News Views: A fine line

Metro mayors can now approve fare hikes and TransLink salaries.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone may have found the elusive mix of provincial and local control in running TransLink when he made his hasty announcement last week.

Without the courtesy of advance notice to Metro Vancouver mayors, Stone unveiled a list of peace offerings to the mayors, designed to get the interminable TransLink debate off his desk.

First, he extended the deadline for the TransLink referendum, detaching it from this November’s civic elections and giving the mayors until June to come with a “vision” for TransLink – to sell to voters during a referendum at some later date.

This measure itself could be therapeutic for all.

TransLink has its Regional Transportation Strategy, which details its long-term plans. That document could form the basis of the “vision,” which would set out the short-term to-do items, such as a subway to UBC or LRT to Langley and the order in which to do them, and how to pay for them.

Presumably, that would be explained in the referendum question, though no one knows for sure.

Government MLA Doug Bing said this week the question could be a softball one, on which all can agree and support, easily earning a ‘yes’ vote – allowing everyone to move beyond the premier’s goofy campaign promise. Let’s hope Bing knows something everyone else doesn’t because such a question could be a way out of a quagmire.

Stone also promised mayors more power (at least last week he did), allowing them to set TransLink’s long-term priorities, as they should.

The mayors also now can approve fare hikes and TransLink salaries, as they should.

So has Stone found the fine line between supervision of TransLink, ensuring it stays on track, but doing so without preventing if from doing its vital job of planning transportation for a growing region?

He may have.

Stone’s Feb. 6 letter to the mayors included a major carrot – an offer of one-third provincial funding restricted to “major new rapid transit” projects and replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

Now, if only Stone can have his own department consult and coordinate, even defer to TransLink before it does its own mega Lower Mainland auto-oriented projects (such as replacing the Massey Tunnel), so that taxpayers’ dollars are used to maximum effect.

Hard-pressed taxpayers and commuters from Vancouver to Hope deserve as much.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News