Will Surrey, Vancouver mayors keep TransLink seats?

Vote coming on mayors' council leadership for 2016

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner speaks on behalf of the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation during the transit tax referendum campaign.

The mayors of Metro Vancouver’s two biggest cities may not hang onto their influential posts overseeing TransLink in 2016 after leading this year’s transit funding plebiscite to a disastrous defeat.

Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson and Surrey’s Linda Hepner are the chair and vice-chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, and as a result they also sit as directors on the TransLink board.

Metro mayors will vote by early January on who should hold those seats next year.

Both the mayors’ council leadership positions and the TransLink board directorships bring major additional duties and consume large amounts of time.

Hepner told Black Press she is unsure she will seek another year, acknowledging the huge commitment required.

Robertson and Hepner took on the roles for 2015 in large part because their cities had the most to gain from new rapid transit projects if a proposed 0.5 per cent sales tax was approved, and it was thought they’d be influential in persuading Surrey and Vancouver residents to vote Yes.

But the plebiscite was defeated – just 34 per cent supported the tax hike in Surrey and Robertson could not even deliver a win in Vancouver.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson challenged Hepner for vice-chair in the last mayors’ council election, arguing then she would have more time than the busy and newly elected Surrey mayor.

Jackson doesn’t rule out letting her name stand again and predicts other challengers may surface.

“I’m sure there will be people wanting to vie for those positions,” she said. “I’ll have to think about it. It’s a big job.”

Jackson said she continues to believe it’s important to have strong representation from South of the Fraser on the mayors’ council.

“We really do have to have some strong people in those positions and they really do have to have the time to devote.”

Metro mayors warned the province after the referendum defeat that they might disband the mayors’ council and abdicate their responsibility for TransLink unless more governance reforms are soon made to the transportation authority.

A new CEO is being recruited but there’s so far been no sign of substantive movement from the province to restructure TransLink.

Despite that, Jackson said she believes the mayors must carry on and do what they can to improve TransLink and defend the interests of local residents.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, who chairs the Metro Vancouver board, said he doesn’t intend to seek either of the two seats. “No, I’ve got to keep my focus on Metro Vancouver.”

Robertson could not be reached for comment.

– with files from Kevin Diakiw