VICTORIA -- The provincial government agrees that local governments need to have more of a say in the running of BC Transit, the minister responsible announced Tuesday.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mary Polak delivered the B.C. Liberals official response to this summers independent panel review of BC Transit at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Victoria.
The three-person panel released their list of 18 recommendations back in August after conducting 25 meetings with 40 local governments and receiving 30 written submissions on ways to fix the relationship with the public transit Crown corporation.
The findings focused on the need to improve in the areas of governance, decision-making and accountability.
Polak, who took over the portfolio earlier this month from Blair Lekstrom, said the governments response was in support of the recommendations and that they will work closely with UBCM and BC Transit to make progress in those three areas.
We are prepared to make changes to improve the partnership and ensure that local government is recognized as a very real partner, said Polak.
Among the reviews subsequent recommendations was for local governments to have more of a say in who sits on the BC Transit board of directors.
The minister announced she will now be considering nominations to the board and allow local governments to also nominate members to regional transit commissions if they wish to establish one in the future. Currently, the Greater Victoria area is the only region with a transit commission in the province.
Planning hurdles are also being addressed with the recognition that a decision made by one party can negatively impact the other.
We are clarifying the role of each partner to ensure that local government has the opportunity to provide its input into decisions made by BC Transits board of directors, said Polak.
BC Transit is also going to be required to provide municipalities with sufficient notice of service adjustments and any other information they might need to make budget decisions.
But Polak stressed the relationship has to be a two-way street. My ministry is going to consult more with local government and I really want local government and BC Transit to work more closely together, she said.
For example, just as a city may need to know if the agency is cutting back, BC Transit also needs to be made aware of increased demand for transit services through housing growth or the addition of a new community centre.
The UBCM convention was the appropriate venue for Tuesdays announcement because it was the local governments that raised the issues that led to the review, according to group president Heath Slee.
The ministry quite rightly saw there was a need for a review and approached UBCM to develop the terms of reference and to provide input on potential panelists, Slee said.
Even though there isnt going to be a legislative session to address specific needs, such as allowing elected officials to serve on the BC Transit board of directors, the government was still able to respond to each of the recommendations, said Prince George Coun. Dave Wilbur.
The door is being opened wide to see action taken, he said.