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TransLink Mayors’ Council sitting on Ottawa lobbying trip budget

A delegation of 12 municipal representatives visited the capital to lobby for more federal transit funding
SKyTrain infrastructure in Surrey. Translink plans to extend SkyTrain from Surrey to Langley as part of its 2050 regional plan

The 11 mayors and one city councillor who flew to Ottawa to lobby for billions more in federal transit funds finished their three-day mission on Wednesday. 

But the executive director of TransLink’s Mayors’ Council said the public will have to wait for a report to learn the costs. 

Asked for the approved budget, Mike Buda said “I don’t have that number at my fingertips.” 

“We won't be providing an estimate, this report will provide the actual cost of 12 flights times whatever the flights cost, economy class and then same thing with the hotel,” Buda said. The report will be shared at a June 1 meeting.

Buda did reveal that the delegation stayed at the Lord Elgin Hotel, which advertises a government business discount rate as low as $255, plus taxes, per night on its website.

Buda said the council contracted the Vancouver office of Earnscliffe Strategies, through TransLink’s tendering process, for government relations and public consultation support. Earnscliffe launched the Access for Everyone campaign website on May 11. He said the program is comparable to the Cure Congestion campaign before the 2017 provincial election. 

“We know that people in Ottawa really don't pay attention to what's happening out west, in general, and Vancouver in specific,” Buda said. “So, because other transit systems are really in a much different situation than we are, they're still basically in survival mode, which actually we are too, but they're just focused on survival.”

The delegation went to Parliament Hill with a long wish list for help funding TransLink’s $21 billion plan. That includes doubling bus service, building a rapid bus transit system, expanding SkyTrain to the University of British Columbia, planning for Metrotown-to-North Shore rapid transit, building a gondola up Burnaby Mountain, matching SeaBus with SkyTrain service hours and improving regional roads and bike lanes. 

Port Coquitlam Mayor and Mayors’ Council chair Brad West led the delegation, which included mayors of Anmore, Burnaby, Langley Township, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, Pitt Meadows, Port Moody and Richmond. Delta was represented by Coun. Dylan Kruger, instead of Mayor George Harvie. 

Kruger also works as a senior associate with the Kirk and Co. communications and government relations firm, whose website lists TransLink among its clients. Kruger has not responded for comment.

Buda said the council members met 25 to 30 members of Parliament, many from the Liberal Pacific caucus, as well as Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. While they did not get an audience with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, they did meet Infrastructure Minister Dominic LeBlanc.  

“There'll be a federal election, sometime in the next year, so [the delegation was meant to] make sure that all parties headed to the election fully understand what Metro Vancouver leaders would expect from the next government,” Buda said.