Monday, February 16, 2015

CEO Ian Jarvis fired

On Wednesday, Feb 11,  CEO Ian Jarvis ‘stepped down’ from his position at Translink. The Translink board stated that they were looking to make a change in management due to “a lack in public confidence”. A “hastily assembled” press conference announced that Mr. Jarvis will be replaced and retained (as consultant) through his 2016 contract with full pay. Since that day it has become clear that Mr. Jarvis was fired.  Surely the board has to understand that this move can only hurt the “Yes” vote?

The interesting point behind this move is that this happens when the “Yes” vote seems to be weakening. The ink on an $83,000 bonus cheque for Mr. Jarvis for 2015 may still be wet. So why, within two months of being rewarded so generously is he being removed? Is this pressure from BC Transportation Minister Todd Stone who felt a “change was needed at the top”? Or is the board finally waking up to the fact that they are managing the disaster that is Translink?

As the “No” campaign and many others are suggesting, this is the time to put a stop to the referendum. What really needs to be done is a complete overhaul of Translink, its management and board and its priorities. Only when the public can see what plans are in place for Translink, with the appropriate costing and management can ANY decisions be made about finance.

Transparency is the second major issue in this debate. Victoria and Translink have clouded the financial requirements for transit in many ways. One of which is mixing capital and operating costs. It is reasonable to assume that operating costs need to be largely funded through transit fares and existing taxation (gas tax, property tax, parking tax and BC Hydro levies). This is mostly the norm in all cities with transit installations. It is unreasonable to burden these costs with capital costs. Especially those incurred with past installations such as the Canada line (which was a political decision) or replacement or subsidy of the bridges that Translink is saddled with. It truly is mismanagement of public funds when we are asked to pay to build a bridge and then have to pay to cross the bridge.

Hopefully the latest move to shake up Translink will continue to weaken the “Yes” vote. It is time that the referendum itself be reviewed for its validity. Victoria has floated the referendum out there and has stepped back to let the Majors take the flack. This shows Premier Christie Clark knows the outfall of this will be significant and not at all positive. Maybe it’s time that people recognize that this debate is really about good planning and reasonable expectations. It is not about more funding for another poorly managed government entity.


1 comment:

  1. The plebiscite is not actually about Translink. It is about a future that includes - among other things - more transit. It is not at all clear that if the "No" side wins that there will be any change in the governance of Translink - where I think there is almost complete consensus that change is long overdue. I think that the reasons for changing the question - and moving away from a referendum - indicate that Christy Clark is perfectly capable of interpreting the vote any way she pleases.

    I am sorry that Twitter does not really allow for an intelligent conversation, but I do not understand the significance of sick leave data at Translink. What I am fairly sure of is that there is no possibility of increasing the funds available for transit expansion - and the bicycle infrastructure, road projects and so on - around $250m a year is identified as needed - from savings in the current Translink budget. We cannot save our way to growth. And the analysis provide by Daryl de la Cruz ( is indeed factual - not opinions. Operating cost per service hour is lower here than the five other Canadian metro areas. We get more service hours per million dollars than they do. We get more service hours per capita. You can see the spread sheets. This is not just somebody's opinion.

    The CTF has done a very good job at focussing on a few carefully identified issues
    . The technique has been perfected by the right wing think tanks across the United States documented here But we cannot possibly expand our transit system just by talking about poodles on poles or Ian Jarvis's salary. They are orders of magnitude different.

    If anyone should have an axe to grind against Translink it is probably me. But I have put that behind me some years ago, and I want a sensible discussion about our future. The provincial budget was supposedly balanced - but $200m a year was handed back to the most wealthy tax payers. Nothing can be done about our pressing growth issues here until we have a plebiscite - but there will not be a vote on a new bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel. Nor was anybody asked about how we felt about schools having to wait for much needed seismic upgrades for another ten years. No one asked parents what they feel about that. Or the fact that the Parent Advisory Committees now have a full time job just fundraising for what ought to be seen as essentials. And so on.

    I dislike governments by referendum. I like nonbinding plebiscites even less. I think we ought to return to representative and responsible government rather than waste time on this exercise, but we are not being afforded that luxury. Voting yes is simply the better option given the lousy choice we have been offered.