COLUMN: TransLink taking steps in the right cost-cutting direction?

Cutting senior executives may be a sign TransLink is doing the right thing – or it may be nothing but window dressing.

Yet another shoe has dropped at TransLink, which continues to be the target of enormous criticism from taxpayers and transit users.

On Tuesday, it was announced that two of its most senior executives had been let go. Doug Kelsey, whose involvement with transit in the region predates TransLink’s creation, was most recently chief operating officer, and also president and CEO of the B.C. Rapid Transit Company. His 2014 salary and other payments totalled $355,000, and his severance is likely to total in the hundreds of thousands, if not into the millions, given how long he has been working with TransLink and its predecessors.

Bob Paddon has been executive vice-president and was one of the most-quoted senior executives, given that part of his responsibility had been media and public relations. His 2014 salary was $299,000.

He was also overseeing long-term planning, which has been thrown out the window by the public’s overwhelming rejection of the plebiscite to back raising the sales tax by 0.5 per cent. The tax increase was proposed to fund transit expansion.

In addition, Doug Allen, who took over as interim CEO in the midst of the plebiscite campaign, has stated he will only be with TransLink for another month. A permanent CEO has not been found, so Cathy McLay, the chief financial officer, will step in as interim CEO.

Former CEO Ian Jarvis remains on the payroll as a consultant, at a salary of close to $400,000 per year.

While the number of executives and their high pay levels have been the cause of much of the anger over TransLink, what this move signals is another era of uncertainty. Kelsey and Paddon were both very experienced and, to the best of my knowledge, were not the cause of significant problems in the organization.

Paddon’s position has apparently been completely eliminated.

The new permanent CEO needs to start work at a lower wage level than Jarvis, Kelsey or Allen have all been pulling in, and take quick and decisive steps towards reducing all executive compensation. If that means people quit, so be it. No one, other than the CEO, should be making more than $200,000.

The new CEO also needs to take a long, hard look at the TransLink Police and see if there is value for money there.

As Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has pointed out, most of them are glorified fare collectors. Most have minimal files to deal with, as compared to their municipal or RCMP counterparts. Yet in 2012, more than one-third of them earned over $100,000 per year.

TransLink does need to cut executive compensation costs. And it also needs to look at its top-heavy corporate structure, payments to members of the various boards of directors, its communications strategies and a lot of other things.

Some of us had expressed hope that Allen was starting to cut through some of the heavy underbrush which has impeded TransLink’s cost efficiency. His candour as CEO has been refreshing.

If Surrey and other South Fraser areas are ever going to get better bus service with the limited sources of funding now available, it must come through a single-minded concentration on cutting costs and spending money wisely.

This may be the first step in that direction, or it may be nothing more than window dressing.

 

Just Posted

Lost a ring? This White Rock man will find it for you

Chris Turner founded The Ring Finders, an international directory of metal detector hobbyists

PHOTOS: Family Day celebrated at Historic Stewart Farm

Youngsters participate in some old fashioned fun

Clayton’s little neighbourhood libraries are open for business

’Take a book, leave a book’ initiative aims to bring Clayton residents closer together

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

VIDEO: Winterhawks end Giants winning streak at seven

Playing on home ice, Vancouver’s G-Men fell 5-3 during a Family Day game against Portland.

Aaron Pritchett and George Canyon to headline Gone Country concert in Cloverdale this summer

‘Early bird tickets on sale via Twins Cancer Fundraising website

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

UPDATE: Plane flips over at Pitt Meadows airport

The pilot and lone occupant exited the aircraft on his own and uninjured.

Moose Hide campaign takes message to Canadian schools

Campaign launches new K-12 education platform

Most Read