Unions Send Open Letter to Party Leaders on Public Transit

Sustainable Funding and Governance Changes Urged for TransLink: Labour Unions 

Monday, April 29

Urging public transit reforms in the Lower Mainland, several labour unions released a public letter to the political parties in the upcoming provincial election.

David Black, president of MoveUP said, “The impact of uncertain long term funding for TransLink and the governance system deeply concerns us because it affects transit riders and workers in the region.”

There is a need for additional service for the region, including the expansion of bus transit and rapid transit lines. “We believe public transit needs to be a key election issue. Affordable, accessible and reliable public transit plays a significant role in the quality of life for working people and greatly benefits local economies and the livability of the region,” said Mark Hancock, president of CUPE BC.

The letter is on behalf of labour unions that have significant knowledge of TransLink: members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE BC), Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union local 378 (MoveUP), the British Columbia Building and the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and the BC Building Trades.

“Transportation issues affect the economy of the province, the environment and the health of our communities,” said Darryl Walker, president of the BCGEU. “We must ensure that public transit has the resources it needs.”

“Investing in public transportation would stimulate our economy and needs to be a top election priority,” said Tom Sigurdson, Executive Director of the BC Building Trades.

The 6 major recommendations are:

  1. The Province should have a long-term goal of returning to fully funding major capital infrastructure projects and debt servicing;
  2. The Province needs to be involved in a long-term funding strategy for public transit;
  3. A discussion of a regional carbon tax, or the allocation of a portion of future provincial carbon tax revenues to the region for transit;
  4. A portion of any dividends paid by ICBC should be allocated to public transit. (Government has planned to take over $1 billion from ICBC in recent years.);
  5. The TransLink Board should consist of only elected officials;
  6. “Buy Canadian” procurement policies for transit projects are strongly encouraged, and the hiring and training of women and members of other equity seeking groups.


For interview requests, please contact: Caelie Frampton, Sustainable Communities
Initiative, 778-858.9647

Open letter to:

Christy Clark, Leader of the BC Liberal Party

Adrian Dix, Leader of the BC NDP

John Cummins, Leader of the BC Conservative Party

Jane Sterk, Leader of the Green Party of BC


April 29, 2013

Dear Leaders,

We are writing on a matter of particular importance to British Columbians—public transportation. 

Access to affordable and reliable public transportation is not just important to transit users.  Public transportation has a direct impact on the local economy, environment, and health and liveability of the region, especially Metro Vancouver.

We are deeply concerned that without adequate, stable, long-term funding, sound policies and proper governance, the public transportation system in the Lower Mainland will be unable to meet the immediate and future needs of families and communities in our growing region.

Current trends underscore the reasons to invest now in low-carbon transportation infrastructure:  accelerated urban growth, increased road vehicle congestion, need for smart growth policies and greater energy conservation, and swelling public support for environment protection and climate action.

We urge you to support immediate and long-term investment in public transportation.

We represent workers who have first-hand knowledge and understanding of the issues related to TransLink and public transportation in the region.  On their behalf, we are pleased to offer the following proposals that we believe are critical to meeting the transportation needs of families and communities.


1.  Funding


  1. funding of new capital projects

Local governments need predictable funding arrangements for public transit expansions in order to make sound, long-term transit planning and policy decisions that will facilitate sustainable regional growth and ensure healthy communities.

Currently, municipalities do not have sufficient revenue to invest in major infrastructure projects, nor the legislative authority to expand their funding sources beyond increasing property taxes, which has been shown to adversely impact the affordability and livability of our communities.

There has been increased pressure in recent years for TransLink to contribute a regional portion of the funding for new transit infrastructure. While the capital and debt for both the Expo and Millennium Lines were fully covered by the Province, new conditions were placed on both the Canada and Evergreen Lines and the municipalities were required  to contribute a portion of the funding.

We believe the Province should embrace a long-term goal of fully funding major capital infrastructure investments and related debt servicing in order to support sustainable regional planning and growth.


b.  long-term funding

The Province needs to work in partnership with the region on a long-term public transit funding strategy.

One of the key objectives of TransLink’s formation was to move away from funding transportation with property tax increases.  As TransLink has reached the limits of its existing funding sources, the Province must negotiate new or expanded sources of revenue.

Locally elected officials should be granted greater autonomy and accountability for revenue measures to fund regional public transportation projects.


c.  additional funding options

The Province could grant TransLink access to the inactive funding options already laid out in the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act.  If not, these additional funding options should be removed from legislation.

A portion of future provincial carbon tax revenues should be allocated to the region for transit.  We also support the call for a discussion of a regional carbon tax for Metro Vancouver.

A portion of any dividends paid by ICBC should be allocated to public transit. (Government has planned to take over $1 billion from ICBC in recent years.)

We join the Mayors’ Council in urging the Province to work with the federal government and Metro Vancouver to modify and expand the criteria for accessing federal gas tax funds.  Gas tax funds, for example, could be expanded to cover operating costs and capital costs for innovative green transportation projects.


2.  Governance

TransLink must be democratically accountable to the electorate.  However, under the current structure, many important public policy decisions are made behind closed doors. 

There is a deep disconnect between land use planning and transportation planning.  This connection is vital to building livable, complete and compact communities.

We believe if TransLink is empowered with additional revenue-raising authority, its board should consist only of elected officials.  An unelected board should not make decisions about taxation.


3.  Jurisdictional scope and conflict

Difficulties can arise when provincial priorities conflict with regional ones, especially when jurisdictional roles and responsibilities are unclear or overlap.

Decision-making around major infrastructure projects must be dealt with equitably between the Province and TransLink. There must be a process for negotiations and shared decision-making between the two bodies.

TransLink’s mandate must be clearly defined.  This mandate, along with new governance and new revenue-raising measures, should be established by legislation.


4. Local hire in procurement

There is a strong business case for the Province to implement local hiring and training provisions into provincial procurement policies related to transportation infrastructure.

Local hiring and training provisions would stimulate our economy, reduce the ‘leakage’ of tax dollars out of the province, and result in a far greater economic return and increase to provincial revenue by way of jobs, wages and consumer spending.

Provisions should encourage hiring and training women and members of other equity seeking groups, as well as low-income residents.

We also strongly encourage a “buy Canadian” or “buy local” procurement policy for these projects as a way to further stimulate the local economy, create good, family-supporting jobs, and reduce carbon emissions related to the transport of goods.

We believe the proposals outlined above will help address the increasing pressures and challenges on our public transportation system.  We urge you to support them.



B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU)

BC Building Trades

Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378 (MoveUP)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE BC)


cc.        TransLink Mayor’s Council

            TransLink Board of Directors


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