Ida Chong is afraid to order an audit of TransLink! Those damned skeletons in the closet!

Well, good old ‘Zwei’ has been arguing for this for over a decade, but the BC Liberal government and the Liberal lickspital minister in charge of TransLink, Ida Chong, is afraid to order an audit of TransLink.

Why?

Audits have a strange way of uncovering misspent monies or dubious bookkeeping Ai??practices or evenAi??more sinister wastes of public monies. Ai??BC’s Auditor General, John Doyal,Ai??recently found questionable bookkeeping methods by BC Hydro that have put ratepayers on the hook forAi?? $2.2 billion in public debt ai??i?? with no apparent plan in place to recover theAi??money! I wonder what he would find at TransLink?

It is clearly evident thatAi??Ida Chong is peeing her pants that an audit of TransLink by John Doyle would find more than dubious bookkeeping practices, he may find that the BC Liberal darling project, the Canada Line hasAi??cost the taxpayer a whole lot more than advertised and that would not do for election ready Premier Photo-Op.

Could it be that theAi??BC Auditor General may find that the real cost of BC Transit’s and TransLink’s light-metro program may greatly exceed, Zwei’s estimate of $8 billion, as sources have indicated that the total cost to date of our two SkyTrain proprietary light-metros and the Canada Line may top $10 billion! An audit may also show that TransLink has greatly inflated the costs of proposedAi??LRT in the region, while at the same time misinforming politicians of the abilities of modern LRT, to curry favour to build the Evergreen line?

Most major public transportation agencies are regularly audited to ensure that public monies are well spent, yet the BC Liberals and Ida Chong feel that no audit is not necessary forAi?? TransLink and I just wonder what the BC Liberals are trying to hide? What is Premier Photo-op afraid of?

 

Metro Vancouver mayors renew demand to audit TransLink

canadalinecrossingbridge.jpg

TransLink spends more than $1 billion a year to provide
transportation services in Metro Vancouver, including the Canada Line.
By Jeff Nagel – Surrey North Delta LeaderJanuary 18, 2012Ai??
Metro Vancouver mayors are again demanding the provincial government name an auditor to probe TransLink and ensure taxpayers aren’t getting ripped off.

TheAi?? Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, which controls tax increases for TransLink, had asked the province last fall to put the transportation
authority under the scrutiny of its new Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG).

But Ida Chong, the minister responsible for municipalities, said in a letter TransLink’s “unique governance structure” makes that difficult, adding she instead wants to get the new AGLG office running and focused on performance audits for cities and regional districts.

That answer didn’t go over well with the mayors council, which voted Wednesday to raise the issue again.

“At the end of the day we just want TransLink audited ai??i?? whatever mechanism they choose,” Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said.

“We’d like to get a little bit more information about the organization we’re blamed for,” added Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart.

Mayors also said it appears Chong doesn’t really understand how TransLinkAi??works and how little the mayors control.

The minister stated in her letter that the mayors council “plays a key oversight role” in reviewing and approving plans approved by TransLink’s unelected board of directors.

But the mayors contend they have no real power to shape or amend plans that the TransLink board passes ai??i?? only to approve or reject the accompanying tax increases.

“She obviously doesn’t have any idea,” Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said of Chong.

“We’re in a situation where TransLink falls between the cracks and nobody seems to realize that,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said.

The mayors are also pressing for major reform of how TransLink is governed, which potentially could mean a return to elected mayors or councillors directly voting on plans and day-to-day spending, rather than the appointed board.

“We want to be in a position where we can actually influence the decisions coming to us in a meaningful way,” Corrigan said.

TransLink Commissioner Ai??Martin Crilly, who independently advises the mayors, said the TransLink board tries to tailor its plans in such a way that most mayors will support them and approve the required taxes.

Eliminating the board and putting mayors back in direct charge could be a dangerous return to more intensive politicking, he suggested.

“You may throw yourself into a situation where you’re forced to horse-trade with each other,” he warned. “I’ll vote for your project if you vote for my project, and we end up with a transportation system that is sub-optimal.”

Corrigan said some horse-trading would be inevitable but noted the Metro Vancouver directors generally succeed in putting aside local differences for the good of the entire region.

“What’s better?” he asked. “Being responsible? Or being manipulated?”

Corrigan said his main concern is that the province skews TransLink’s priorities by dangling offers of grant money tied to the government’s pet projects.

TransLink’s board puts such projects in its base plan and funds them through automatic increases in fare and property tax for inflation over which the mayors have no veto.

If mayors had real control of plans, he said, they might have put money to other uses, rather than provincial priorities like expanding the transit U-Pass system or choosing costlier SkyTrain technology over light rail for the Evergreen Line.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom had indicated last year he was amenable to discussing governance reform, but Watts predicts it will still take a concerted effort to sway Victoria.

“The provincial government is not motivated to change the governance model,” Watts said. “They just want us to continue to raise taxes and take the hit for it and merrily go on doing what they do.”

As for audits, the mayors also say they’d be fine with the province putting TransLink under the auspices of the B.C. Auditor General, which examines provincial government spending, but the government has so far refused.

TransLink’s more than $1-billion annual budget comes mainly from $430 million in transit fares, $325 million in gas taxes and nearly $300 million in property tax, with the average home paying $228 to TransLink.

North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton was re-elected the chair of the mayors council Wednesday, defeating Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender.

Fassbender, who was the previous chair before Walton, was acclaimed as vice-chair.

Walton said the mayors council will aim to quickly decide its vision for governance changes and take that to Victoria ahead of a possible spring session of the Legislature.

He said they’re also working with the province to explore new funding options for TransLink, which could include options like a vehicle levy or more road and bridge tolling.

The mayors and the province must agree on a new revenue source by the end of this year to help fund TransLink’s share of the Evergreen Line or a temporary property tax increase averaging $23 per home kicks in for 2013 and 2014.

That’s in addition to the two-cent gas tax hike that takes effect in April and a 12.5 per cent transit fare increase slated for next January, subject to the commissioner’s approval.

Comments

7 Responses to “Ida Chong is afraid to order an audit of TransLink! Those damned skeletons in the closet!”
  1. Jim says:

    That would be good to see.

    Zwei, the Green Party of Canada posted a link to an article about planned changes to VIA or selling part of the rail, what do you see for the future of Via?

  2. zweisystem says:

    I am very afraid that Harper will destroy Via. In an age where we see a renaissance in passenger rail, Canada still is in the dark ages.

  3. Jim says:

    I hope that doesn’t happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

  4. Melfort says:

    The Harper government has provided funding for substantial refurbishing of most of the stainless-steel car fleet used in transcontinental service, all of the LRC fleet used in Quebec City-Windsor corridor services, all of the F40 locomotives built in the late 1980s, and the RDC cars used in Vancouver Island and northern Ontario service. The P42 locomotives built in 2001 are getting a heavy overhaul and upgrades. Most of this work is either completed or well underway. In short, nearly all of the VIA fleet is being updated.

    That will reduce maintenance costs and improve the locomotives’ fuel consumption, thereby relieving pressure on VIA’s annual operating budget. VIA might not be in expansion mode, but current operations are safeguarded.

    I’m no fan of Harper, but there is no evidence that he is out to destroy VIA.

  5. zweisystem says:

    Refurbishing over 60 year old passenger cars is a sick joke. I see no evidence that Harper and his malodorous crew have any desire to operate VIA and like the E&N, let it slowly rust away until it fades from memory.

  6. Melfort says:

    Nothing sick about it at all. I rode from Toronto to Vancouver in October in a train of the refurbished cars (built 1954-55) and they are in fine shape throughout. Their stainless-steel bodies are like new, their interiors have been fully renewed and their trucks have been rebuilt. My sleeper berth was right above the wheels and the ride was excellent.

  7. zweisystem says:

    The question is: “Why is VIA operating 60 year old passenger cars in the first place?”

    We should be operating much newer stock, like the AMTRAK bi-levels or something along those lines, instead we operate antiques. Doesn’t say much for the governments enthusiasm running VIA, it tells me the government is manufacturing excuses for abandoning the service! Just wait and see if a metal fatigue problem on very old passenger cars sets in motion for an excuse to say adiĆ³s to VIA.

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