Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


July 9, 2013

Remarks on Motion 1 - Referendum on Translink Revenue Sources

S. Simpson: I very much appreciated the comments of the member for West Vancouver–Capilano. I'm not sure that all of his colleagues will totally appreciate it. I'm not sure those were the speaking notes that were handed out ahead of time. I'd also note for the members that he can feel some comfort that after the B.C. Liberals continue their capital spending plan, that $23 billion will only be a third of the debt in three years, not a half of the debt as it is today — if that'll make him feel any better, the way spending is going.

What we are talking about here, of course, when we talk about TransLink and we talk about these issues, is we're talking about an essential core service in a major metropolitan area. Transportation, transit services are essential. They're essential. They're not a frill in any way, shape or form. They're part of the fabric. They've got to be an integral part of what we do.

An integrated transit system is particularly key to land use planning decisions, to coherent community development. In fact, if we're going to get our heads around the climate issues that are in front of us and if we are going to look at how we begin to deal with climate issues, we had better start looking at how we do it in our populated areas in a more aggressive way than we are doing it today. A piece of that, clearly, is having a transit system in place that creates legitimate options for people to get out of their cars.

This is unlike a convention centre, which is a nice facility, or the roof of a stadium that cost, between the two of them, a half a billion dollars of cost overruns, Liberal cost overruns. That's the reality. Those are nice. But they're not essential. Transit truly is essential and we need to focus on it in that way.

What we have is this critical essential service, and we have a government that appears to want to avoid dealing with the issue by calling for this referendum under some guise of political accountability and saying: "Let's have a referendum." As my colleagues have said, it's a referendum that assures us that nothing much gets done till 2015, at least — at a minimum till 2015 — some more than 14 years or so after this government came to power, still not able to deal with this issue. You have a government that's looking to off-load the transit issue at least until 2014 and probably beyond that.

How did we get into the situation in the first place, where we have this challenge and this problem in front of us? The reality is…. It goes back to comments that have been made, and it's very interesting that these comments reference, again, the member for West Vancouver–Capilano. They come back to decisions that were made, I believe, by this government in 2007 when the then minister, Minister Falcon at the time, frankly had a bit of a snit over the fact that the governing body of locally elected representatives were not prepared…. They had some ideas of their own.

Of course, Minister Falcon at that point said, "Out with you all," and threw out the governing structure, threw out the locally elected people from true governance of this system and put in place this professional board, a professional board that holds much of its meetings in private, that it's a struggle to get information out of that's meaningful and that, I would argue, for anybody, has done little, if anything, to improve the system from the time that they took over to where we sit today.

During all that time, you've had a Mayors Council that has had marginal authority, if at all, that has largely been in conflict with the government because they haven't had authority — a Mayors Council that often is talking about plans and proposals but without the authority to move forward. You have, I believe, the situation where you have seriously undermined the ability of TransLink because you've undermined its governance structure.

Comments made by members earlier about this being the people's money…. Sure, it's the people's money. The people's money should have decisions made by people who are accountable, and that would be elected officials. It's either the elected officials in this place or the elected officials locally.

The reality is that we don't need a referendum in 2014. We need a plan where local governments have again the authority, sooner rather than later. It would be great for the government to bring legislation this fall to give authority back. But give it back. Let the local governments make those decisions, and they will be accountable politically in 2014. It's time to put authority back in local government hands.

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