Lacklustre communication driving request for B.C. Transit review

Change in governance, new funding sources also sought

B.C. Transit may go under the microscope after a group of concerned B.C. mayors asked the province for an independent review of the Crown corporation.

A breakdown in communication, lack of regional representation in transit issues, and limited funding sources were the crux of the message that several B.C. mayors and municipal staff delivered to Blair Lekstrom, B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“It’s as much about communications as it is about governance and then funding models,” Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said following last Wednesday’s meeting in Victoria.

“If you’ve got good communications, you’ve got good partners.”

He pointed to B.C. Transit’s disclosure last week of property purchases and pricey light-rail reports as examples of poor communication between B.C. Transit management and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.

In addition to the review, change can be made by putting control of transit in the hands of the Capital Regional District, said Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, who is buoyed by the minister’s promise that he would respond to their concerns within days.

B.C. Transit was not invited to the meeting, but Joanna Linsangan, B.C. Transit’s public relations manager said the Crown corporation will support any decision made by the provincial government regarding transit governance and an independent review.

Lekstrom is also now mulling over a request for local government access to new sources of revenue, such as a new gas tax, to fund transit expenses.

“All we really have to deal with is property taxes,” said Fortin, who sits on the commission. “That’s a pretty blunt hammer in trying to deal with a very expensive situation.

Lekstrom said the group has legitimate concerns.

“Local government is obviously the closest level of government to the people and what they’re saying is, ‘Look, if we’re going to be funding part of the system, we’d like to have more say in it,’” the minister said, adding he plans to give the group an answer in the short term.

“What I’ve committed to though is this is not going to drag on for months and months,” said Lekstrom.

Leonard said he is optimistic the mayors’ united stand sends a clear message on the need for local control and accountability of B.C. Transit, as well as a review of the transit provider.

“If we’re standing with our colleagues from around the province, then we have a provincial problem,” Leonard said.