BRITISH COLUMBIA

TransLink Cuts Executive Positions, Replaces CEO

07/14/2015 03:23 EDT | Updated 07/14/2016 05:59 EDT
Ian YVR/Flickr
VANCOUVER - Two top managers with Metro Vancouver's transit authority are out, and the acting chief executive will be replaced following a failed transit plebiscite.

TransLink said Tuesday that bosses Doug Kelsey and Bob Paddon had been removed. When interim CEO Doug Allen's contract ends August 10, CFO Cathy McLay will take over until a permanent replacement is hired.

The troubled authority said Mike Richard had replaced Kelsey as acting president of B.C. Rapid Transit, while Paddon's position as executive vice-president of planning had been eliminated.

"Since 2011, staffing costs across the TransLink enterprise have been significantly reduced though downsizing at the management and executive level and the subsequent elimination of positions," TransLink said in a statement.

The changes come just weeks after 62 per cent of Metro Vancouver voters said No to a half-per-cent sales tax hike to fund $7.5 billion in transportation upgrades.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the province was not involved in personnel decisions but repeated Premier Christy Clark's call for more accountability at TransLink.

"The premier, I thought, was very clear. She went so far as to say not only did people say No to the sales tax, but they said No to any new taxes to go to an organization that people don't trust," he said.

"We expect TransLink, moving forward, to do a better job at how they use taxpayer dollars."

TransLink refused interview requests Tuesday.

But George Heyman, transportation critic for the Opposition New Democrats, said the province is to blame for the transit authority's lack of accountability.

He said the government dissolved the TransLink board of elected officials in 2007, and that creating two positions for local leaders earlier this year wasn't enough.

"The mayors have been clear," he said of the 21-member mayors' council, which advocated for the Yes side in the plebiscite. "They think that in order for TransLink to get back on the rails, they need to have a greater position of influence, including votes on the budget," he said.

"They've said to the transportation minister repeatedly, 'Give us more than two token members on the board. Give us a majority.'"

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner are the two members on the board. They did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the most prominent advocate for the No side in the plebiscite, called the changes a "fresh start."

He said the shakeup proves that voting No was the best way to bring changes to TransLink, despite the Yes side's insistence that the plebiscite was not about the beleaguered authority.

Bateman blamed executives including Paddon and Kelsey, as well as ousted CEO Ian Jarvis, for making TransLink "secretive" and "unaccountable."

"The vote was a flash point where people were able to comment on the way that organization had been run. It was found lacking," he said.

"Now I'm hopeful that the new CEO, whoever that person ends up being, will come in and bring a fresh breath of air."

— With files from Dirk Meissner in Victoria

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.