B.C. Premier bails out TransLink's $479M despite incoming deficits

In 2020, TransLink received a $644 million bailout to help them cope with the pandemic. Then in 2022, it got another bailout of $167 million.

B.C. Premier bails out TransLink's $479M despite incoming deficits
TransLink/ Facebook
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Government-run TransLink is getting $479 million in taxpayer subsidies to fund projects and address dwindling ridership as the province tries to stem potential layoffs and route cuts. 

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) condemned Premier David Eby's announcement, with ridership at 82% of pre-pandemic levels and revenue collection trailing behind at 75%.

"This bailout comes at the worst possible time for taxpayers," said CTF BC Director Carson Binda. "TransLink [must try] to save money instead of taking more money from taxpayers." 

In 2020, TransLink received a $644 million bailout to help them cope with the pandemic. Then in 2022, it got another bailout of $167 million.

The Fraser Institute uncovered that B.C. had bailed out corporations by paying $22.9 billion last year.

"Rather than give preferential treatment to certain companies and industries, governments could reduce business income taxes and help foster a pro-economic growth environment that gives all businesses the opportunity and incentives to succeed," said Fraser economist Tegan Hill. 

"Such spending might be justified if it led to widespread economic benefits. However, there's little evidence that corporate welfare generates widespread economic growth or creates jobs."

Binda adds, "The government keeps giving TransLink more money and needing more bailouts. They've shown us they are far too wasteful to be trusted with another dime from taxpayer's pocketbooks."

According to a recent poll, B.C.'s Auditor General Michael Pickup detected fraud in 61% of the province's government organizations last year.

The most common incidents included theft of physical assets (43%), misappropriation of company funds (22%) and information theft, regulatory or compliance breach and internal financial fraud (17% each). 

The $479 million funding boost comes after TransLink received no additional funding in Budget 2023, which priced its 10-year plan around $20 billion.

TransLink's plan includes the following:

  • Doubling buses by 2035.
  • Extending the millennium line to the University of British Columbia.
  • Rapid transit to the north shore.
  • The gondola to Simon Fraser University.

However, the government entity said there would be significant cuts to transportation services without extra funding in the next two years.

"Hundreds of thousands of people rely on TransLink's service [daily] to get to work, travel to school, and access all parts of the region," said Premier David Eby. 

"Failing to act now would lead to higher fares, fewer buses on the road, and reduced service across the board. We won't let that happen."

Translink formally requested Ottawa last month to provide $250 million in emergency funds, matched by the provincial government. Since the province did not expect additional money from Ottawa, they offered $479 million to the organization.

"Accessible public transit is critical for the region's economic, social and environmental health now and into the future," said Transportation Minister Rob Fleming.

"The Province will continue discussing a potential funding partnership with the federal government. However, given TransLink's significant and immediate needs, the province is taking action with this funding stabilization to address TransLink's short-term operating funding needs."

Fleming said the subsidy prevents layoffs and maintains transit services that will create jobs and reduce traffic congestion and air pollution to benefit residents and visitors to Metro Vancouver.

According to the CTF, TransLink's CEO, Kevin Quinn received $474,000 last year, while former CEO Kevin Desmond took home $448,000 in 2020. In total, 20 executives took home over a quarter of a million dollars each.

In 2020, TransLink's total expenditures equalled $1.7 billion, ballooning to over $2 billion in 2022. 

"Eby is using the last surplus on big bailouts for TransLink," said Binda. "We need to see plans to pay down the provincial debt instead of more waste." 

Some of the funding announcements introduced by the NDP in Budget 2023 decreased their projected surplus for 2022/2023 from $5.7 billion to $3.6 billion. The province projects further deficits of $3.7 billion in 2024/25 and $3 billion in 2025/26.

According to Binda, any remaining provincial surplus must go towards debt repayment by the end of March. He said the total provincial debt would be $108 billion by the end of the current fiscal year. 

"Interest on that debt will cost taxpayers more than $9 million per day in 2023," said Binda.

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