New TransLink board seen as 'erosion of democracy'
Power to raise property taxes
Frank Luba, The Province
Published: Thursday, November 01, 2007
Democracy will be the loser when the province changes how TransLink is run, according to Simon Fraser University political science professor Patrick Smith.
Legislative debate on Bill 43, which turns the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority into the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, resumes next week.
Smith objects to the "erosion of local democracy" represented by the proposed nine-member board of industry professionals that will run TransLink.
Like the current board of elected municipal politicians, the new appointed board will be able to raise property taxes, change taxation classifications, accumulate property and run its own police force.
A council of regional mayors will meet quarterly but will only vote on supplements to the base plan proposed by the new board, which is supposed to take office Jan 1.
"You're creating this significant regional agency which will have significant decision-
making powers and removing it from local accountability," Smith said yesterday.
"It fails the democracy test," he said. "It's designed to have [Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon's] agenda move forward with the fewest hiccups."
Municipal legal expert Jonathan Baker is also critical.
"I think it fails the administrative test," said Baker, a lawyer and former Vancouver city councillor. "It seems outrageous that you have an appointed body doing that sort of thing.
"It seems to me the public should have the right to vote out of power someone that levies a property tax if they don't like it. Didn't someone once say that taxation without representation is tyranny?"
But the government believes the new structure is better.
"I would argue better accountability because every single mayor is involved now," said Falcon. "Every single mayor will have the opportunity to participate in the construction of the alternate 10-year plan, the strategic plan.
"They will be the ones to vote on whether to accept the alternative plan or just continue operating on the base plan they have in place today.
"Under the new model, any new tax measures will have to be authorized and approved by the mayors' council and that's all of the mayors represented on that council."
In addition to the mayors' council, there will also be an independent transit commissioner to investigate TransLink's plans and fare increases.