He may been characterized as "the most transit-regressive mayor" in the region, but Burnaby's Derek Corrigan is now chair of the TransLink Mayors' Council, which also puts him on the TransLink board of directors alongside his new co-chair, District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton.
The vote, which took place on Thursday, denied Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson a third term as chair, and saw the former co-chair, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, decline to seek re-election.
"The other mayors wanted to press the refresh button. They wanted to get in people who were more neutral, who didn't have a dog in the fight," Mr. Corrigan told me following the vote.
Both Vancouver and Surrey have mega-projects on the table. Vancouver is anxious to get working on the Millennium Line Broadway extension, and Surrey would like to break ground on phase one of its light-rail plan, which would extend light rapid transit to Newton and Guildford. Both projects are part of TransLink's 10-year plan, which is supported by every mayor on the council with the exception of Mr. Corrigan.
The Burnaby mayor says that, with so much at stake in their own municipalities, Mr. Robertson and Ms. Hepner were essentially in conflict. "We were at a stage that even if there wasn't a real conflict there was an appearance of conflict," he said. "It's simply going to give them an easier opportunity at the Mayors' Council to directly advocate for the projects in their communities and to not be put into a position where they appear in conflict."
The "most transit-regressive mayor" charge, by the way, came by way of a tweet from New Westminster city councillor Patrick Johnstone, whose full tweet read: "Holy Christ. TransLink finally has a Prov. Gov't ready to work with them; Mayors put the most transit-regressive mayor in charge." Langley city councillor Nathan Pachal also took to Twitter, calling Mr. Corrigan "anti-transit."
I don't know whether it's a fair characterization, but Mr. Corrigan has been combative. He's been especially outspoken about TransLink attempting to move ahead with so many major projects at once without funding in place or any specific guarantees from the provincial or federal governments.
But Mr. Corrigan is especially well-placed to negotiate with Victoria. He and his wife Kathy Corrigan, who served as NDP MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake for two terms, both endorsed John Horgan for the NDP leadership in 2011. There's no doubt he will have the Premier's ear.
But beyond the specifics of individual projects, Mr. Corrigan is bent on reforming how TransLink is governed, since the province, under the former BC Liberal government, wrestled control away from elected officials, appointed an unelected board of directors and reduced the mayors to deliverers of bad news, such as property-tax hikes and fare increases.
Mr. Corrigan even issued a warning on the eve of the change in 2007, suggesting the result would be Boston Tea Party-style taxation without representation. "We would have no oversight or scrutiny of it. It would simply be us giving them the money and them deciding what to do with it," he said at the time.
Now as chair of the Mayors' Council, Mr. Corrigan can get to work on the issue he has been railing against for the past decade. "Most importantly it's about changing the governance of TransLink, and one of the major planks for me running is that I wanted a chance to talk to the provincial government about how we can revamp TransLink to more clearly address some of the issues the mayors are concerned about," he said this week.
The province has made minor changes that have handed some power back to the mayors, but it's a far cry from what mayors were calling for after the failed referendum on transit funding in 2015. The board of Metro Vancouver issued a release at the time calling for "a change in legislation to place control for planning and policy decisions with regional elected officials on the Mayors' Council."
One of the benefits would be to once again tie transit planning to regional land-use planning, which makes complete sense. It might help avoid projects such as the Massey Tunnel replacement project being foisted on the region, despite the fact that all but one regional mayor opposed the plan.
It would also go a long way to restoring some of the accountability and transparency that has been sadly lacking at TransLink over the past decade.
If Derek Corrigan is able to do that, it may have a lasting impact on what Metro Vancouver looks like.
Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 88.1 FM and 690 AM in Vancouver.