Local governments, minister discuss B.C. transit

Representatives of more than 40 provincial municipalities took their beefs with B.C. Transit to the top.

Representatives of more than 40 provincial municipalities took their beefs with B.C. Transit to the top.

The group, including Joe Stanhope, chairman of the Regional District of Nanaimo, met with Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Sept. 14, outlining issues with B.C. Transit and requesting an independent review of its governance model and the funding relationship with local government.

Increasing management fees, breakdowns in communication and a lack of funding sources were some of the concerns expressed by the local government representatives.

B.C. Transit fees for Nanaimo Regional Transit were nearly $600,000 for conventional transit in 2010, up from $350,000 in 2008. Custom system (handyDART) fees were $106,000, up from $50,000.

“In some of the communities, the largest increase in their municpal budget has been with B.C. Transit,” said Stanhope, who was accompanied by Carol Mason, RDN chief administrative officer, and Dennis Trudeau, general manager of transportation and waste services.

“Those huge increases over a two-year period are much higher than inflation costs and where do you put it? We had to take money out of reserve to accommodate them.”

Stanhope said Lekstrom was receptive to the comments and requests, including the government pursue legislative changes to enable local governments to take advantage of a fuel tax without losing contributions from B.C. Transit.

“[Lekstrom] was the mayor of Dawson Creek so he knows all about what we’re facing,” said Stanhope. “When you hear problems from all around the province, you know it’s all about communication. B.C. Transit is doing this, that and the next thing, and not talking to their partners in local government.”

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,’” he said, adding he plans to give the group an answer in the short term.

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.

– with files from Erin McCracken, Black Press