Governance and Controversies
release on the day she made Comptroller General Cheryl
Wenezenki-Yolland's Report on Review of Transportation Governance
Models public, Transportation Minister Shirley Bond said:
"This review is timely, as it's been six years since
BC Ferries was restructured and two years since TransLink
was reorganized." She neglected to say that the Campbell
government is solely responsible for how BC Ferries and Translink
are governed, and for the problems that have resulted from
the legislative changes they imposed.
Campbell government excluded BC Ferries from Freedom of Information.
The Comptroller General recommended that BC Ferry Services
and the BC Ferry Authority be made subject to the Freedom
of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, something
the NDP has been demanding since the Coastal Ferry Act
restructured BC Ferries in 2003.
coverage of the Comptroller General's report focused on
executive salaries at BC Ferries, but a much more fundamental
observation is that the government hasn't exercised its responsibility
by setting clear expectations for BC Ferries. The report puts
it this way:
short term decisions, focused on maximizing profit to the
operator, could compromise the public service goals of the
ferry system by not considering fully the interests of users
of the ferry system, local communities and taxpayers."
"To ensure appropriate attention is placed on all intended
objectives the province should clarify its expectations,
communicate them publicly, and ensure they are incorporated
clearly in the BC Ferries governance framework and corresponding
that doesn't make the government's neglect of the public interest
clear enough, the Comptroller General goes on to say: "The
Commission's role as defined in the Act and interpreted by
the Commission is not broad enough to adequately protect the
public service mandate of the ferry system." She noted
that the guiding principles in the Act for the Commission
(the regulator) don't even mention the customers!
established in 1999, was restructured under the Greater
Vancouver Transportation Authority Amendment Act in 2007
after then Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon expressed
his discontent with the authority's reluctance to rubber stamp
proposals for the RAV Line, later renamed the Canada Line.
The restructuring put control of transportation in the hands
of an unaccountable and never elected board. How ironic it
is to hear the Comptroller-General recommend that "...
the Mayors' Council/Transit Authority should be more fully
given responsibility for Board appointments, setting Board
remuneration and overseeing the Board, while not assuming
management's role." She also recommends that the renamed
Transit Authority be reduced in size to 11 or 12 members.
Given the greater power a revamped Authority would have, there
would likely be loud complaints from municipalities not represented
in its decision making.
report offers no suggestions on how to resolve the dilemma
of taxation for transit without representation; nevertheless,
it recommends that "existing revenue streams are maximized
before exploring alternative sources of revenue". Furthermore,
the report said the transit portion of property tax and utility
charges collected from Vancouver property owners is $115 compared
to between $131 and $446 in other Canadian cities on an average
single family home. The report sets the stage for much more
debate on how much to put on property taxes for transit, and
it puts the responsibility for resolving that debate on the
provincial government. Since successive provincial governments
saddled the Lower Mainland with one of the most expensive
rapid transit technologies, not everyone will agree that property
taxation should be maxed out to pay for those decisions.
will find it difficult not to implement the Comptroller General's
recommendations since they will be used to flog it on criticisms
it has chosen to ignore, but local governments, transit users
and property tax payers will also take their punishment if
all of the report's recommendations are implemented.