Doyle, Falcon's former Deputy Minister of Transportation, Marlene Grinnell, former Mayor of Langley City and critic of TransLink, and Wayne Duzita, a businessman who has had significant dealings with the Vancouver Airport Authority and whose company, International Aviation Terminals, has donated $32,300 to the BC Liberal Party since 2001. The panel begins taking submissions from the public and special interest groups.

March 9, 2006- Falcon says the governance review was necessary because TransLink has become 'parochial', was responsible for a political 'fiasco' that nearly stopped the Canada Line, and lacked expertise. Vancouver Sun- March 9, 2006

April 13, 2006- Falcon says the debate over the Canada Line had been conducted in a "circus sort of atmosphere" and that "you've got people opposing it (Canada Line) for reasons that are not even remotely connected to the merits of the project. And people opposing it for issues that are entirely parochial and back-yard politics in nature..." Georgia Straight- April 13, 2006

May 12, 2006- Falcon ruminates on the virtues of the undemocratic Chinese governance model. He states the Chinese "don't have the labour or environmental restrictions we do. It's not like they have to do community consultations. They just say 'we're building a bridge' and they move everyone out of there and get going within two weeks. Could you imagine if we could build like that?"

August 15, 2006- Kevin Bent is appointed president of the Pacific Newspaper Group, publisher of The Vancouver Sun and The Province. He will be responsible for the editorial content of the paper. Coincidentally, Bent will later be party to the new governance model. Like his predecessor Dennis Skulsky, Bent is a director of the Vancouver Board of Trade, and as such will have the power to participate in the selection of an appointee to the Screening Panel.

September 22, 2006- The GVRD Board votes against twinning the Port Mann Bridge on the basis it is inconsistent with the Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP). Falcon later dismisses the vote as inconsequential. Pitt Meadows Times- October 10, 2006

March 8, 2007- The Governance Review Panel releases their report, called the "TransLink Governance Review." It proposes eliminating the elected board and replacing it with a board of appointed "professionals." Kevin Falcon promises the Province will not be appointing these professionals. Allied business interest groups that called for exactly this type of governance model, such as the BC Chamber of Commerce, line up behind the Minister in support of the report's recommendations.

March 22, 2007- The Vancouver Board of Trade sends a letter to Kevin Falcon supporting the Governance Review's recommendations. Reflecting its longstanding policy of prioritizing highway construction and the automobile, it states "too many mayors have not adequately represented the transportation interests of those who commute by automobile."

April 26, 2007- Bill 36, the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Amendment Act, is introduced in the Legislature. It reflects the Governance Panel's report but goes further in creating a new "Screening Panel" that will effectively appoint the new "professional" board. It will consist of five members, including representatives of the Vancouver Board of Trade, Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Minister of Transportation, and the region's mayors.

April 26, 2007- Legislative reporter for the Vancouver Sun, Vaughn Palmer, on his show "Cutting Edge," calls replacing an elected board with a corporate-appointed board a "good idea." The next day a GVRD staff report argues that it's not. It points out that there is no evidence of parochialism at TransLink, contrary to Falcon's claims, and that the governance makeover will result in less, not more accountability. It also raises questions about corporatism. It states, "The whole concept of what is considered to be politics and democracy versus what is considered to be business may be under reconstruction."

May 31, 2007- Legislative session ends without Bill 36 becoming law.

August, 2007- Despite not having the legislative authority to do so, Falcon goes ahead and establishes the Screening Panel. It will consist of Graham Clarke, nominated by the Province, Mike Harcourt, nominated by the region's mayors, Hugh Lindsay, nominated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC, Dave Park, nominated by the Vancouver Board of Trade, and R.V. Wilds, nominated by the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council. Three of these appointees, including Park, Clarke and Wilds, are all active members of the Vancouver Board of Trade. The Transportation Ministry does not publicize this announcement.

October 23, 2007- Following the reconvening of the Legislature for the Fall Sitting, an updated version of Bill 36 is reintroduced, now called Bill 43.

October 31, 2007- The Screening Panel finishes selecting its list of 15 board candidates. These candidates are selected from over 200 applicants based on a process that remains confidential. Opponents of privatization and P3s are not included on this list, despite their qualifications.

November 2, 2007- The government, following months of delay, finally releases all the submissions that were made to the Governance Review Panel. It is found that special business interests such as the Business Council of British Columbia and the BC Chamber of Commerce have advocated for an undemocratic, appointed transit model reflected in Bill 36/43. Municipalities, academics, labour unions and community groups, on the other hand, line up behind a more democratic and accountable model.

November 21, 2007- A broad coalition of groups holds a demonstration outside Canada Place protesting Bill 43. No major media outlet, with the exception of the Georgia Straight and Black Press, reports it.

November 21, 2007- The Mayors' Council meets for the first time and elects Dianne Watts as its chair. They begin considering the list of 15 candidates the Screening Panel has selected. Maple Ridge Mayor Gordon Robson leaves the proceedings. He states: "We spend more time looking at council appointments than we do looking at these guys." A decision is not made.

November 29, 2007- The BC Liberals close down debate on Bill 43 and force its passage through the Legislature.

December 12, 2007- The outgoing TransLink board of elected politicians meets for the last time. It passes a motion calling on the new board to hold public meetings. They learn that the new governance structure will likely cost $1.5 million per year, more than double the current costs of between $300,000 and $400,000.

December 12, 2007 - The Mayors' Council approves the Screening Panel's choice of board members. The new board consists of Dale Parker (M.B.A), Nancy Olewiler (Ph.d), David Unruh (L.L.B.), James Bruce (M.B.A.), Sarah Goodman (M.B.A.), Robert Tribe (M.B.A.), Bob Garnett (B.A.), Cindy Chan Piper (B.A.), Skip Triplett (M.B.A.). A number of them have apparent conflicts of interest.

January 1, 2008 - Bill 43 takes effect and the new private board officially replaces the old public one.

February 5, 2008 - The new TransLink board meets for the first time behind closed doors and doubles their pay package over what the previous board was paid. They also increase their per meeting fee to $1200, six times what the old board members collected, becoming the highest paid board in British Columbia.

February 18, 2008 - The Mayors' Council meets new board Chair Dale Parker for the first time. Parker says the board is accountable to the Mayors' Council, yet then refuses their requests the board hold their meetings in public. A number of mayors express their dislike of the new governance structure. "We don't have any significant impact on how this board conducts itself and that seems to be the reality," said North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton.

March 28, 2008 - The TransLink board approves $150 million in expenditures and establishes new tax policies behind closed doors. The decision establishes a pattern that will become standard practice; details of decisions are released two weeks later by press release and board reports and studies are available only through formal Freedom of Information requests. The board's voting patterns are not recorded or released to the public or the Mayors' Council, insulating the board from any outside oversight. Board Chair Dale Parker, when asked how this is democratic, argues "it's not who voted on what... It's democracy in the sense that all board decisions are made by majority vote."

April 17, 2008 - The GVRD Finance Committee questions why municipal governments should be held liable for TransLink debt since they no longer control how the money is spent.

April 17, 2008 - The Provincial NDP Opposition introduces Bill 203, a short amendment act that will make TransLink board meetings public. Sponsored by Maurine Karagianis, the Government does not let it get past first reading. Falcon says "it's a silly thing they've put out to try and suggest that somehow there's not transparency and openness."

April 24, 2008 - TransLink releases its governance framework document, which attempts to justify its practice of withholding board documents, reports, and voting records of board Members.

May 2, 2008 - The B.C. Civil Liberties Association calls TransLink's closed-door policies "bad for democracy." Executive Director Murray Mollard says "as a civil-liberties organization that believes in representative democracy and democracy at large, you want transparent, open processes for governance. This type of structure is the contrary of that. It's the opposite. It can only build skepticism and distrust among the public who are affected by this."

October 8, 2008 - The Mayors' Council meets and approves the Screening Panel's recommendation to reappoint Cindy Chan Piper and Bob Garnett for three year terms, and replace Skip Triplett with Howard Nemtin, a real estate developer.

October 16, 2008 - Regional politicians that were supportive of Bill 43 begin to have second thoughts. Maple Ridge Mayor Gordon Robson calls the new structure "ludicrous," noting "the only thing we control is which Kool-Aid we're going to drink." They suggest they will not rubber-stamp major tax policies adopted by the board they had no input on.

December 5, 2008 - TransLink Board approves its 2009 budget behind closed doors. Among the decisions that are made is to spend $103 million from its reserves to cover budget shortfalls. The unelected Board also considers new taxes. Details are released three days later in a short press release.

December 10, 2008 - The Mayors' Council meets and is presented with a number of new taxation ideas that will be necessary to cover the budget shortfall. This includes a possible cell phone levy, annual vehicle fees, and congestion pricing. The Council is told they need to approve new taxes by next summer or face service cuts taking regional transit back to 1974 levels. No longer responsible for the actual operation of TransLink, there are signs mayors will not approve new taxes.