News / Vancouver

Burnaby mayor, stalwart critic of transit plans, to head TransLink's Mayors' Council

Some city councillors cringe, while others hope Derek Corrigan will rise to the challenge of speaking for the region.

Metro Vancouver transit watchers, take note: there’s been a big change in leadership on TransLink’s Mayors’ Council that could change the direction of transit expansion in the region.

Derek Corrigan, the mayor of Burnaby and a steadfast critic of the mayors’ current transit expansion plan, was elected chair of the Mayors’ Council, beating out the current chair, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Linda Hepner, mayor of Surrey, did not run for re-election as co-chair of the council. Richard Walton, mayor of the District of North Vancouver, won that position over Jonathan Cote, the mayor of New Westminster.

The move prompted an emotional reaction from some city councillors: “Holy Christ,” tweeted Patrick Johnstone, a city councillor from New Westminster. “TransLink finally has a provincial government ready to work with them (and the) Mayors put the most transit-regressive Mayor in charge.”

Nathan Pachal, a councillor from the City of Langley, was also dismayed: “With anti-TransLink Burnaby Mayor Corrigan as the new Mayors Council Chair, this will be interesting. Thank goodness for weighted votes, we need to make sure transit investment and rail rapid transit gets built in Surrey and Langley.”

The chair and vice-chair of the Mayors’ Council sit on TransLink’s board of directors, the body that manages the transportation authority’s operation and direction.

Corrigan is unhappy that the Mayors’ 10-year expansion plan includes a light rail line for Surrey and Langley and a subway extension for Vancouver’s Broadway corridor. At November’s Mayors’ Council meeting, Corrigan said it was unrealistic to do both projects within the same time frame. He’s emphasized the need to invest in bus service over rapid transit.

“There are orderly progressions that can be made to taking on major capital projects, seguing from one project to the other and utilizing your work force in more efficient ways,” Corrigan said at that meeting. “It’s not even being contemplated here because what’s driving this isn’t even good planning, it’s the politics, it’s the idea that Vancouver can’t be ahead of Surrey, Surrey can’t be ahead of Vancouver.” 

Gordon Price, a former Vancouver city councillor, said Corrigan’s appointment may not be as bad as some are expecting. The expansion plan is at a delicate point, with deadlines for starting work on the two rapid transit projects looming. New Westminster’s Patullo Bridge also desperately needs to be replaced.

How the region will fund its share of the expansion plan is also still to be determined, although the province and federal government have recently showed more interest in loosening the purse strings.

“He’s always been the outlier, the guy who’s criticized, sometimes the only one to TransLink’s plans and in particular some of the proposals that would have provided SkyTrain or rapid transit through Vancouver,” Price said.

“But now that he’s the chair and he has to represent the interests of the region, he may be more effective at being able to pull off a deal than, say, Robertson, who might be seen to represent Vancouver.”

But Price said there’s no question that the region needs both better bus service and rapid transit.

“It should never be either/or,” Price said, noting that Burnaby is already well-served by two SkyTrain lines.

“Now he has to speak for the region. If he is going to contest the need for rapid transit, he’s going to have a hard time making that case.”

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