03/23/2014 07:13 EDT | Updated 05/23/2014 05:59 EDT

Metro Vancouver Needs To Stop Bullying Elected Councils

In a triumph for local democracy, the bully that is Metro Vancouver has been put in its proper place by a provincial judge.

Metro Vancouver (an unelected regional body of Lower Mainland communities), used your tax dollars to sue the Township of Langley, forcing the municipality to defend itself with even more tax dollars, over the elected Township Council's approval of a new community around Trinity Western University.

It was a silly and pointless dispute, brought on by Metro's bullying tactics, lack of accountability, mandate creep, and claims that it has the power to veto decisions made by duly-elected councils.

But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Neena Sharma stood up for elected councils.

"I find that the GVRD [Metro] and Langley are not equivalent elected bodies, contrary to the GVRD's assertion. There is a significant difference between the accountability to voters of the GVRD board and Langley," Sharma wrote.

"Members of Langley's council are directly elected by citizens eligible to vote within the municipality whereas the GVRD is composed of appointed representatives... The GVRD's directors are not chosen by the voters, who have no real power at the ballot box to influence the composition of the board."

In other words, local councils elected directly by the voters in their community rightly take precedence over the wishes of the unelected Metro board.

This started when Metro -- led by the mayors of Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, and Port Coquitlam -- deemed their knowledge of Langley planning issues to be better than that of the Township Council elected by the people of Langley.

Langley had given approval to the creation of a university district, with several stringent conditions. Metro didn't like it, and sued.

It's not hard to fathom why Langley wants a university district. Studies show that so-called "gown towns," communities with a college, come through recessions and other economic downturns stronger than those that don't have a school.

Lower unemployment rates are just one spinoff of universities, leading to the suggestion that gown towns are recession-proof. A U.S. study after the 2008 recession confirmed that university towns outperformed other cities in population and economic growth.

In an email to the Metro board of directors after the court loss, chair Greg Moore seemed ready to spend even more tax money to double down on Metro's obviously flawed position.

"We believe the decision puts in jeopardy the ability to implement regional plans successfully, " Moore wrote. "Metro Vancouver staff are reviewing options in terms of how to ensure that the regional growth strategy can continue to best serve the needs of the residents of Metro Vancouver and can uphold the collaborative federation that the local municipalities have worked together to develop and implement."

Some "collaborative federation." Metro is essentially controlled by the voting bloc of Vancouver, Richmond, and Burnaby, which can combine to carry any vote of the board of directors, thanks to the weighted system. This leaves communities like Langley, Delta, Maple Ridge, and Pitt Meadows on the outside, subject to whatever whim or faulty perception the regional board's power base rolls out.

Metro Vancouver should save its taxpayers some money by forgoing an appeal in this case and accepting the fact that it doesn't always know best. Let's see a little more of this "collaborative federation," and a lot less bullying of elected councils.